Welcome to this instalment of the series, The Church and Politics. If you’ve not been following the series please go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/ to read the last twelve instalments.
However much we hate the fact, money is the lubricant of politics. Money gives you a seat at the table. There’s an economic cost attached to changing people’s perspective. If you want to change a point of view, or cause people to switch allegiance in a democracy, there’s required spending. Man responds to his material makeup. He responds to images because he’s made from an image. He responds to words because he’s made from words. Genesis 1:26-27. Imagery and words are tools of political persuasion. They cost money, a lot of money. Media costs money. The richer the country the more expensive media is. But the poorer the people the cheaper it is to persuade them to vote a particular candidate. They’re focused on survival. They’re desperate. Third world politicians know how to exploit this factor. And so the people cast their vote in a particular direction in exchange for something as basic as a loaf of bread. It’s Esau Syndrome – the trading of birth right. The Bible calls such foreign exchange transaction profanity. Hebrews 12:16 KJV. Some ingeniously label this “stomach infrastructure.” It’s essentially vote in exchange for food – an intestinal affidavit of poverty.
Poverty produces its own political logic. The people are poor so they sell their votes to base men, who further exploit them. And the cycle repeats itself like a witch’s curse. It is therefore Satan’s desire to keep the people down, to make them wretched of the earth so they can be manipulated politically. Poverty is antithetical to God’s desire for a nation. No nation should be a sh*****e. Apologies to Mr Trump. And that’s the place of education in a nation. The more educated the people are the more they know their rights and the higher the unlikelihood of exchange of food for votes. They can process the inequity in such exchange. When poverty becomes a mind-set, it robs one of will and reason. Without prosperity of the soul there is no true prosperity. 3 John 1:2.
The fact remains however that politics costs money. Acquisition of power is an expensive project. Acquiring power costs money, retaining power costs money, pushing an agenda costs money. A poor church is thus politically weakened. Now you know why the finance of the church must be attacked by the enemy. It’s a political move.
At the end of the day all politics is politics of identity. Be it national identity, or regional identity, or tribal identity, or ethnic identity, or cultural identity, or ideological identity or demographic identity – all politics is politics of identity. In politics, each identity group pushes its own interest and seeks to propagate its own agenda. Question is, what is the agenda of the church? The church must have an agenda.
Power is ultimately the hegemony of one identity group over the other. And sometimes political alliances are formed as halfway house to self-preservation. There is a trade-off of interests. But after coalition a hegemonic war ensues until one party gets rid of the other party. Power is a brutal regime. When an identity group takes control of power it seeks to prosper its own members as well as those sympathetic to its cause – those aligned with her interests. That’s the way it’s always been. The rise of Joseph in Egypt favoured the Israelites. They became wealthy. Genesis 47:11-12. And so when the Bible reminds us to “Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfil the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath,” political power is also envisaged. Deuteronomy 8:18 NLT. The power to get wealth is not just abilities. Deuteronomy 8:18 does not preclude political power. Those who finance power prosper from power.
The mistake of the church is that it has been reactionary rather than proactive when it comes to politics. When persecution comes there’s hue and cry, but once persecution abates there’s settling back into religious comfort zone, and then lethargy. This approach means the Church is much more concerned about what’s going on inside the church to the detriment of what’s going on outside, whereas the political space is what determines even the right to assemble inside the church to worship. Common sense dictates the Church should be very much interested in the political context of the nation. Rights, including the right to worship are determined by it.
The Church must leverage her resources – human, material and spiritual to influence the polity and determine the politics. Not all churches have men of means of course. Some are poor. But on average the Church is blessed and strong enough to determine political outcomes. The issue then is strategic use of human resources since the Church cannot participate in politics directly. But even within religious context, churches will rather promote their programme than push the overall brand of Jesus Christ. When last did you see a Jesus brand advert of the quality of a Coca-Cola advert? If Coca-Cola can spend so much money promoting carbonated water, why can’t the church spend much more to promote the water of life? How many “crusade,” “anointing,” “seminar” and “miracle” billboards exist and how many pure Jesus brand billboards exist with no promotion of a church programme?
In branding, all those programme adverts by churches are deemed endorsed brand architecture. They’re endorsed by the name of Jesus. But then how about the mother brand itself? Why won’t churches promote the Jesus brand on its own? The Jesus brand is what’s key. If the mother brand is poorly promoted all the brands endorsed by it will suffer diminution. That fact somehow seems lost on some churches. Without the Jesus brand the local programmes of the churches lack authenticity. It is the mother brand. And so we have a church with a history of not paying attention to helicopter views. It’s why the Church doesn’t pay enough attention to political context.
Churches focus on social projects and ignore political projects. Whereas it’s the political projects that produce the social distortions churches intervene in. When poverty is reduced in a nation there’ll be less need for soup kitchens for example. The logical thing to do therefore is to concentrate on poverty reduction by getting involved in policy formulation. Feed a man soup today and you will need to feed him tomorrow. Potentiate his mind however and he will feed others tomorrow. That is not saying churches should abandon social projects. We need them especially in developing economies.
The Church is the social security system in many nations. That fact is lost on her traducers. But we must also find solution to the political realities that produce those social distortions. The land must be healed. We must advocate, but we must also participate in politics. The intersection that is the Church provides a platform for people of means to come together to sponsor a political agenda, as well as candidates whose interests align with God’s policy ideals. Commitment to preservation of the church through finance of desired political outcome is one more reason to aspire to prosper, one more reason to work hard. You cannot do politics without money. Church rats don’t finance political objectives.
According to scriptures prosperity can be purposed. Money can be purposed into worship: “Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” Proverbs 3:9 NLT. It’s up to each individual to determine how he or she wants to honour God with his or her wealth. Yes, there are social programs to finance, but there are also political programs as well. We must not be myopic and limited. In many developing economies the church has had to step in to do social justice. It’s why you find the church taking care of widows, rehabilitating sex workers, running orphanages, taking urchins off the street… But the role of the Church should not be limited to social justice. What about equity and fairness in society? Who will fight for the oppressed? Who will speak for the voiceless like Jesus did? In a political environment where elected officials are more or less feudal overlords, who ought to have moral authority to speak for the people but the church?
Yes, pastors can and should make pronouncements, but a more effective means of making changes in society is to purpose the congregants to go into government and other policy spaces and do right by the people. It is a mistaken notion that calling can only be ecclesiastical. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. There are political callings. There are social callings. Within the ambit of social and political spaces in society everyone can find his or her calling, everyone can discover his or her assignment. There’s social opportunity, there’s political opportunity.
There are those called to office, there are those called to nurture those called to office. There are those called to strategize. There are those called to organise… There are those called to amplify. They speak on behalf of the people. They challenge authority. There are diversities of gifts and callings in the Body of Christ. As beautiful as Esther was her calling was not in the cultural space. Neither was it in the social justice space – the feeding of the underprivileged. Her calling was in the political space. There are also those called to fund political campaigns. That’s largely the job of businessmen and women. They have higher capacity to generate capital. It’s the network of these specialty capacities and capabilities that produces the momentum that moves the dial of a nation. The Church must network her capacities and purpose individuals to serve in the political space. The Church must not be limited and short-sighted.
We continue the series next week. To read the full version of The Church and Politics Part 13: The money factor go to www.myilluminare.com/the-church-and-politics/.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
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