Should a Pastor Be Involved Politically?

John Peter Muhlenberg's Statue in the Capitol
John Peter Muhlenberg’s Statue in the Capitol

Some have criticized Rick Warren for holding the forum I spoke about in the previous posting. He should stick to religion, not get involved in politics, they say.

I’m reminded, though, of the actions and words of John Peter Muhlenberg, pastor of a church at the time of the American Revolution. Muhlenberg’s sermon, one Sunday in 1775, ended with the words, “There is a time for all things–a time to preach and a time to pray.”  Then he said, “There is a time to fight, and that time has now come.” As he stood in the pulpit, he took off his ministerial gown to reveal a militia uniform underneath, and ended the message by urging others to join him in the militia for the common defense.

He served in the Continental Army for the duration of the war. When the war ended, he was chosen to be Pennsylvania’s Vice President, then served as a congressman in the first Congress convened after ratification of the Constitution. In 1801, he was elected to the Senate.

When Muhlenberg made his decision to get involved and serve in the army, his own brother castigated him, saying he had abandoned the church. His response? “I am a clergyman, it is true, but I am a member of society as well as the poorest layman, and my liberty is as dear to me as to any man. Shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at home when the best blood of the continent is spilling? . . . Do you think if America should be conquered I should be safe?”

Ministers, and all Christians, have to live under the laws passed in a nation. Everyone, Christians included, are impacted by those laws. They are citizens as much as anyone else and pay the same taxes. Their political rights are identical; there is no distinction. Why, then, should they be excluded from the debate over policies and the future of the nation? When Jesus said his disciples were to be salt and light, He meant in all aspects of a society, government included.

Yes, His kingdom is not of this world, but His kingdom principles should be promoted and be the bedrock for the standards by which a society lives. It is Christians who must be at the forefront of advocating His principles.