Should Christians involve themselves with politics? We discussed this Saturday with guest Neil Mammen, author of, Jesus Is Involved In Politics! Why Aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church? You can listen to the episode on our website and see more about Neil’s book here: www.JesusIsInvolvedInPolitics.com
Kurt: Well good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill. I am very excited about our show topic today. Some might think it’s not that controversial whether or not Christians should get involved in politics and we’re going to be looking at a couple of different viewpoints on this and we’ll be joined by a special guest in a few minutes here who’s written a book on that very topic, but before we get into that I just wanted to make a mention of a few things here. It is with great sadness that I bring to you two points of news. First is that I heard Nicholas Wolterstorff who’s a living Christian philosopher, very well respected philosopher, he has come out in support of same-sex marriage. I’ve read about this in the Calvin College Chimes. He is really a top-notch philosopher and I was really disappointed to see here that he changed his view and what was really interesting was his reasoning so here he says, “I’ve listened to these people to their agony, to their feelings of exclusion and oppression, to their longings, to their expressions of love for their commitments to their faith so listening has changed me.”
So here it’s clear that the personal argument if you will, that he knows someone, has changed his view. Before we begin critiquing the fact that “Oh, well he went and listened to those people,” that’s not the right attitude here on this topic. The right attitude is that “Yes, it’s good he listened to these people, people that have homosexual attraction, however, his conclusion or solution I think is the wrong one so it’s very good for Christians to reach out to people and to show love to people. After all, we are all created in God’s image and so we shouldn’t just brush off “Oh, well he was talking to them,” Right? If we have that sort of attitude we’ve certainly missed the point here and we’re not loving people the right way. The problem I think with Wolterstorff is he allowed some of these personal experiences to trump Scripture and he didn’t provide the Scriptural solution to this view. At any rate, for those that are joining us on Facebook live and listening here to the podcast, I will share this link so you can read about Wolterstorff and his changed view on our web site, Veracityhill.com, so you can check that out.
Also there was another very sad piece of news I wanted to make known. If you’re a regular listener to this show you know how much I love Moe’s Southwest Grill. I recently learned that the Moe’s that’s closest to me, about ten minutes away, has actually closed down. I am so very sad at this news and now the next closest location which I pray to God is still open, is thirty minutes away so I’ve got to drive just a little bit more to go pick up that Moe’s. So Moe’s is very near and dear to my heart especially because they’ve got a great sale every Monday, their Moe Monday deal. At any rate, they’re not paying us to give them some good advertising here, but my favorite fast food joint has closed down the closest one. They’re really popular down south so hopefully more will show up here.
Today’s episode is on whether Christians should get involved in politics and I know some of our panelists here in studio, we’ve got Chris, Joel, and John all three joining us. Have you guys even considered whether Christians should get involved with politics or is it something that you just think is so natural you’ve never thought otherwise?
Voice One: I’ve never thought I shouldn’t be involved in politics as a Christian so it just seems like it’s part of the air we breathe in America.
Kurt: is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Voice One: That’s the question. It feels like a bad thing right now.
Kurt: And is it just a cultural thing? Is it a cultural experience for Christians here to get involved in politics? John. What do you think?
John: I think it’s always helped influence how I feel, what I think about politics and I think for me it does go hand in hand with certain beliefs about politics. Do we influence how people live and some laws that are passed and what not so I think for me it’s always been part of it.
Kurt: Alright. Chris?
Chris: My answer is actually no.
Chris: Yes. I have a much complicated….
Kurt: Are you playing Devil’s advocate?
Chris: I’m not. I actually believe the answer is no.
Chris: But I have a very complicated explanation as to why that is.
Chris: So if we have time to talk about it in the course of the show and you feel it’s natural, that’d be great, but I legitimately believe to answer your questions Christians should not be involved in politics.
Kurt: Okay. Interesting. So we will, that’s good because we’re going to be bringing on Neil Mammen here shortly. He’s written the book on it. It’s called Jesus Is Involved In Politics. Why Aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church? So hopefully we’ll have a good spirited discussion on this today and so now joining me here is Neil. Thanks for joining us on the show today!
Neil: How’s it going?
Kurt: Good. So you’ve written a book on this and it’s a provocative title. Jesus Is Involved In Politics. Why Aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church? Well, was Jesus involved in politics? It seems that many Christians share the view that he was apolitical, that is he didn’t really get involved with government policy of His day, so what say you?
