Dogma is the central theology for all people who identify as Christians. It is core values, such as Jesus being born of a virgin, God’s omniscience and The Holy Spirit’s ability to inspire. Politics is not a central, dogmatic issue of faith. Yet, some churches are treating it as such and further dividing members.
Luke Merrick, senior music major and summer intern for Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), said, “Division obviously stems primarily from differing viewpoints. Differing viewpoints in a group of people are inevitable; however, the problem is that the church has allowed these differing viewpoints to triumph over the principle charges offered to the New Testament church to engage in radical love towards others, which is patient, kind, filled with trust and perseverance.”
Churches are heavily regulated as to how much involvement they can have in politics. Churches are not allowed to endorse or campaign for elected office candidates in the name of the church. They are not allowed to donate money to political parties or candidates. Nor can they distribute materials that endorse candidates or campaigns, according to the GOP. This does not stop political discourse from happening in the church, however.
In fact, as many as one-in-five churchgoers said their clergy speaks out about political issues in church, according to Pew Research. Nineteen percent believe Republicans are typically religious. Four percent say that Democrats are. However, 35 percent of those “who profess no religious affiliation fault the GOP for its religious connections,” according to Pew Research.
With church politics on the rise, some members of the church show concern that non-Christians might see the division and, in turn, reject the church further. Teague Broquard, junior political science major, said, “I think political division in the church comes across both negatively and positively to unbelievers. Positively in the sense that unbelievers may see individuals in the church dealing with political division healthily. Negatively in the sense that unbelievers may see individuals in the church prolonging political division and want nothing to do with an institution that can’t find common ground on any subject. This makes it especially important that Christians attempt to cultivate an environment where people can ask hard questions and be met with love, grace and understanding.”
Merrick agrees with Broquard that the outlook is sometimes twofold. “One group would be Christians who refuse to associate with each other, belittle each other and camp out on their little hill of chagrin. Such behavior comes across to the world as not only unattractive, but utterly confusing to those who understand the Christian faith as one of love and grace,” Merrick said. “Another group would be those Christians who fundamentally differ with each other, passionately discourse about subjects, and are still able to love and speak well of the other side—and just maybe, have dinner together afterwards. That is, in fact, the Christian faith at its best and the only type of behavior that will draw a world looking for true love.”
As 84 percent of the voting population in America profess Christianity, it is important for them to be aware of political issues. Some question whether the church is the best place for this education.
Broquard said he hopes to see political division in the church combated, and if people are being educated about politics in the church, he hopes they will at least seek a church community that is diverse, so they can expose themselves to differing views. “It is immensely important to go to church with people older than me, different races than me, different gender and sexual orientation than me, and perhaps most importantly, different political leanings than me. We’re all called to be in the body of Christ. So, let’s make it happen with the people around us.”