Should politics and religion mix? Many in our society would scream, “NO!,” but if your religion or faith means anything to you. you can’t help but let your religion speak into your political views. Most of my readers would applaud that. We need more committed followers of Christ speaking out in the political arena!
But the same freedom we call for in letting evangelical Christians have a say in politics can make us nervous when we consider giving that same right to other religions. We currently have one Hindu, two Muslims, and three Buddhists serving in Congress. We may wave the banner of freedom but deep down we don’t want these religious groups bringing their beliefs and practices into legislation, especially when those practices are opposed to Christianity.
We can’t restrict their speech or beliefs, but we can vote.
However, my focus is not on these other groups; instead, I want to highlight the good we can do when we let our love for Christ drive our own political views and actions. As an example, look at William Wilberforce. (We celebrate his birthday this week on August 24.) In 1780, Wilberforce was only 21 and a student at Cambridge when he was elected to the British Parliament. He went on to serve for 35 years.
Yippee. Another career politician. But what makes Wilberforce unique as a politician came after his first five years of political service.
He became a Christian.
Wilberforce turned from his past life and made a commitment to serve Jesus Christ for the rest of his life. And that’s exactly what he did. He read Scripture daily. He prayed daily. He journaled daily. He had an ongoing drive to deepen his walk with Christ. But Wilberforce never saw his faith in Christ as something to keep separate from the rest of his life. His political views became informed by his faith. Let me highlight two things out of his brilliant career where his faith made a difference.
First, for all us animal lovers, he played a key role in the establishment of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the earliest group we know today as the SPCA. He cared for God’s creatures.
Second, and even more significant, was his hard-fought role in the abolishment of the slave trade. The British dominated the slave trade business, and their far-flung colonies financially benefitted from this human trafficking. Wilberforce was one of many who saw this evil for what it was, but in Parliament, he was in the minority. He raised his voice repeatedly but got nowhere.
Wilberforce and the other abolitionists took their campaign to the people. They created a grassroots movement to end the slave trade, and the movement grew. The Christian community got behind Wilberforce, and in 1807, the law was passed abolishing the sale of other human beings.
But William Wilberforce was not finished. He wanted slavery itself abolished throughout the British Empire. It was an uphill battle that he waged for 25 years—and he never gave up.
By 1833, Wilberforce was 73 and in very poor health, but he lived long enough to hear that Britain would pass the law he fought for. He died three days later.
We can bemoan the state of our country and grumble about declining morals, abuse of others, and rampant injustice … or we can do something about it. William Wilberforce chose to do something, and it was his faith in Christ that drove him. As I noted earlier, he read the Bible daily, and this is what he had to say about the Bible:
“There are four things that we ought to do with the Word of God—admit it as the Word of God, commit it to our hearts and minds, submit to it, and transmit it to the world.”
I don’t know what problems issues or injustices you see in front of you, but God can use you just as he used William Wilberforce. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
“It is sin to know the good and yet not do it” (Jas. 4:17).
A related post about William Wilberforce: Do We Really Need to Save the Spotted Owl?
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