Church Leaders should be involved in Politics
Recently, a minister of religion, at the People's National Party (PNP) Half-Way Tree mass rally, endorsed the PNP for government and, prior to that, another minister of religion at a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) mass rally in St Catherine prayed that God would change Comrades into Labourites. These incidents have raised the issue of whether church leaders should be involved in politics and openly support a political party.
Some will say that church leaders should not be involved in politics based on the position of the separation of Church and State. This view is that Church and the State apparatus cannot mix, just as how oil and water cannot mix. The Church's agenda is different from that of the State, with politics being corrupt and the Church seeking after righteousness.
There is widespread misinformation about the separation of Church and State in the United States (US). The concept of the founding fathers of the US was not that church leaders should not be involved in the State, but rather there was a fear of the State controlling the Church. They did not want the government to favour one denomination over another. People ought to have the liberty to have and express their religious beliefs and join the congregation of their choice.
Therefore, separation of Church and State in the US does not mean the church leaders have no influence on politics and that church leaders do not express publicly a preference. In fact, in the political campaigning in the US, Christianity is central with candidates seeking the endorsement of church leaders. There was even a recent spat between Donald Trump, Republican, and Pope Francis, with the Pope questioning his Christian faith. Furthermore, the president of the US swears on a Bible at his inauguration and US money notes have the words, "In God We Trust"!
In England, David Cameron, prime minister, speaks about the Christian heritage and Christian values as integral to the British ethos and lifestyle. There is no separation of Church and State in the UK since the Queen of Great Britain is both head of the Anglican Church and also Head of State.
Then there are those who believe that the only relationship church leaders should have with the society is to evangelise it. In addition, church leaders cannot change this evil world which is heading for destruction, so just leave everything to God and do not be active in the society. The most church leaders should do is to vote.
IT IS A NECESSITY
However, since politics is about how society is ordered and managed, then church leaders have a responsibility to be involved in governance issues, including a desire to see just legislations passed in Parliament and corruption prevented. The Lord's Prayer ought to be our mandate. Since we pray that God's will be done on Earth as it is in heaven, then there is a need for church leaders to deliberately work towards that end. We ought to desire right living, compassion to the less fortunate and fair access to the resources that God has made available to His creatures.
Church leaders should be nation builders. The late James Oswald Thourbourne, through his pioneering role in Churches Credit Union and also the Credit Union movement in the Caribbean and the world, showed that church leaders should be involved in nation building. Part of the ministry of the Church as outlined in Matthew 25:31-34 is to feed persons who are poor, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned. That type of ministry has an impact on the State.
There is a role for church leaders, as led by the Holy Spirit, to be involved in politics.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.