by Dr. Glen Duerr
Elections. Even the mere mention of the word may fill you with a set of perspiration-inducing emotions, perhaps ranging from excitement and opportunity, intransigence and helplessness, or dread and foreboding. In the case of the nonpolitical person, a different reaction: a gut-wrenching exasperation that political commercials will almost certainly interrupt your favorite shows for months on end. It would be tempting for followers of Christ, in any of these categories, to throw up their hands in despair.
Yet, as the British Prime Minister and statesman Winston Churchill said in 1947, “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe … democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” There is much to praise God for in our day. Political problems abound, there is little doubt, but there is much cause for rejoicing as well. The economic and technological advances in the last few decades alone give us cause for optimism in that we in the United States have plenty of resources scarcely imaginable for previous generations, plus the blessing of being able to disseminate the Gospel literally around the world through social media and other forms of technology. Despite this, there are harrowing scourges of our day, from a divisive ethnic war started by Vladimir Putin, a wretched growth in human trafficking, and brutal challenges of drug overdoses — among many pertinent societal issues.
With that in mind, Cedarville University’s Department of History and Government takes the call to run for office, govern, and serve in government seriously. We seek to build up students so that they are ready to take the Gospel and the love of Christ to government offices at the local, state, and federal levels; to law enforcement and in the military; and to the spheres of intelligence and the diplomatic corps. As such, the department is filled with faculty with both academic and practical experience. Amongst our group, we have a former Police Chief, City Manager, JAG corps Air Force officer, Special Investigator, and several that have served on numerous political campaigns. I, myself, currently serve on the City Council in Beavercreek, Ohio — a city of almost 50,000 people about a 30-minute drive west of Cedarville’s campus. As you may imagine, serving in a political office in the contemporary era is not an easy endeavor. Often, one’s choices are rightly limited by various constitutions, and sometimes very difficult issues land on your desk with immediacy. Periodically, elected officials are confronted with two alternatives for policy decisions: a bad option or a worse one. Yet, Romans 13:4 serves as a constant admonition for me — to do good for the people and avoid what is evil so that the people may not be afraid. 1 Timothy 2:2 similarly captures my attention because good government allows the faithful to lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. Even when confronted with challenging votes in Council, how can I best serve the people in line with Romans 13:4 and 1 Timothy 2:2?
Christians should be involved in politics and, at the very least, should vote. Is there anything in Scripture that explicitly commands followers of Christ to do so? No, there is little overt reference because the New Testament was written when the Roman Empire was predominant; Jesus came not to overthrow the Roman Emperor, but to provide the avenue to rescue men and women from their sin. However, there are sections of Scripture that speak to the need for upstanding leaders and impartial judges. If Christians flee from the public sphere and do not engage in the issues of our day — if we are not willing to roll up our sleeves and deal with messy problems — then those who make decisions will almost definitely be devoid of any fear of the Lord. We encourage our students to take the bold step, if they are so called, to get involved, and maybe even to run for office. The natural next question, though, is not an easy one: What happens if you win your election?
Another term that rarely inspires good thoughts for believers and nonbelievers alike. Many people in our society lament those who serve in office, sometimes for good reason. Nevertheless, Scripture provides us with a different view. Romans 13:1 and Titus 3:1 instruct us to be subject to the governing authorities, and 1 Timothy 2:1–2 exhorts us to pray for those in authority.
The Department of History and Government also spearheads a Washington, D.C., Semester that takes up to 15 students each fall to the nation’s capital to engage in an internship while taking a couple of courses that fulfill the requirements for a minor in public policy. Our students work in internships on Capitol Hill, research organizations (think tanks), media organizations, and nonprofits, among many options. Some of the positions are eye-opening and yet so important for the functioning of a democratic system. For example, a few dozen of our students over the years have answered phone calls for congressmen. As you might imagine, these conversations are not usually pleasant in tone or intonation. However, these interactions present a great opportunity to be salt and light in very difficult circumstances.
For an institution the size of Cedarville, our alumni base is much larger than one would expect in the nation’s capital — put colloquially, we punch above our weight. Our mission is to prepare young men and women to follow God’s call and make a difference at all levels of government upon graduation.
A third term that can cause even the most mature believers in Christ to stumble. Charges that government entities like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) target conservatives and Christians have been regular in recent years — in some cases, with substantial merit. Sometimes the response is to get angry or to react with lament about the seeming downward trajectory of the country. Our view in the Department of History and Government is not to complain, but to initiate change. What can we do to be part of the solution? In recent years, nearly a dozen graduates have found employment in the FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, or the Defense Intelligence Agency. Their success is not a solution to the challenges of modern bureaucracy, but wholehearted followers of Christ with a degree from Cedarville University are now moving through these bureaus or agencies
Finally, a word that brings hope! Each member of the faculty at Cedarville University is required to write an integration paper. This paper prompts us all to think through how our respective disciplines align, or not, with Scripture. In particular, one section of the integration paper requires thinking through a trichotomy: Can we accept, reject, or redeem what our discipline ascribes? In politics, the reality is that redemption is easy to say and very difficult to practically implement. And we know that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. For the follower of Christ called to work in or around government, it is a high calling to stand for God’s Kingdom in places that may seek to remove or denounce Him with alacrity.
In Genesis, it was God who created the institutions of the family, church, and government. The family and the church are obvious places for ministry, and for initiating societal change. But so is the government. This is not to argue that Christ-followers should take government by force; rather, believers can provide influence in the public policy sphere by promoting ideas that align with Scripture and supporting the other God-ordained institutions, family and church, if they are so willing to stand.
In this vein, one of the central dangers is to avoid a slide to extremism. Standing firm on God’s Word is paramount, but there are ditches to avoid — on the one side, being too apathetic about politics; on the other side, being too embroiled in politics with the undergirding assumption that the Lord is no longer sovereign in our sphere. It is a tough balance. Christians should rightly be consumed with completing ministry but should not neglect evils penetrating our land. We may not win every battle, but an important step is to stand for biblical positions, even if the world outvotes us. The key, here, is integrity in politics at all levels of government, with a devotion to sharing Christ with those who oppose the things of God. May the Lord find us active and sharing the Gospel in whatever vocation He has for us — even if He calls us to the halls of government.