1. The Bible tells us to obey the governing authorities (Romans 13).
But that doesn’t mean we should merely remain passive before the government. Christians in the United States live in a democratic republic. Citizens actually possess a portion of the state’s sovereignty within themselves. To some extent, we are the governing authorities in the sense that we vote on representatives and sometimes directly on policies.
2. We should view our ability to speak, organize, vote, and run for office as areas of stewardship.
Christians in the United States are not in the position of merely being passively obedient. We can apply the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30) to our political activity. How have we used our freedom? Have we ignored this large and potentially fruitful area of human endeavor in which we have the privilege of participating? Perhaps we have a duty to learn and to contribute something to the process.
3. The founders of the United States largely agreed on the importance of Christianity for preserving freedom.
Although they may not have been as uniformly Christian as some would suggest, they believed that a free country can only survive with a virtuous citizenry. In their minds, churches were a critical part of helping the people to be virtuous.
4. Religious liberty is important as a way of keeping Christians from being at odds with their government.
It is also an excellent way to honor the distinction Christ made between the things that belong to Caesar and those that belong to God (Mark 12:17).
5. Gratitude is in order.
While many of us have suffered breaks in personal relationships, weariness, disappointment, and many other ills as a result of this election, it is important to remember that we are tremendously blessed to have a government that is obliged to be accountable to us. A large portion of people in the world continue to live under governments that have no serious obligation to heed their wishes short of a revolution.
6. The separation of church and state is a feature of the republic of the United States, not a bug.
Churches in the United States have fared far better than their European counterparts which were supported by the state. The real problem is that some citizens (especially the courts) sometimes confuse the separation of church and state with secularism. Secularism is something bigger, more invasive, and more threatening than institutional separation.
7. The church should function as an independent conscience of the nation.
It answers to God rather than Caesar and reminds secular authorities of their proper mandate. When the state is wrong, the church should resist it. When the state is right, the church should offer its support.
8. We live in a two party system that practically forces voters to make compromises in terms of their choices.
This is different from other democracies that offer more legitimate options. When Christians face tough decisions, they should rigorously refrain from harsh judgment of each other. Everyone is called to submit their political lives to the lordship of Christ. That is all we can really do. It is good to communicate and even to dispute with one another in good faith, but we should not easily condemn one another in the process. The ways we have treated each other in the context of political dialogue have often been occasions for shame.
9. Christians should not allow the nature of politics in our country to affect our behavior for the worse.
Even when politics get pretty rough, we should refuse to traffic in mockery, demonization, and other political tactics that dehumanize those with whom we disagree.
10. Christians should never lose sight of the two cities distinction set forth by Augustine.
We are part of the city of God that travels through this life with the city of man. As long as the city of man doesn’t attempt to force us to commit impieties (to sin), we should strive to be the best of citizens.
Hunter Baker (PhD, Baylor University; JD, University of Houston) serves as a university fellow and associate professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Baker also serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Markets and Morality and as a contributing editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. He is also a research fellow of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.