Neil: Well, I mean the basic misconception is that the basic mistake is that Jesus never got involved in Roman politics. He never tried to change the law of Rome or something like that. A lot of people seem to assume that because Rome was governing Judea, therefore all Judean politics were Roman politics. They seem to think that they’re an extension of Rome, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I mean the Romans were governing Judea, but they weren’t running Judea on the day to day matters. Imagine the number what happened in Iraq. We were governing Iraq. We were governing Germany after the second World War, yet we did not govern them on their lower levels of government and in fact Germany and Iraq had their own Senate, their own representatives, they had their own lawmakers, and they had their own political system. In fact the Jews had their own huge political system that was based as far back as Exodus 18 where God actually tells us through Jethro how they’re supposed to elect our representatives. In fact, the entire U.S. representatives/Republican system is based on Exodus 18:21 that says appoint good men amongst you. Men that fear God and hate illegal profits and appoint them to be one over ten and one over those ten and that whole Republican form of government is right there in Exodus so people look at that and go “Wait, wait, wait. What did the Jews have to legislate?” Well the Jews had a legislative body and they had a Constitution and the Constitution was their Torah. They could not or were not supposed to legislate anything above their Torah. They were not supposed to violate anything their Torah said, but they made all these lesser laws and in fact they had their own police force. They had their own jails. Paul and Silas weren’t thrown into a Jewish jail. They had their own judges. They had their own entire political system. Now it’s true that it wasn’t a Democratic system. You didn’t elect people, but you were appointed into these political systems and these people made laws, so did the Jews have a lawmaking body? Yes they did. In fact it was called the Sanhedrin. They had legislators. In fact, the words used for the Sanhedrin are the lawmakers, so that the study of the Law, people who studied the Law, students of the Law, so these were the people that formed their lawmaking body.
Let’s look at the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was a group that sat in a semi-circle. This is where we get our semi-circle in the Senate and the House and these people would legislate and there were seventy of them. They would judge. They would actually combine their Supreme Court was combined with the legislative body so they would judge and legislate, so they did their own interpretation of the Law. Did Jesus ever talk to these guys? Well, you’ve got hopefully 30 seconds ahead of me. Yes. He did. He talked to them all the time because they were Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus’s lawmakers. Jesus’s legislators. Jesus’s representatives were the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Kurt: Right. So could someone respond to that and say He’s just dealing with Jewish Law, so it’s sort of maybe Jewish Law, not necessarily civil law. What would you say to that?
Neil: That’s a very valid question and the answer to that is no because remember what He said. He turns to the Pharisees and Sadducees and says “You’ve abandoned the matters of the law like justice, faithfulness, and mercy.” Well justice we know is a law issue. It’s not got to do with God’s justice. It’s got to be with local justice. Right? Because all that you had to do with God is they had no say in God justice. Right? You had to say it in local justice. Mercy. Well obviously again He’s not talking about God’s mercy because He has no say in God’s mercy. They’re talking about mercy on how they judge things and then they talk about faithfulness. Faithfulness to who? Faithfulness to God? No. Faithfulness to the Constitution, to the Torah, because Jesus says “Look. You’ve taken the Sabbath. Sabbath was made for man but you’ve made of the Sabbath. You’ve twisted it.” And he starts yelling at them. He says, “You’ve taken away the reason of the Law.” So Jesus would say. He says go back to the original intent of why that law was given by God and you will realize that you’ve been violating it, you’ve been twisting it for your own purposes. That’s exactly what’s happened with our own legislators. They’ve taken the original Constitution and they’ve twisted it in every single possible way they could to create the meanings they wanted to mean and the judges have been doing that…
Kurt: Yeah. Okay. So this is all very interesting and perhaps something that not a lot of people have considered before. Maybe because they’ve just focused on the “Give to Caesar” passage where it seems Jesus is separating Himself from government policy.
Kurt: Now before we get further into…
Neil: Let me address that passage because that’s a very….
Neil: The passage about give to Caesar, let’s look at that passage carefully because a lot of people think it means that we should not be involved with government, but if you look at it carefully you will realize it says quite the opposite. Remember Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” Now if you take that word render unto Caesar to mean involvement in politics, then let’s place that involvement in politics render unto Caesar. Then Jesus said Render unto involvement in politics to involvement in politics and render unto God what is God’s. There is nothing that says “don’t render into politics.” Does that mean it says Do render. It’s not a question of separating you from Caesar. He’s saying do unto Caesar just like you do unto God. It’s saying you do the same to both. In fact it doesn’t say “Don’t render unto Caesar.” It says “Do render unto Caesar.” So if you think that passage means politics then you have to take it to mean you should be involved in politics.
