Error message

Notice: Undefined index: und in BeanBagLatestMedia->view() (line 172 of /home/relmag/public_html/sites/default/modules/bean_bag/plugins/bean/

Notice: Undefined variable: summary in BeanBagLatestMedia->view() (line 176 of /home/relmag/public_html/sites/default/modules/bean_bag/plugins/bean/

7 Reasons the Church Should Change Its Political Tune

Getting past left and right.

Aristotle is credited with saying, “Change in all things is sweet.” And perhaps no change of late is as sweet as that among young Christians in the public square. While the last several decades of Christian engagement have often been marked by partisan tactics and a polemical tone, a new generation is changing its political tune. Its individuals aren't leaving the public square altogether—but they are looking for less divisive and less partisan ways to engage. They want to follow Jesus without fighting the culture wars.

Here are seven reasons why this new political approach is a good thing.

1. Nobody likes a whiner.

Two-thirds of Americans believe we have a major problem with civility. And yet during the past several decades, many non-believing Americans' only glimpse of Christians has been picketing masses, condemnatory street preachers and shouting pastors on cable news shows. While many Christians believed their participation in the culture wars was important, crucial even, some failed to realize its tragic side effects. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has pointed out, culture-warring Christians express themselves “almost exclusively in the language of loss, disappointment, anger, antipathy, resentment, and desire for conquest.”

2. The "culture wars" divide unnecessarily.

The culture wars, like all wars, seek to divide. They pronounce our differences rather than celebrate them. They highlight disagreement instead of common ground. As we rush angrily into the public square to fight off our perceived enemies, we’re increasingly fragmenting not just society but the Christian Church itself. The culture wars force us to see brothers and sisters as enemies rather than friends with whom we may disagree. Jesus prayed in the Gospel of John, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as we are one.” Wherever Christians fight the culture wars, unity is almost always absent and Jesus’ prayer is ignored.

3. It’s killing us.

The exodus of young people from the Church has been widely reported, but their stories leave us with the lingering question: “Why are they leaving?” According to sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell in their recent article in Foreign Affairs, our overt political partisanship is partly to blame. Looking over the data, they conclude, “In effect, Americans (especially young Americans) who might otherwise attend religious services are saying, 'Well, if religion is just about conservative politics, then I’m outta here.'”

4. The Church is cheapened.

When the Church becomes involved in partisan politics, it allows the community of believers to be reduced to a voting bloc. We’re like a teacher’s union or senior citizens—a constituency that must be pandered to and pleased during campaign speeches so it’ll cast its votes for a particular party. Can you hear the refrain? "Politicians and inside-the-beltway hucksters, come one, come all. The Christians are yours to be had."

5. We’re getting used.

American Christians are a cheap date. We allow politicians to court us with a few empty promises only to spend their time in office apologizing for not keeping any of them. When speculating on the question in electoral politics of “who is using whom,” James Davison Hunter writes, “The obvious answer is to say that it is the candidates who cynically use the symbols of the culture war and thus one constituency or the other in the service of their own political ambitions.”

6. Our approach isn’t working anyway.

The strategy of the Religious Right has been largely a failure. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, and countless man hours have been invested—yet there has been little to no progress on most culture war issues. Abortion is still legal, gay marriage is still being debated, and the size of government continues to grow. But switching teams and joining the Religious Left isn’t the answer, either. They employ the same partisan approach as the Right, except on opposing sides of the issues. As one philosopher has observed, “the emerging Religious Left is just a funhouse mirror of the Religious Right.”

7. The Gospel suffers.

While preachers are qualified to speak on morality, they don’t have the expertise to speak as authorities on the particulars of complex public policy. Often, however, religious leaders push well outside of their core competencies on everything from economic and tax issues to foreign policy. When people hear Christians speaking foolishly about political realities, should we not expect them to tune us out when we speak about the Gospel? If they see the irrationality of Christian partisanship, how can they expect anyone to believe other incredible claims about God and Jesus?

