Competent Turks

"Things would really be different in this country if we could just get more Christians elected to office." I can't tell you how often I've heard that. People seem to think that if we could fill the Congress and the courts and the White House with born-again believers, we'd straighten out this country in a hurry. Now, I'm all in favor of Christians running for public office, and I know some wonderful men and women who are Christians in office. And Christians are called to apply biblical truth to all areas of life—and that includes government. But it's a huge mistake to think that simply electing Christians to office will solve all of our nation's problems. We also have to be sure candidates understand biblical principles of government, and have the capabilities and competence to carry them out. Remember 1976: the headlines said, "Jimmy Carter born again," and the news electrified Christians. What a difference it would make to have a Christian in the Oval Office. Well, Carter was a great witness, but most agree his presidency was not successful. Since then, the Moral Majority and, later, the Christian Coalition have worked to get Christians into government to reform the nation's moral values. And in many cases, Christians voted in the candidates they wanted, but how much difference has it made? The country has continued to slide into moral relativism. You see, sometimes even Christian politicians are stymied by the bureaucracy once they're in office. And sometimes they change their views. And sometimes they don't have a solidly biblical understanding of government to begin with. Take a good example from history. In the nineteenth century, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck forged several minor states into modern Germany. Bismarck's private correspondence suggests he experienced a real conversion, that he prayed and read the Bible regularly. But Bismarck saw no connection between his faith and his politics. For him, there were no transcendent ideals guiding politics—only crass national interest. Today he is best remembered for Realpolitik—ruthless power politics, specializing in blood and iron. The true Christian leader must be both a Christian and a statesman—someone with a personal faith in Christ who also knows how to manage government on a biblical model. Remember the story of Jethro, Moses' father-in-law. He advised Moses to appoint judges for Israel—men who feared God and were competent—men with the ability to judge wisely. Consider a good analogy. A few weeks ago I had to have surgery, and I would have been overjoyed to find someone in my church to perform the operation. But that wasn't my first concern. My first concern was to find the most competent surgeon available. And the same rule applies in politics: What we need are people who will do the best job. Martin Luther understood this: He said he would rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian. The Bible teaches objective principles about the proper tasks of government: to promote justice, restrain sin. And sometimes non-Christians are better trained in how to carry out those tasks than are Christians. So it's not as simple as it looks. It's not enough just to elect Christians to political office. We need to look for people who are able to do the job, as Jethro put it, and who understand the biblical principles that undergird good and righteous government.


Chuck Colson


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