Presidential Perspectives

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Should Adventists be politically active?

Q: Political parties play a huge role in the political process of democratic countries. Is it recommended for Adventists to join a political party? Is it recommended for Adventists to become actively involved in the political process at all? By “actively” I mean more than participating in elections. — Friedemann, from Germany

A: This is a question that has been discussed throughout our church’s history. The balance of “being in the world, but not of the world” (see John 17:15-16) can be challenging.

Nevertheless, Christ encouraged His followers to respect secular governments by rendering “to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). And in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 we are encouraged to pray “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life …”

Regarding involvement in political parties and processes, the Seventh-day Adventist Church believes these decisions should be left to the individual and so does not give a specific recommendation on this. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is apolitical and avoids aligning itself with any political party.

Seventh-day Adventists believe in building up society through the power of God and make efforts to assist governments in doing so without direct connection to those governments or to political parties.

Seventh-day Adventists should be the best citizens of any country as they allow the Holy Spirit to make them useful in pointing people to Christ, His power and a better way of life based on the Word of God.

Helpful guidelines about this subject are available in a document titled, “Church State Relations.” This document was adopted by the Council of Interchurch/Interfaith Faith Relations of the General Conference in March, 2002, and is used by the church's department of public affairs and religious liberty.

Following are excerpts from this document, which can be read in its entirety at www.adventistliberty.org/church-state-relations.

“As Christians, Seventh-day Adventists recognize the legitimate role of organized government in society. We support the state's right to legislate on secular matters and support compliance with such laws. When we are faced with a situation in which the law of the land conflicts with biblical mandates, however, we concur with the Scriptural injunction that we ought to obey God rather than man. …

“The Seventh-day Adventist Church is mindful of the long history of the involvement of the people of God in civil affairs. Joseph wielded civil power in Egypt. Similarly, Daniel rose to the heights of civil power in Babylon and the nation was benefited as a result.

“In our own church history, Adventists have joined with other religious and secular organizations to exert influence over civil authorities to cease slavery and to advance the cause of religious freedom. …

“Adventists may properly aspire to serve in positions of civil leadership. Nevertheless, we must remain ever mindful of the dangers that are associated with religious influence on civil affairs and assiduously avoid such dangers.

“When Adventists become leaders or exert influence in their wider society, this should be done in a manner consistent with the golden rule. …

“Adventists should take civic responsibilities seriously. We should participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities. Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilize the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.”

Seventh-day Adventists should always remember that we have a great mission to all people to point them to something much bigger than any local or country political process. We are to point them to a Savior full of righteousness who can justify them, sanctify them in a daily basis and make them honorable citizens of any country with ultimate citizenship in the heavenly kingdom.

Our ultimate mission in life is to direct people in Total Member Involvement to the good news of salvation and the soon coming of Jesus Christ who will take us home to that heavenly kingdom.

Those interested in learning more of the history of Adventists and politics may be interested in a two-part article published in the Adventist Review titled, “The Right to Vote — Shall I Exercise It?” written by Paul A. Gordon, director of the Ellen G. White Estate from 1990-1995. The articles may be read online at http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/Voting.html.