From the beginning of time, religion and politics jockeyed each other either for position of power or for equal standing. Biblical accounts detail that God established Israel as a people and then as a nation. At that time religion and politics ran alongside each other because God was both the religious and political authority. Israel later incorporated a monarchal system of governance with the selection of their first king, Saul. There was to be a separation of functions; the king would attend to political matters, while the ‘clergy’ [prophets, priesthood] would execute religious obligations. The synergy didn’t always go well. This is seen early in the transition, for while God was still sovereign over his people speaking to the political leaders through the religious fraternity, Saul [as the first example] rejected such council and went about infringing on matters that were to be executed by the religious leaders. For this God rejected him as king.
During their occupation by the Babylonians, Persians and more so the Romans, Israel was without a ‘self chosen’ political leader; but often times their religious institution was allowed to remain intact to function as long as it did not interfere with the politics of their occupiers. One result of this forbearance was the inadvertent authority bestowed upon the religious institution to which the sect of the Pharisee, with their Sanhedrin council was the dominant player. This was the socio-political and socio-religious environment in which Jesus Christ lived. Through the centuries the Roman Catholic Church took upon itself such authority and with its many Popes exerted its influence on both the political and religious sphere of world affairs, for good and bad, setting up leaders and also removed them.
Today the political landscape of the world has changed or evolved to some level. Israel is a democracy whiles their neighbor to the east, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has a political framework comprising theocracy and presidential democracy. For the latter, the Supreme Leader and not the president is the figure of authority; and with Shia Islam being the official religion, every faucet of Iranian life is deeply entrenched and controlled by it.
This brings us to the West and specifically to the United States of America. Founded upon religious beliefs, and freedom for all [some might sight as an obvious oxymoron], the US prizes itself as the gold standard of western democracy. Over the last few years however, already frayed threads began to rip open her royal garb revealing her nakedness. During this period we’ve seen a mass explosion of protests from the likes of the Black Lives Matter movement, whose plight against systemic racism and inequality has resonated around the world. Equal to this move was the emergence of just the opposite; a counter movement soiled even before the days of the Confederacy, wherein the neglected laundry of racism was simply thrown into the ‘to do’ dirty pile. Never seriously dealt with, these garments are now openly worn; some traditionally clad like the Klasmen, while others like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and QAnon members are more modernly outfitted.
This makes a plot worthy of any Hollywood blockbuster! A nation already divided would be further fractured not only by these hate groups but by a president who openly chose not to condemn, but rather to applaud and celebrate their efforts. But what about the religious aspect to all of this? White Evangelicals have always supported Trump. Even before he officially announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election, evangelicals not only threw their support behind him, but more revealingly some prophesied his win. Four years of presidency saw Trump championing policies such as pro life, and pro marriage [between a man and a woman], measures which should be embraced by Christians whether they are Democrat or Republican. He also sweetened his relationship especially with evangelicals by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But while these doings might have satisfied religiosity on some level, what about those undertakings that fostered open hate and schism?
Then came the re-election. Again White Evangelicals were front and center. Their argument is that being Republican, a Trump administration will embrace Christian values more than a Democratic one. This is the mindset in-spite of what transpired over his first term. Again came prophesies that Trump will be victorious. This time he wasn’t! The reason wasn’t false prophesy, but a stolen election. This played out in the ‘voter fraud’ and ‘election steal’ headliners, further fueling unrest in a nation that desperately needed reconciliation. The culmination was the attack on the Capitol; an attempt to intimidate and foil the constitutional process of certifying the election for Biden. Because of this brazen assault predicated on the character and actions of the President over the last four years, human lives were lost. Again the supporting religious fraternity for the most part either remained silent, indifferent, or stood in defense.
Politics and religion can at times be a tight rope to walk. From observation it is safe to propose that many black Christians, especially those hailing from the Caribbean voted on racial, economic and immigration issues, and so casted their ballot for the Democrats. Inadvertently though they voted for an institution that championed many non Christian values. On the other end of the spectrum, the White Evangelicals’ focus wasn’t along racial lines but more on social and economic issues, although it might be contested that their economic perspective differs from the blacks.
