Q Zone: Evaluating Political Leaders

Even though we are currently in Acts 3 as a church, one of the questions texted in during our service was from left field (or maybe right field, depending on your party affiliation): What are the biblical principles by which we should evaluate our political leaders?

First, a warning: Answering this question fully is probably impossible in this  blog, and the simplicity with which I will approach it will no doubt breed a whirlwind of differing opinions. But here goes.

In general, my opinion, based on Romans 13, is that government leaders should punish evildoers and protect those who do good. It’s really that simple in my mind. This is the gold standard when it comes to evaluating our political leaders.

Furthermore, I believe this is the heartbeat behind Proverbs 14:34, where Solomon wisely proclaimed, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Leaders who appropriately punish those doing wrong through the correct and humble use of authority, and, subsequently, protect those who are doing what’s right, are leaders who will steer a nation, state or city in the right direction.

So ask yourself, “Is my political leader punishing those who do and seek evil? Is he/she protecting those who do what’s right?” This is the simplest and yet most biblically basic way to evaluate our elected officials.

Believe it or not, this one evaluation tool will do more to help you sift through the many issues being hurled at you currently — from tax cuts to welfare to contraception to jobs to immigration to budgets to foreign policy to the military — ask yourself: “Which leaders will do the best job of punishing those who do evil and protecting those who do right?” Call me crazy, but it really is that simple.

A note of clarification: We’re not evaluating church leaders, so don’t connect passages that relate to pastoral leadership to the issue of civic authority or government responsibility. Often we mistakenly “Christianize” the office of president (or governor, mayor, etc) and assume that person needs to meet the same demands as God’s under-shepherds. While I do think we should hold our political leaders to high standards, we can do so without incorrectly dividing the Word and misapplying the Scriptures.

0 Comments on “Q Zone: Evaluating Political Leaders”

  1. Were I to venture a thorough reply, advancing a positive (in the philosophical sense) theological system, it might hold a title such as, “Biblicism as the Death of Theology”. Despite this potentially controversial title, I wish here to offer not even the theological equivalent of five loaves and two fish – meager rations to be sure – knowing that only by divine miracle might it turn into the sustenance of the masses.

    The problem in not in utilizing Rom. 13 as the axiom of a theology of the political, but in the ambiguity, not simplicity, present in the minimal commentary provided by the exegete. As a means of illustration, take the passage at hand. Circumventing a discussion of the historical context, according to the text itself, Paul is addressing, “all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Rom 1). One might infer that Romans 13 is also addressing this group of people as Christians and their relation to authority. Consequently, if one wants to apply this to voting in a modern liberal democratic society more is required than “putting two and two together”, so to speak. In the Christ event, the ushering in of the new covenant, the old paradigms are torn down. As we partake in the punishing of evil and protecting the good the voice of the suffering servant grows ever quieter. When all the Christian has to take to the voting booth is the admonition to vote for those who will punish evil and promote good, all I hear are echoes of theocracy, but not one ruled by the one Lord and Heir to glory.

    This approach, while seeming thoughtful and perhaps even theological, ends up propagating conventional morality (“conventional” usually erroneously replaced by the adjective “Christian”) and generally encourages an ontology of violence in the politico-economic realm. That is not to say these positions are inherently false, or philosophically untenable. Yet these views, from the humble position of this simple Christian, are estranged from a position of those who throw themselves at the feet of a Holy God and seek to live at peace with all men. But now I fear I have said too much, and my utmost respect for the pastor hinders me from making further critical commentary.

  2. No worries here – our relationship is thicker than this small disagreement. Peter added a voice to my simplistic view as well in his 1st epistle chapter 2 verse 14. Quite succinct, too.

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