People have varying views on the churches’ involvement in politics. Some feel churches’ jurisdiction is strictly to preach the word of God. Others say religious institutions and faith leaders should be involved in socio-political issues.
The issue becomes a controversy, especially when dealing with matters of public interest like the May 21 Tripartite Elections. In times like these, politicians usually accuse churches of meddling in politics, which they find unacceptable.
But it is not right to distance the church from social issues, including politics. Wherever the word of God is proclaimed and practised, it has social, communal, political and economic implications.
The message of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, is dedicated to a comprehensive change of all human and social relationships.
At the very beginning of the Gospel of Mark, there is a call to conversion.
“The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel,” reads Mark 1:15.
The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Christ points towards a total change in individual conduct in relationships with the community.
The church evangelises to people who are social by nature. It is because of this that the church touches on social issues, including politics which its members take part. How can the church preach the gospel without mentioning social issues which affect its members?
The church has a duty to promote the fundamental principles of community life and denounce violations regardless of status of the people involved. The church, by commenting on social issues and not taking part in partisan politics, has the duty of denouncing unjust social structures that mostly oppress the voiceless. It lays down guidelines for social order and places out of bounds negative solutions and ideas inconsistent with a Christian and humane view of the human race.
The mystery of incarnation—that Jesus humbled himself to the extent of becoming man—is the theological reason for the church to take part in issues affecting humanity.
John 1:14 says: “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
This is a testimony that God takes our human ‘condition’ seriously. Therefore, who are we not to take issues affecting us seriously?
In the Old Testament, religion covers various life aspects. For example, in Deuteronomy 5:6-20, God gives the law, affirming a relationship with God which covers every aspect of life.
When churches touch on politics or any other social issues, it is only an expression for its responsibility for humanity.
The church has responsibilities of looking at all structures whether political or social that exist to further human development.
Jesus Christ himself was involved in social issues. He preached social justice not from outside, but from his own experience.
The social issues are at the heart of the Gospel. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to see me,” Matthew 25:37 reads.
The church will not sit idle when the human dignity is at stake. Martin Luther King Jr was spot on when he said: “Let the churches stop trying to outstrip each other in the number of their adherents, the size of its sanctuary, the abundance of wealth.
“If we must compete, let us compete to see which can move towards the greatest attainment of truth, the greatest service of the poor, and the greatest salvation of the soul and bodies of men. If the church entered this type of competition we can imagine what a better world this would be.” n