Should Believers Carry Signs and Protest in the Streets? Reflections on Power and Christianity

Sergiy CHEPARA
(translated by Paul Miles)
ukrainian version

I am certainly not one of the first thousand people who have commented on Christianity and government. Everything, or almost everything, has been said long before I ever started writing. But for me, this topic is not only theological, but also practical. In the past 12 months, my interest in the social and political life of the country has grown significantly more than it had in the previous six years. Recently I have noticed a pattern in my heart – the more interested I become in power and politics, the less I love the people in politics and the less I want to pray for people in power.

Everyone knows exactly what The Good Book teaches about these things. We can summarize the Bible’s basic teachings about governing authorities with these three points. First, the government is established by God (so anarchy is clearly not his plan). Second, our sovereign God rules over all of the processes in the universe, that is, He monitors everything that happens in all countries. With His permission alone, some people rise to become presidents, sheikhs, or kings, while others lose all of their power within hours. Third, God has called us Christians to pray for the authorities and for peace in the land.

In Christianity, many questions are left open about the relationships between man, church, and government. Recently we have observed how the head of a neighboring country’s church came to our country and supported a particular political force. In the pages of the newspaper, “Ukrainian Truth,” another church leader raises the concern of Ukraine’s top-hundred leaders, among which, in the opinion of the hierarch, are too few members of the intelligentsia, and too many heads of financial and industrial groups. We see priests here and there supporting one of the candidates. Is this true? Does the Christian ultimately have the spiritual right to carry signs in the streets and engage in civil disobedience?

There is a perception that democracy is a natural, almost Divine form of government. However, it should be noted that when the Bible was written, democracy did not exist in any sense of the word at all, but there was a concept of authority, and there were instructions from God about authority. In fact, the first forms of government were different types of monarchies in which the monarch sometimes shared supreme power with a council. And getting into the council depended heavily on being a member of the local aristocracy. For example, in the time of Christ, the emperor and the senate ran the empire, but the emperor or a member of the Roman Senate could not be just anyone. The Senate consisted only of representatives from the aristocracy who owned land and slaves. To Christians born in the XX century, the lack of women’s rights, slaves and landless people seems to be terrible injustice, but in reality they are just looking at the past through the prism of contemporary notions of justice. For at least three thousand years, all nations in the East and the West were led not by representatives of the people, but by emperors and princes. Commoners dutifully fulfilled the will of their overlords. If we go back to the history of Israel (in biblical times), the first leader that God gave to the chosen nation after they left slavery was a king named Saul. Why didn’t God, in all of His wisdom, offer to choose a parliament based on Israel’s election? I think the point is bigger than “it was not the time.”

Now, a little closer to the present. We live in a country where at least nine times in 20 years, elections are held for the President and the Parliament. Should Christians go to the elections or not? I think that if God gave us certain legal ways to influence the destiny of the country, then it’s worth doing. Should I have high expectations of a change for the better? Probably not. First, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior,” and second, the vast majority of leaders are non-believers, so the chance that they think about someone other than themselves is very, very small. Under the guise of beautiful slogans, politicians only actualize their own ambitions- either how to have dominance over people or how to acquire lots of money. Should a Christian try to come to power? Does it matter if it is an elected or appointed position? I think this answer is not too different from an earlier one – if you have the opportunity to work honestly for the good of the country, region, or city, then why not? But experience shows that people who are obsessed with the struggle for power cannot be devout Christians. So it should be kept in mind that power changes people, or at least reveals their true nature. One thing that we can say for certain is that getting some seat in the parliament is not the main purpose of every Christian.

Finally, the question of banners and signs. It seems to me that the dividing oneself to be a Christian on one hand and a citizen on the other is totally wrong. More precisely, it is incomplete. Yes, human beings are social, material, and spiritual, but at the same time, they are holistic, because the Lord created them so. In the ideal plan which God conceived, the interests of citizen’s rights and Christian’s rights should be combined, and should not stand on opposite sides of the barricades. Therefore, it is normal to express one’s position on laws, language, or anything else. But to hate one politician, and to fall in love with another is wrong. Everyone who has entered the Ukrainian parliament was put there by God. Most of them, of course, do not know nor want to know God. But they are the instruments through which God governs the state. What should be the only official language? Does Ukraine need a regional language? Let’s be honest: God needs the gospel to be preached in all languages ​​of the world. And nobody is going to stop the disappearance of dozens of languages ​​in Africa by carrying any banners and protesting. So let’s honestly acknowledge that God is not a Ukrainian nationalist… nor a Russian nationalist… nor an American nationalist. If God has chosen a nation of some kind, it would be Israel…

My grandmother lived for 88 years and loved to repeat the phrase, either it already has been or it will be. They passed a law about homosexuals? Six months later, it has already been repealed? And another law is passed, and another one is repealed. Everything keeps coming and going endlessly. Those who voted “yes” and support gay marriage will have to answer to God for their decision. Can you influence these things? You can try. Tell the politicians your opinion. Write in your blog. You can wear a ribbon on your clothes, whether it be orange, black and white, blue and green or plaid. But do not think that someone will stop global operations because of it. God knows where humanity is moving, and it is moving to its own doom. The world has already chosen its path long ago – the path of sin and deception. In the end, some terrible things will happen on this planet. One hundred years ago, nobody would have believed the phrase, “I am one of Bob’s two moms.” In another hundred years, I think normal marriages will be fewer than abnormal ones. More precisely, as the abnormal becomes the norm, no one will be interested in what is right. Do you think the church should stop it? Is this what the church is designed for? Is this its role? I think the years ahead will be full of incredible immorality and continuous disregard of God’s Word. Under the guise of “a woman’s right to choose” they kill babies in the womb. Under the guise of fighting for peace, one country with deadly missile attacks another, because she supposedly has weapons that could be nuclear…

So in summary, we are not the rulers of this world. We are not God, nor Satan, nor spiritual beings endowed with supernatural powers. We ordinary people are neither the president of the United States nor the leader of the Communist Party of China. They have nuclear weapons and trillions of dollars, and still do not control everything. Even when the “G7” group gathers together, everyone knows that they will not solve anything, because they themselves cause many of the problems on the planet. The business of Christians, both small and large alike, is to preach the gospel and teach the Word of God. Well, as much as we can anyway, to influence our neighbors, mayor, country…

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