Journal Topics

The Christian Citizen

Although the Bible says little about how Christians should be involved with politics, it seems to me that there are principles found in Scripture that can help us to think more clearly about the question. For example, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Does that refer only to their eternal souls? Apparently not, since even a casual reading of the Gospels shows our Savior tying Christian virtue to practical action on behalf of one’s neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most forceful illustration offered by Christ. But today, of course, the issues that drive many Christians to political action are contentious moral issues such as on abortion and the nature of marriage. What does it mean to love our neighbor when it comes to those issues? Does it mean that we do not employ the resources of law to make sure our neighbor is not harmed? For instance, in abortion, a tiny neighbor, the unborn child, is killed. Ought we to protect him? He is, after all, our neighbor too. And in the case of marriage, if the government were to allow same-sex marriage everywhere, and if opposing it is equivalent to visceral bigotry (as the opponents of prop 8 claim), would this not put Christians and their churches in the crosshairs of marginalization and persecution, simply because they believe that the basic good of conjugal love may only be actualized in the marriage of a man and a woman? But isn’t it essential to a liberal society such as ours to allow citizens to disagree on matters of sexual morality without condemning one faction as mere bigots? Thus, does that mean that liberals who condemn opponents of same-sex marriage as bigots are, ironically, illiberal?

Francis J. Beckwith Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, and Resident Scholar in the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University. He is the author of many books including Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft (InterVarsity Press, 2010). His feature article, “The Christian Citizen” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 3 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription

Francis Beckwith will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on May 31, 2011! Tune in at 6PM ET at our website,!