Christianity and Politics – Part 1 (Poverty)


“Jesus was too smart to become a politican,” Mike Huckabee said recently.

So why is Huckabee, a former Christian minister, and others getting involved in politics. What part should Christians play in our political system? Today, we look specifically at how Christians should be involved with the issue of poverty. I first recommend reading Alan’s Blog where he discusses some of the pitfalls of “big ideas” in Christian community.

I want to focus on only one chapter of the Bible in Exodus–doing an entire study on the poor and scripture would be impossible (it is the most persistent command in the Bible). Exodus 23 begins by an imperative against “bearing false witness.” I think that it is interesting that the so called laws of “justice and mercy” begin with testifying falsely against a brother Jew. But it is about more than that, the next command is not help malicious men succeed by testifying falsely for them.

Ben Witherington recently wrote an article on moral ambiguities that arise from the new movie Charlie Wilson’s War–discussing if politics and morality can be intertwined. One line I would like to quote here because it is important:

“The film is not filled with pathos, there is a certain devil-may-care whimsy about it, which keeps the tone light even though the subject is serious. But it is a film that raises all sorts of ethical questions such as—if you had to choose between the two, would you want a Congressman who gets important and good things done but is a sleaze, or would you rather have the ethically pristine but totally ineffectual, or worse blundering, Congressman? This in itself is an ethical dilemma raised for the audience of this movie. It is a question worth pondering.”

The author of Exodus notes as well that we will have to make a decision in our lives as to whether we should support wicked people because it is more politically expedient.  Notice though that the author of Exodus is talking to the individual–not the state.  When the ball is in our court, will we support the institutions by bearing false witness to help the wicked?

There is also a balance the author of Exodus tries to make here.  Not only should we not side with the crowd, but we also should not show “favoritism” to a poor man, but we should also not deny justice to the poor.  The text also says that we should help our enemies, even we have the chance to do them wrong.  There are commands against bribery, false charges that put innocent people to death, and oppressing the aliens.

The bible cares about justice, and we should as well.  I began reviewing Scot McKnight’s book Embracing Grace a while ago (I never finished, I hope to finish reviewing it someday), but in the book he reminds Christians that entering the fold is about more than knowing one is saved, it is about making things right with God and with others–restoring Eikons.  What does this practically?

Well it means that some of us are called to help the poor, others to help our enemies, and others to help the aliens in our land.  We, as Christians, are not called to care about how, for instance, a person of Mexican descent came to America–we are called to help them.  We, as Christians, are not called to either support or not support the wars in the Middle East–we are called to do good to those who call us “enemy.”  We are called the homeless and the orphans in our world–both here and abroad.

But we aren’t just called to talk about …we are called to action.


4 thoughts on “Christianity and Politics – Part 1 (Poverty)

  1. Yes. That is a great question.

    I think the answer is both simple and complex. On the one hand, we simply must help the poor around us, but on the other hand how much can we really do?

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