Religion plays a fundamental role in our politics. To some extent, it shapes candidates’ ideologies.
Recently, we have seen politicians outshining each other on whose side prominent clergypersons are.
Some prayers religious leaders offer during political rallies are directed to the politicians, not God. This has brought about divisions among the clergy, with some discouraging their faithful from attending political rallies.
There is no agreement in religious circles when it comes to political participation-notwithstanding that the church in “Acts of the Apostles” chose to follow political scopes of the gospel in addition to the church’s calling to evangelism. The fathers of Christianity envisioned Christians contributing to and leading the political process. Accordingly, political engagement has been at the heart of Jesus’ ministry; hence the need for religious leaders to free their flock.
As the May 21 Tripartite Elections are fast approaching, politicians are criss-crossing the country to woo voters to elect them. The campaign period is a time those vying for different positions sell themselves and their ideas to the electorate.
However, it is unfortunate that certain religious leaders are barring their followers from attending political rallies. Their argument is that these gatherings are not spiritual, but full of lies.
Wayne Grudem categorises the anti-politics clergy as people who believe that “the realm of government power is the realm of Satan and his forces, and therefore all government use of power over someone is worldly and is not the way of life that Jesus taught.”
Actually some evangelicals believe that the only way people and societies can change is through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, they encourage the faithful to disregard any political appeals from political candidates. To them, politicians do not articulate helpful issues, but scandalise their opponents.
This is a clear abuse of the respect that religious leaders are accorded. Every Christian has a dual citizenship, for they belong to heaven as well as their countries. Therefore, they are supposed to engage in the welfare of their country.
According to Grudem, the gospel is “God’s good news about all of life!”
Ordinarily, when believers are told not to visit campaign rallies their rights as citizens of this country are being infringed.
Ultimately, they will not be able to play a rightful role of being salt and light to this world.
Moreover, the religious leader then is not being true to the gospel of liberation.
The ideology of blocking the followers from attending these political rallies may breed enmity which is not biblical at all.
As believers attend these political campaign rallies, they get an opportunity to listen to the ideas and make a choice to vote for people that will uplift their living standards and every“image of God”.
Surely, it is politics that has a grip on how structures are able to treat people with decency and dignity. Patronising mountains for fasting and prayers will not provide us with the ideologies that are in the political parties’ manifestos.
Yes, we have an obligation to pray but also we have a responsibility to attend these political rallies to hear from the horses’ mouth.
This is where every citizen gets informed on a broad range of issues.
Religious groups and leaders must share their religious teaching on the relationship between the faith and political life while at the same time encouraging the people to hear as much as possible from all the candidates participating in an election.
May 21 provides a rare privilege given to all of us, including those who consider themselves religious, to be involved in electing just and transformative leaders.
To all religious groups, being apolitical does not mean indifference or not attending political rallies. n