Christianity and Politics

As the McCain-Obama and Palin-Biden debates are still in our minds, there are a couple of White Horse Inn broadcasts that might be of benefit to Christians in thinking about the coming elections:

Christianity and Politics Part 1 (September 21, 2008)

Christianity and Politics Part 2 (September 28, 2008)

On these editions of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton conducts a roundtable discussion on Christianity & Politics, with special guests D. G. Hart (author of A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church & State), Dan Bryant (former Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice) and Neil McBride (a strategist for the Democratic Party).

A recent survey shows that 87 percent of Americans disagree with pastors publicly endorsing candidates for office during a church service, and 52 percent agree that churches publicly endorsing candidates for public office should lose their tax exemption. This two-kingdom approach to church-state relations does not sit well with a group called Alliance Defense Fund, who recruited 33 ministers around the country to endorse presidential candidates during their sermons despite IRS rules prohibiting such endorsements for tax-exempt non-profit organizations such as churches.

Of note also these days is an article written by William Inboden just before the 2004 presidential election, “‘One Cheer’ for Civil Religion,” in which he quotes Christian historian Wilfred McClay defining American civil religion as “that strain of American piety that bestows many of the elements of religious sentiment and faith upon the political and social institutions of the United States.”

Inboden further elaborates McClay’s definition:

More problematically, civil religion is the misidentification of the nation of the United States with the covenant people of God. It is the casual assumption that America enjoys a special role in redemptive history. It is the confusion of the office of the political leader with the office of the spiritual leader. It is the frequent presumption of divine blessings without submission to divine judgment. It is the sublimation of Christian distinctives to a generic amalgam that conflates many faiths into a common national identity. It is as old as America itself. And it is not biblical Christianity.

In this essay, Inboden traces the history of American civil religion from the time of the Puritan settlers, to the Founding Fathers, to Eisenhower’s famous comment on religion, and to the present religious situation. A very good read.

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