Political parties vs church membership

Hi friends,

What matters more to who we are and what we value?

Is it our political party? Or our church membership?

Each person will have their own answer. And if it isn’t politics, we know human nature - we’re prone to following all kinds of idols rather than God.

In hosting this conversation, I don’t think making partisan arguments is particularly helpful- whether for or against a particular party. Our focus isn’t to drum up support for one candidate over another, whether that’s in America, Italy, South Korea, or India. There are other communities focused on discussing politics as politics.

Rather, I want us to maintain our unique focus on discussing spiritual formation - how is our identity formed so that we want to be like Jesus?

The sociologist Ryan Burge studies the data in America. These results might be quite different in other countries or in America at different times.

In our current moment, here’s what he emphasizes:

I will say this until I can’t say it anymore.

Partisanship is the master identity.

Religious attendance doesn’t matter once you control for partisanship.

Except for Independents!

In his longer evaluation of the data, he notes:

Trump performed well among Republicans who never attend religious services and among weekly attenders as well. In fact, the statistical difference was minimal. He secured 94% of the votes from never attenders in both elections and achieved similar results with weekly attenders (96% in 2020). It’s not church attendance that is driving the vote here. It’s just partisanship that is surfacing through religious attendance in the first graph.


What happens if I restrict my analysis to just the part of the sample that is Republican and self-identifies as evangelical? The conclusion is clear: their support for Trump is nearly unanimous. His support never falls below 95% in any category in either 2016 or 2020. There’s basically nothing else to glean from this graph. Once you filter for partisanship, it’s game over. That one metric overshadows all others, including religious attendance and evangelical self-identification.

This line concerns me: “Once you filter for partisanship, it’s game over. That one metric overshadows all others, including religious attendance and evangelical self-identification.”

This raises the question: For Democrats, Republicans, Independents - regardless of your partisan identification - how are we being discipled by politics?

For instance:

  • What tempts you to value political outcomes more than loyalty to Jesus?

  • What are some ways that religion and politics are fused together?

  • What habits help you value Jesus more than your partisanship?

Reflecting on my heart, I think one of the key signals to pay attention to is my emotional state. In particular, the emotions of fear and anger. When I am motivated by fear or anger, it is harder to pay attention to what God is doing inside of me and what it looks like to love God and my neighbor.

I’m curious to hear from each of you.


Can you give an example of this happening historically?
For me, the idea that exercising my civic duty by voting would somehow threaten my loyalty to Jesus is hard to wrap my head around; I might add from either side of the red-blue divide as we define it in today’s political climate in the USA.
Let’s not forget that we only have what’s written, what’s said, and what is done, and we all know that they are rarely the same.


It may depend on a person’s view of eschatology and beliefs about a nation’s role in it. For some people, politics and loyalty to Jesus are one and the same.

Sometimes political beliefs rather than love for Jesus dictate who someone hangs out with at church. Perhaps because political positions rather than fruits of the Holy Spirit become the measuring rod for evaluating a person’s Christian faith.

Politics and religion are often fused when political animosity rises to the level of demonizing an opposing political view while idolizing one’s own view. The demonization is often premature without fully understanding the opponent’s views. If one were to spend time understanding the opposing view, there may be lot more in common than realized.

Just remembering people are more than their political beliefs. We are first children of the same God as believers. Also, its far more important to be right about Jesus who holds our eternal destiny than be right about our political beliefs.


Hi Jimmy,

That’s a great question. I don’t have enough detailed knowledge of American history to find a particular race.

I think some examples of how faith could influence a vote include, say, voting for a candidate who sought the abolition of slavery or who sought to undo Jim Crow laws.

By contrast, voting for a candidate who wanted to legalize or maintain legal slavery seems to be hard to square with fundamental Christian convictions about the equal value of every human being.


I speak hesitantly in this, because I’m not from the US so don’t have the same sense of urgency regarding the elections as perhaps others do here right now.

However, i was struck by one concept:

I wonder if this isn’t necessarily the right question. Due to my observations of eschatological beliefs in some Christians (as @lakshmi has clearly laid out in her response), I would suggest that a person might value political outcomes because of their theology and belief in Jesus. For example, if a person has seen ‘prophetic words’ regarding an ‘anointed’ leader who will bring about God’s plans, they will passionately support and vote for a certain party and individual in order to see that prophecy fulfilled. Faith in Jesus and passionate devotion to politics are one and the same in this example.

I think that this is closely related to NAR teachings that require the end times to come about in a certain prescriptive way. Under this theology, individual Christians are responsible for bringing God’s Kingdom about in the sphere of politics (and the other spheres - known as the 7 Mountain Mandate) and are required to submit to end time apostles who lead the way forward in this. This might be in the form of ‘praying in’ certain leaders, and casting votes in a way that will support this. Here, political engagement works hand in hand with spiritual activity. To suggest that political activity is overriding a person’s devotion to Jesus would be seen as contradictory as in their eyes it is the fruit of their devotion to Jesus. This is one result of Christian nationalism where the theology asserts that we will see God’s kingdom come on earth now, that it America is divinely appointed for this to happen, and that individuals are anointed by God to work this through.

