It is obvious to me that we shouldn't preach about politics while seeking to evangelize someone, because it is a big distraction to the main point of the law and gospel. But, should we use politics as a jumping-off point to preach the main point of the law and gospel?
The presidential election is a year away and politics are on our minds. Like anything in the news or daily life, politics can be used as a good "natural" thing to talk about in order to start a conversation with a stranger and then swing to the supernatural. It seems like everyone has an opinion on the presidential candidates, and to allow them a minute to explain, if they are interested, can be good. However, political issues are also divisive and can sometimes lead to hostility almost as much as the gospel can. Is it better just to avoid politics altogether when witnessing, or should the topics of politics be used just like any other topic when we talk with strangers? Please leave your responses on this post; if you haven't registered, go ahead and do so--it won't take long.
The reply from Ben:
We should us anything that can convict of sin.
Political stances can reveal what people value. In a witnessing encounter, we can use these values to bring the conviction of sin.
At the same time, we need to reallize that the U.S. is a temporary kingdom and prioritize accordingly.
But if we use priorities in politics as a value judgment, do we risk offending our hearers--not with the law or gospel, but about political positions which they disagree with? For example, the road to the gospel seems straight-forward. It might look like this:
1. "Shouldn't the president should oppose legal abortions?"
2. "Isn't abortion murder?"
3. "Isn't hateful or insulting speech murder?
4. "Haven't you sinned in this way?
5. "Don't you need a savior?
Won't our contacts be so distracted by their strong opinions on #1 and #2 that they never think about #3, they don't consider #4, and then #5 seems utter foolishness?
I don't think it would be wrong to promote a candidate, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do it either. I think of Daniel's service to Nebuchadnezzar. Now granted, Daniel didn't have stump to get him elected, but from reading Daniel it is clear that Daniel had a concern for preserving the reign of this pagan man. Yet He provided a powerful testimony for our God by serving God even more loyally than Nebuchadnezzar.
I just think we need to be careful to understand why a person is voting for so-and-so. If someone knows that God cares about the poor and thinks that a certain Democrats do a better job of taking care of the poor than Repuplicans do of protecting the unborn, then we have several roads we can pursue. I can pursue my appraisal of the weight of these issues and try to push my candidate, which leads to a political debate. Or we can have a gentle discussion knowing that we agree on the issues but not on their priority. Or we can talk about the character of God who cares for the poor and stands up for the helpless. We could also point out opportunities and organizations outside of the government for them to partner with in helping the poor if they don't know already.
Let's say the issue that a person is passionate about is "global warming." Now I know this world is going to be destroyed, but the earth is a legitimate stewardship given to men by God. The state of earth reflects our stewardship over it both morally and physically. A person could go into a diatribe about how global warming is some big liberal conspiracy and come off as a lunatic. Or we could talk about how God does actually care how we "tend the garden" and rule over the things He has created. We can go on to say that we think that the deliberate murder of ~1.5 million unborn babies is a greater moral evil than burning too many fossil fuels (itself partly caused by our greedy self-centered consumer cultures), but that we understand your concern for our stewawrdship over the earth itself - God cares too and He is looking forward to restoring His Universe in the age to come (See Romans 8:20-21).
I think we need to do a better presenting our first citizenship in political discussions. When I don't spin for a party, then hopefully it's the kingdom of God that comes through.
Okay one more scenario. A person is a fiscal republican but disagrees with it's "values platform." (The type of Republican who is amped about Giuliani and Schwartzeneggar). Are we glad they have helped us vote in several pro-lifers, or do we dig into their heart condition. Do they agree with God's morallity, but think it is the churches job to teach it rather than the governments? Then we might respectfully disagree and have a discussion without taking on the burden of persuading. Do they think gays should marry and that abortion helps people get out of bad situations? Then we're talking about a situation where we could turn the conversation to diagnosing the heart.
I think discussion in disagreement is a real lost art in this country, but giving up isn't the answer. I think part of the issue is the overall fragmentation and de-socialization of our culture - prioritizing entertainment over relationship (and engaging in relationship with the barrier of "personal space.") I think, as Christians we need to stand out from the Democratic and Republican spinsters by our humble and gentle political voice (without compromising our deep convictions). Then I think politics and evangelism can co-exist just fine.
I don't think it's a matter of taking the easy or obvious road, but a matter of respecting the person and understanding that even real Christians come to different conclusions concerning who to vote for. As a result, we ought to treat people as individuals who might even have perspectives that we ought to consider.
I do think politics is a more difficult road to evangelism. There are many traps. At the same time, it may be well worth the effort. There are some people who wouldn't talk about religion, who would talk about politics. As with any, evangelism (or discussion really) a lot of discernment is needed.