When political activists take over your church

by Justin Steckbauer, Christian Post Contributor |
Parishioners sitting on church pews as seen from above. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Runner1928

Have you ever noticed how ministries can become politicized over time? It's a real concern in our day and age, where political ideology has the country polarized, that same political activism can push its way into the church.

I've noticed this particularly in inner-city churches, where political ideology begins to take over as the driving force behind the church, and the Christian faith begins to take a back seat to the latest political cause or social theory that is going around.

It's ironic that churches in the heart of major cities, where hundreds of thousands of people don't know Jesus lose their way in this manner. It's a sad irony that churches positioned so perfectly for ministry to so many lost souls would instead focus their attention on identity politics, dividing people up by skin color, presidential politics, perceived wealth inequality, war of the sexes, racism, sexism, and all the various isms of secular-progressive political discourse. With so many millions without the light of Christ, shouldn't evangelism, discipleship, and worship be front and center for these inner city churches?

Unfortunately, it seems that political activists often work their way into churches, organizations, and institutions. Indeed, in the area of social work, many social justice and socio-political activists get involved to distribute social services, and advocate for victim groups and so on.

Oddly enough, over time we find that many people in key leadership positions will use those positions to advocate not for the proclamation of the gospel, but for the proclamation of their political beliefs.

With evangelical Christians there is always the danger of moving too far conservative on the political wheel. So it becomes more about patriotism, presidential elections, campaigning for candidates, or worse: The gospel can be drowned out over time.

With mainline Protestants, it's moving in the other direction, toward secular progressive ideology. Soon ministry becomes more about political ideology. Instead of the gospel it becomes social justice, racial identity politics, liberal feminism, wealth redistribution, attacking traditional culture, gay pride, and fighting perceived power structures. The gospel gets drowned out, it's a secondary concern to the political ideology.

I just want to raise a warning flag for people out there who may have noticed this activism begin to take place in their church, or in their church headquarters. I want to indicate some warning flags to watch for, and I want to indicate some ways to push back against it.

Let's look at three warning flags:

1. Buzz words like "intersectionality, multiculturalism, micro aggressions and trigger warnings."

These sort of social theory buzz phrases are appearing more and more in church movements. These ideas are a mixed bag, there are some good points to them certainly, but also some negatives.

Overall diversity is a good thing. But enforced diversity is something different all together. When quotas are being instituted, and when the language becomes more and more about politics, power structures, and "white privilege" then it's fair to recognize that secular social theory/ideology has begun to infiltrate the church.

In the Bible, in the New Testament, do we ever see God dividing people up in this way? No. God's body is a unity in diversity of different peoples and nations all coming together to form one unique body, the body of Christ. One of the strengths of the body of Christ is diversity.

Multiculturalism, once again, not an inherently negative concept, churches are very often self-segregated, and multiculturalism is the idea of bringing various cultures together, and different ethnicities together in a single church, to worship together. That's biblical! It's definitely a good thing. But once again, there are excesses to multiculturalism, like the idea of rejecting any assimilation to American culture, or the idea of blending disparate cultures together on a political level through mass immigration, has been in some cases disastrous for different parts of the world.

2. Dividing people up into groups - When people are divided up into groups, and then pitted against each other, you are beginning to see something called "identity politics" at play.

This is an ideology where white people are pitted against black people. Women are pitted against men. Black people are told they are victimized by white people. White people are told they're racist and privileged. Hispanics are told Americans hate them, young people are told old people are the problem, the economically impoverished are told that rich people are the reason they are poor. It's all about dividing people up, and pitting them against each other. And it leads to division, anger, and even violence. But it's part of something called "community organizing." Community organizing is something done in inner cities by some organizations. The goal in community organizing is to gather people together in outrage against perceived injustices. They look to the concept of "self-interest" that these groups have interests that are common, and they need to be organized to fight against systemic oppression.

Now the scriptures do talk about advocating for the poor and the powerless, but I don't think God had in mind dividing people up into victim groups and turning the oppressed into the oppressors. God's purpose in society is that we would do justice, and show no favoritism for or against any people. (Deuteronomy 16:19).

"Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." – Leviticus 19:15, NIV

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