Our heart isn’t always wrong though if we are passionate about politics. In contrast to Christian Nationalism, I think there is a different scenario to other political ideals that are actually fighting for Biblical principles such as the abolition of slavery and the protection of human life. In these instances, the passionate devotion to a political cause is the fruit of a person’s devotion to Christ and all he stood for. William Wilberforce is an example of a man who gave his life to political activity for the sake of the Gospel message. This is not Christian nationalism and is not based on any particular stream of eschatology. It is based on a more holistic biblical theology of human worth and doesn’t involve niche end times theology. Strong feelings in politics isn’t inherently wrong, but the basis of them is to be examined. Is it in line with the orthodox message of the gospel, or is it based on a new teaching or revelation regarding a ‘divine assignment’?

This requires a great deal of self reflection and can be hard to do objectively. I think this requires the church community to remain more detached to political activity than individuals. As soon as church leaders start holding to a certain political narrative, it becomes a pressure for church members to follow suit. So whilst individuals may pursue political agendas with passion and emotion, I think the wider church must focus on the gospel of Christ rather than the political agenda of man to maintain a sense of perspective for those whose lives are devoted to politics. Mixing prophecy in with politics is a highly risky business and concerns me a great deal.


How should we view partisanship? Is it solely a devotion to a political “leader” or a “cause” irrespective of who the “leader” is? If I understand what Burge is saying, Republicans are fast becoming the party of Cultural Evangelicals ( religiously inactive people ), which begs the question: what is the draw then to the Republican party? It is certainly not regular church attendance. And let’s not forget that Republican partisanship rarely makes it to the legislative body.
Could disagreement with the current administration’s domestic and international policies be something to coalesce around? Agree or disagree; we are still faced with divides on a host of issues that are argued in favor of and based on sound Biblical grounds and, at the same time, against using the same Bible.

There is much room here for WWJD in our country (USA) and the world, but it is not on the ballot. A healthy Christian grounding would be the preferred position, but what is on the ballot is the same thing that has been on every ballot since the beginning of this great form of self-government that our forefathers bequeathed us: status quo or change. It’s ours to lose.

Religion and politics are what we believe and how we live; they can be changed but not separated.

The excerpt below (from my morning read) is an afterthought but relevant to the topic of partisanship, except from the 2nd Temple era.

For the present I wish merely to explain that the Pharisees had passed on to the people certain regulations handed down by former generations and not recorded in the Laws of Moses, for which reason they are rejected by the Sadducaean group, who hold that only those regulations should be considered valid which were written down [in Scripture], and that those which had been handed down by former generations need not be observed. And concerning these matters the two parties came to have controversies and serious differences, the Sadducees having the confidence of the wealthy alone but no following among the populace, while the Pharisees have the support of the masses. (Antiquities 13.297–98)

Skarsaune, O. (2002). In the shadow of the temple: Jewish influences on early Christianity (p. 111). InterVarsity Press.


I have been thinking about this question again and the many ways it surfaces at church or a bible study. When we read the bible, we may come across certain themes that are hot topics of our day, like immigration, Israel, social justice, race, slavery, women’s rights etc. Intentionally or unintentionally someone in the bible study may decide to state an opinion on a debatable topic as a hard fact leaving no room for another point of view to be expressed or discussed. They may also see their opinion as a litmus test of a true Christian. The opinion may go unchallenged as no one wants to step on another’s toes. The end result of such a bible study is that of disillusionment and disconnection in a room full of Christians, forfeiting the very purpose of the bible study.

As Jimmy mentioned, religion and politics are how we live and cannot be separated. Not bringing up politics in a Christian community may not be a solution, as can be understood by the wonderful examples Alison shared from history. So are there ways we can properly engage in political discussions at church?

Refraining from presenting opinions as facts, not making assumptions about others beliefs, understanding what issues are primary to a church community, having leadership that challenges unsupported beliefs, checking our own inner motivations, learning how to faithfully interpret scripture are few more ways that come to mind to engage in politics faithfully as a Christian.

I recently came across a wonderful interview by Kaitlyn Scheiss about how to apply scripture in the public square as faithful Christians and is relevant to this discussion.

I appreciated her insights as she gives many examples in history to understand how our own biblical interpretation can be informed by politics than the other way around. She talks about the challenge of correctly seeing ourselves in the stories of scripture and turning to the right moments in scripture that accurately reflect our experience to find the right instruction because when we come to scripture we often bring our own culture, politics, emotions and desires that can cloud our interpretation. One solution she suggests is to develop the habit of reading scripture in community to help us discover our blindspots.

I hope you find the conversation helpful as I did.

1 Like