Kurt: Good. Yeah. So Neil I’m wondering and before we get further into the discussion, it’s clear you’re very passionate about the subject, so tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and sort of what led you to get involved in this sort of topic and area of study. Tell us about your background, where you’re from, and you’ve got a wonderful story so please tell us more about yourself.
Neil: So I was born in Ghana which is on the left coast of Africa and I grew up in Ghana, Jamaica, and in Yemen. Sudan is in Africa, but it’s a Muslim country. It’s run under Sharia Law. Yemen when I was living, when I was living in Sudan it was not running under Sharia Law, but when I was living in Yemen it was run under Sharia Law. My dad was a professor of physics. He worked for different universities all over the world, all over Africa mainly, and that’s how I traveled a lot. Now what’s interesting about that is for years I decided I want to come to the States, because I said this is where all the cute women are, I’ve got to find myself one so I was working really hard to come to the States. I was a teenager in Yemen going to college and “I’ve got to come to the States. They’ve got beautiful women.” I found the most beautiful woman. I convinced her to marry me. We have three kids now. We’re very happy. My attempts to come to the States, the first time was quite traumatic actually. It turns out that out of state tuition is very expensive and my Dad at the time I was 18 and I’d been studying, I’d actually done three years of college in the Middle East in physics with a minor in Math and I was ready to come to the States and my father said….My Dad said……as long as I continue to work here because it’s really expensive for you to go to school in the States so we found a college and I applied and I got admission and I got all the stuff laid out and those in Yemen do things months in advance so it was like I’d got everything set up almost four months ahead of time. About a couple of months before I was supposed come here my Dad got fired.
Neil: I remember he came into our home and he told us he’d gotten fired and we didn’t know why, but to me it immediately meant that I would not be able to come to the States, but other circumstances allowed me to come later on. It was a few months later, like three to four months later we figured we’d do it again, but at that time it seemed like everything was crashed and we found out later the reason why my Dad was fired is because a fellow professor of his who worked with him, another physics professor, had committed suicide, and when the police went into his apartment, into his home they found a Bible with my father’s name on it. Now we are Indian Christians so we date our heritage, St. Thomas came to India 2,000 years ago and so we date our heritage back to that time so there’s about 11% Christians in India and we’re one of those. So my Dad had Bibles and he believed in the Bible as a lay preacher. He was a lay preacher and he apparently either had a Bible on his desk or this guy had asked him for it. My dad doesn’t even remember it. But it’s illegal to give somebody who is not a Christian a Bible in the Middle East. We actually were in a sense told to leave. If the reason we were told to leave and my Dad was not thrown into jail was because my Dad had students who had graduated under him and had become important in government. A couple of them were in high political office and they said “We could save your life. We can save you from imprisonment. We just can’t save your job.”
Neil: And so I understood what it’s like when the political system is run by people who are friendly to the Gospel.
Kurt: Right. Right. You’ve lived in all sorts of different societies. You’ve lived in fascist societies, imperialism, socialism. You’ve probably even been to communist societies so you’ve seen firsthand how different those types of societies are with those different philosophies. Is that right?
Neil: Yes. Absolutely and one of the worst things somebody can say is “Well, maybe American Christians need to experience some of that.” You don’t know what you’re talking about and guess what? You won’t experience it. Your kids will. You really want your kids to go through that. I mean horrible. In Egypt there are cases where not only Egypt but everywhere. Cases where a Christian or a person who doesn’t believe like the rest of them and without any judge or jury or anything they are killed and their property is taken by somebody else so you want somebody’s property and he happens to be a Christian, you just need to say “He blasphemed Muhammad in front of me,” and guess what, his property’s going to be up for sale and you’re probably able to buy it, especially if you’re willing to pay off the guy who condemns him to death.
Kurt: Wow. What was it for you?
Neil: We should not toy around with this. By the way, I’ve done a study…so many times…
Kurt: So what was it for you? What sort of fundamental or foundational point of philosophy have you considered is the difference between a fascist and communist type of society versus the society that we have here. Is there some fundamental disagreement there between the differing views and what do you think that is?