For the reasons listed here and more, the Christian Church should—and is beginning to—change its political tune. For the sake of our faith and the sake of the Gospel, the Church needs such a shift—and we need it now.
Jonathan Merritt is author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. He has published more than 300 articles in outlets such as USA Today, The Washington Post and RELEVANT. Follow him on Twitter @jonathanmerritt.

Top Comments


Tim Eason commented…

The problem with this article, as well as the fire-and-brimstone people it addresses, is that everyone is picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that support them most - without looking at the whole picture. Jesus could be just as harsh as he was kind. He didn't water down the fact that a LOT of people will be judged - by Jesus - and He will say, "I never knew you." His words, not mine. There are so many Christians that want to paint Jesus as an all-accepting Savior. But He's not. I believe that there will be homosexuals that enter the Kingdom. But they will be judged for their sin of homosexuality, just as so many of us will be judged for other sins we commit. Thankfully, Jesus' blood covers us and we are saved from the alternative to life everlasting in His presence. But you can't sugar coat Jesus like so many are doing right now. Read EVERYTHING He said in His lifetime. He says some scary things!

So, yes, we show the love of Jesus to ALL sinners, Republicans, Democrats, (basically anyone who works in Washington ;-)), homosexuals, and - yes - the multitude of Christian sinners out there. But Jesus wasn't a wimp. He stood up to the government and said, "I am the Son of God" knowing the price he would pay for it. We have to stand firm in our convictions. I know that God does not approve of homosexuality because He said He doesn't. And given that roughly 30% of the New Testament are quotes and references to the Old Testament, I'm going to bet that the Son of God (who IS God) feels the same way. I don't hate homosexuals. I don't hate Obama. But I do love Jesus enough to follow His example and be brave enough to share my convictions no matter what anyone thinks of me.

Obama claimed he is an active Christian when he made his statement. I have no reason to doubt him. But to make such a statement and cause this kind of dissemination among Christians everywhere is uncontainable - *especially* if he really is a Christian. All he's done is make a bunch of people argue with each other - unfortunately, mostly Christians. I can not think of a person who has done more harm to the Christian faith in recent history. I hope it's worth it to him. He obviously didn't think of the ramifications to the Christian faith when he decided to push this issue into center field. As for the point of the article, Obama himself mixed religion and politics in that interview - and on this issue you can't just "change your tune." Not without compromising your beliefs. And Jesus was a no-compromise kind of person.


Josephspillman commented…

When a political party espouses abortion and homosexuality it is by definition opposed to God. The message I got out of this whole article is don't make waves, don't be emphatic about your moral values and just go along with the tides of popular culture so as not to offend anyone. Hatred is never in order but can you imagine this milk toast, watered down message being preached to Nineveh??? I would submit that the author got what he is asking for already. We have a President who claims to be a Christian and invokes the golden rule in defense of gay marriage. This is all getting too weird for words.



waxsublime commented…

Fantastic article. Reminds me of this word from Greg Boyd:

"Even more fundamentally, because this myth links the kingdom of God with certain political stances within American politics, it has greatly compromised the holy beauty of the kingdom of God to non-Christians. This myth harms the churchs primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, antigay news, or Republican news. And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it."

Boyd, Gregory A. (2009-05-11). The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church (Kindle Locations 131-136). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. p13


Guest123 commented…

Government should not legislate morality. The religious right's mission is to get government to make laws according to their religion. There is no difference in what fundamentalist Iran does and what the religious right wants to do, to govern according to religion.
It is immoral and it was the very reason why there is separation of church and state.
And then christans wonder why all the hostility towards them...

Oh and I dont see any of this "new" approach btw, the religious right just has lost influence...


Jmed1957 commented…

So, Jonathan, what would you suggest the church shift TO when it comes to moral issues in the public square? What should be our response in light of a continues move against moral truths?

Elizabeth Hallman


Elizabeth Hallman commented…

Largely I started doing this as a result of I saw it on many different patterns. This is not to say clothing patterns have no copyright safety.

Que Du Bon à Table

Jonathan Daniel


Jonathan Daniel commented…

Great article from a leftist who quotes New York Slimes, and writes for Washington compost. Yeah no partisan politics going on here! Lol

Please log in or register to comment

Log In