The political divide in this country is perhaps greater than it has ever been. If one identifies with a certain political party, he or she is often berated, belittled, and dismissed by those from the other side of the spectrum.
For whatever reason, many assume Christians should align with one of America’s two prominent political parties while nonbelievers should identify with the other one. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Tim Keller, prominent theologian, author, and founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, made the case that Christians simply can’t fit into America’s two-party system.
Keller argued that historical Christian stances on controversial social issues don’t neatly stack up wholly with Democratic or Republican principles. The theologian contended that believers’ views on social topics are subject to be attacked by both the right and the left.
“For example, following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family,” Keller remarked. “One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.”
Although the author doesn’t believe the American political system provides a one-size-fits-all for Christians, he also doesn’t feel this reality should preclude believers from making stands on important issues. For instance, he maintained the 19th century places of worship that failed to speak out against slavery were actually supporting the offensive practice.
“The Bible shows believers as holding important posts in pagan governments — think of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament. Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors, whether they believe as we do or not,” Keller said.
In the op-ed, the theologian noted that political engagement is necessary in order for one “To work for better public schools or for a justice system not weighted against the poor or to end racial segregation.” Keller insisted that believers can register with the political party of their choice and actively participate in politics. However, he argued that they shouldn’t label the Christian church or faith as only rightfully belonging in one political party.
“It gives those considering the Christian faith the strong impression that to be converted, they need not only to believe in Jesus but also to become members of the (fill in the blank) Party,” Keller continued. “It confirms what many skeptics want to believe about religion — that it is merely one more voting bloc aiming for power.”
For Keller, another reason to not associate the Christian faith with a single political party relates to most political subjects not being “matters of biblical command but of practical wisdom. This does not mean that the church can never speak on social, economic and political realities, because the Bible often does.”
The founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church urged believers to not completely withdraw from politics nor “assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package.” Keller stated, “The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.”
This isn’t the first time Keller has delved into the hostile waters of American politics. In 2016, the theologian advised believers who were divided about politics to put their Christian identity above all else.
He remarked, “All across the world there is a lot of political fragmentation … there is more and more political fragmentation in so many countries, and unfortunately Christians might be tempted to be fragmented right along. We might start getting divided politically instead of remembering that you’re Christian first and you’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic, second. You’re a Christian first and you’re American, or you’re British and you’re African second.”
~ 1776 Christian