Saturday, December 3, 2022

A Church that Protects Democracy

Like many other Christian leaders, I believe that our country is at a political crossroads. The November 2022 election is the first since former President Trump began his campaign to discredit the electoral process. Immediately after the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Trump claimed that the election had been stolen. He not only limited himself to claiming without any valid basis, but he also convinced the majority of the Republican Party that this claim is the best strategy to return to power. This has motivated states led by Republican governors and legislatures to create laws that make it more difficult to exercise the right to vote. One of the best examples is the state of Georgia, where new rules prohibit even providing water or food to voters who are waiting in lines to vote for hours. The new voting rules in these states affect African Americans and Latinos the most.

There are many motivations behind voting to make the voting process more difficult. One of those reasons is the sense of urgency of conservative movements (religious and non-religious) to stop what they consider to be an unbridled movement toward liberalism in our country for that reason, the message of people like Mr. Trump is well received by most white and Latino evangelicals. They cannot accept that a majority rejects the moral principles that the evangelical movement has promoted for so many years and that until 30-40 years ago were the norm in American society.

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I want to make it clear that I share some of those theological principles. But I don’t think that I or anyone else has the right to impose those principles in a democratic society. The task of the church in any society is to model biblical principles. The church is not called by the gospel to impose through political power, or alliances with the government, its theological or doctrinal positions.

Dr. King spoke to this when he said, “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but the conscience of the state,” he also said, “It must be the guide and critic of the state, and never your tool. If the church does not regain its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club with no moral or spiritual authority.”

The responsibility of the church is to articulate and persuade society with the gospel message; not unite with political parties to impose their religious principles.

We have many examples of governments and religious movements imposing their will through power. Over the past, hundreds of thousands of people have protested protest in the streets of Iran demanding freedom from religious norms imposed by a government aligned with religious leaders. On the other hand, we see governments, like Venezuela, where the political process has been manipulated to keep a specific leader and government in power.

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The marriage of the church with political movements and leaders is always detrimental to the gospel. The result of the church trying to establish its principles through government and politics always ends up doing damage to the work and its image.

We live in a time where the church needs to be prophetic, the church is called today, as in the past, to be the “conscience of the state”, not its instrument. The principles of fairness and justice that we hold as Christians should move us to condemn any attempt to control and limit the electoral process in our country. The movement led by Mr. Trump to discredit and undermine our country’s electoral system must be rejected and condemned.

American democracy is not perfect, but I prefer to live in a country where the right of the majority is respected. Even when I disagree with some of the principles of that majority. We need to learn to live in a free and democratic society where the majority rules and where the rights of minorities are respected.

In just one week we’ll see how the elections pan out. Let us pray that the forces of lies that threaten the democratic stability of our country do not triumph. And let the Church of Jesus Christ be even less complicit in undermining the political stability of our country.

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The Rev. Carlos L. Malave is the president of the Latino Christian National Network (LCNN.) LCNN is a broad Christian Latino network in the United States, including Pentecostal, Evangelical, Mainline, and Catholic leaders.

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