Young people may not have a vote just yet, but they can surely have a voice. Youth ministry professor and popular speaker Kenda Creasy Dean tells us that youth today are more passionate than ever about giving themselves to a cause. Youth workers, mentors, and other Christian adults can point them in the direction of Jesus to find out what is important to him and what he is calling them to do to effect political change. Here are some basic issues and questions for addressing this topic with youth.
What's Going On?
A presidential election year means heightened passion in political discourse and memorized talking points about hot-button issues. Both sides promise to fix every problem in the world, lower taxes, and restore America. Both sides have supporters who think their guy will save the day and who are willing to stand on street corners, go door to door, and make cold calls in attempts of persuading others to join their cause. Every election year is similar to the one before, and here we are once again in the thick of it.
The 24/7 news cycle and instant Internet headlines have given America more knowledge of candidates and issues than ever before. Technology also makes it easier than ever for people to participate in the process.
Christians must also answer the question of what role their faith should play in their political activities. Some say that one’s faith is inextricably bound to one’s politics; others say that faith and politics don’t mix; and others fall in between. So what is the answer? How should Christians who are passionate about issues and making their voices heard combine faith and politics?
What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus calls his followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. And we should be salt and light even in the realm of politics. How can Christians bring faith into politics without buying into the mudslinging and sensationalism that often accompanies an election season?
First, let’s consider the political situation in Jesus’ day. Several groups were vying for power: the zealots, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes and priests, and the local offi cials appointed by the Romans. As Jesus’ popularity grew, these groups paid attention, perhaps expecting him to have political aspirations. At times they tried to catch Jesus saying something that would embarrass or incriminate himself. But Jesus had no interest in being a king or governor in the earthly sense. Instead he was interested in the politics of God’s kingdom—love, patience, justice, compassion, mercy, kindness, contrition, and humility.
Second, Jesus would never have his followers put their trust in a political system or process. This doesn’t mean that Christ’s followers should stand outside of politics. On the contrary, Jesus would have us put our trust in God and speak truth in love, speak hope in despair, and speak out for those who have been silenced. We can absolutely express our politics through the lens of faith, but we cannot allow our politics to defi ne our identity nor our future hope. Only Jesus can do that.
What Are Christians to Do?
If Christians are called to bring their voices to the political arena, how can we do so in a way that represents our Lord faithfully? First, we have to know the Scriptures and live a life of prayer. We can only know what issues matter to God if we study the Bible and invite God to speak wisdom and truth into our lives. Second, we must be educated—and not just by people who think like we do. We should expand the sources from which we receive information and make sure that we’re not only hearing one opinion and position. We have to pay attention to conversations when we hear issues discussed that the Bible addresses, such as caring for the poor and vulnerable and matters of life and death.