“Never discuss religion or politics with those who hold opinions opposite to yours; they are subjects that heat in handling, until they burn your fingers.” So wrote Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a Canadian politician and judge, in 1840. He was merely expressing what many modern Westerners think: we shouldn’t talk about religion and politics in polite company, especially if the two subjects are joined together and more so if the people in the room do not agree.
This sort of common wisdom is well-intentioned but wrong.
In other words, the human heart is a playground for the gods.
Second, we cannot separate our private self from our public self.
If religion were merely the mental and mystical acknowledgement of a supernatural deity, then we could easily relegate that belief to the confines of our private lives and to certain religious ceremonies. As the Bible defines it, religion is the central organizer of a person’s thoughts and loves.
If a person really and truly embraces the God of Jesus as the Creator and Lord of the universe, that embrace will have a cascade effect, pouring down and out into that person’s beliefs, feelings, values, and actions.In one way or another, our heart loyalties will radiate outward into our public words and actions.Exactly how our religious commitments radiate outward and translate into public life is significant, because religion and politics can be mixed in good or bad ways, but whether they radiate outward is not up for grabs.One objection is that “politics doesn’t save; therefore, we should not waste our time.” The point of the objection usually is that Christians sometimes put more energy and affection into their political views and activism than they do their personal devotion to the Lord or their efforts to share the gospel.In response, we affirm that Christians should put energy and affection into their own spiritual formation and into sharing the Gospel.But we also affirm that politics and public life are avenues to exercise our spirituality and witness to the Gospel.Every sphere of culture—art, science, education, business, family, and yes, even politics—is a field of activity provided by God, corrupted and misdirected by sin, and in need of being redirected to its creational design and its true end in Christ.But it is a god and a functional savior nonetheless.Often, it is the combination of two or more objects of worship.It is unhelpful advice and, ultimately, impossible to put into practice.Here are two reasons why Christians should not try to separate religion and politics (even though they should separate church and state), followed by two answers to two common objections.