Here then we have two Christian groups, but on opposite sides. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the US Christian electorate is the current political structure itself. Religious ideology distinctly separates the two parties. Republicans are cconservative and generally promotes Christian values. The Democratic Party’s core values are liberal and thus usually non Christian. To this end the electorate has but two choices, whereby supporting one set of cause means sacrificing the support of others. The question then can be asked, is there ever a time when Christians should vote against ‘religious grounds’? Some might say yes, pointing to the recent election. Christians who voted for President Biden might have done so because the destructive and divisive character of Trump outweighed the religious concessions offered. Likewise, those who voted for Trump might have done so because of the reverse.
How then do we navigate and execute our political responsibilities as Christians? Well without allowance leaders must be held accountable for their actions, even if we wear the same color. This is perhaps the biggest failure of White Evangelicals and other pro Trump Christians. It became even clearer at the voting of Trump’s impeachment trial where forty three  of the fifty  Republican Senators voted to acquit him of Incitement of Insurrection. Were their votes based on a Christian conscience, or upon party affiliation? If the Senate voting was done anonymously would more Republicans have voted guilty? Those who chose to break from the pack are facing the backlash from their Republican colleagues as well as their constituents because they chose to speak out; not against Christian policies, but against hatred. They saw a contradiction of values and stood in opposition and for this some were censured; a flagrant act of hypocrisy considering that free speech under the First Amendment formed a major part of Trump’s impeachment defense.
So now we look at things in our political backyard. St Vincent and the Grenadines is a nation rooted in religious principles, but unlike the U.S our political parties are not divided on religious ideals. Collectively we are proponents of pro life and pro marriage, while opposing Homosexual agendas. This displayed recently in a national march, and indeed we must continue to guard these Christian values especially as we pilgrimage a world that is fast spreading its dark cloak of relativism, liberalism, and progressivism.
A compromising Christian has already lost his Christian voice not only in the Christian community, but with the world. Many prominent White Evangelical leaders are now being scrutinized and watched with skepticism; some have even been rejected as spiritual leaders. Regrettably perhaps too there are among us religious leaders who have already killed their own testimony, whose voice has been silenced by their choice to compromise. Credibility is transparent, so too is one’s religious integrity.
As a religious body do we hold our political offenders accountable for their actions? Do we advocate for review boards and commissions to independently investigate warranted claims of political misconduct? And when there is evidence of breach, will we have the integrity to speak out, or will we sink to cowardice choosing instead to ‘acquit’ because of partisan and self interest?
The religious body is one in Christ. What about malice among the brethren then? Have we become as the Republicans, censuring our Christian relationships because of political adherence? At Antioch, perhaps as a show of mockery, those who followed Christ were called ‘Christians’. It is a name signifying a belonging to Christ, fellowship between all believers, and should therefore never be taken for granted.
White Evangelicals could not speak out in support of race matters, because their president wasn’t interested in race matters. The issue thus, is not against supporting Trump’s religious agenda, in fact most Christians would readily applaud it. Rather! The indictment is that the same religious fraternity that lobbied for him fell silent, and for the most part has turned a blind eye to all his non Christian embodiments. They choose to remain bridled. Their failure no doubt is partially responsible for the way some Christians voted; against religious grounds, instead of for it. Now under the presidency of a democrat who will in time repeal many of Trump’s pro Christian causes and even impose new liberal and progressive policies, the Christian resigns himself; yet not without a voice.
Jesus lived during a politically charged time. The people he established as a nation was being ruled by occupiers, yet his ‘politics’ did not hinder or compromise his ministry. His purpose was to declare the Kingdom of heaven [God], not to establish a kingdom on earth!
While it would be irresponsible to directly equate Jesus’ time and his response to ours, Jesus taught us that not every political drive, every political motivation, are we to involve ourselves. Some we are to stay clear of using wisdom in our decision. It would be well to remember to give unto Caesar the things of Caesar, and unto God, the things that belongs to God. This seems a fitting principle of which we Christians should adopt. Not every battle is to be fought, yet not every battle we are to remain silent. When we do become involved in politics however, be it as a candidate or simply an electorate, let’s remember Christ, and so above reason, above persuasions and affiliation, before making our many decisions let us first ask ourselves the question: What would Christ do? Putting him first means we’ll be better able to navigate the winding path of politics and religion.