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Senator James Lankford: Christians have a biblical and constitutional duty to engage in American politics


U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., sat down with the Standing for Freedom Center’s Editor-in-Chief John Wesley Reid at a recent Family Research Council event to discuss why and how Christians should and can get involved in politics.

During their conversation, Sen. Lankford emphasized that this nation was founded on the idea that “We the People” are in charge.

“It is, it really is, ‘We.’ We lose track, somehow in America. We think there’s this mystical way decisions are made and people are influenced. It’s we. All speaking out on these different issues and trying to be able to sway people to what’s true and right. When we sit down, other people take the lead on that. When we engage, we are an influence.”

He explained that Christians are also a part of ‘We the People,” regardless of what the secularist culture tries to insist, and without political engagement from Christians, those influencing lawmakers in their critical decisions affecting the country and our daily lives are left to others who may not even be Christians.

“I try to remind people, ‘This is We the people,’ and if individuals just check out, they literally hand over to someone else the right to be able to make decisions in our nation. So when Christians don’t run for school board, we watch what happens when everything falls apart in that way. When people don’t engage in city councils, when people don’t engage in Congress, when people don’t run for statehouse, when people don’t get involved in their community in leadership or whatever it may be, they literally just turn that over to people that may or may not walk with God. Christians need to understand [that] they’re part of “We” and we can’t just hand over that responsibility to others.”

As a Christian and former youth minister, Sen. Lankford became convicted by his responsibility to be an influence in the public square. He believes that it isn’t just his duty, but it’s the duty of all Christians to “let their light shine” in the community they live in and to stand up for biblical truth.

“We have a responsibility to be able to help be an influence in our nation. Not only a biblical responsibility, but in our nation, a Constitutional responsibility as well. This is still ‘We the People.’ D.C. doesn’t change the nation, the nation changes D.C. And if D.C. is ever going to change, it’s because people in communities impact their communities. They share their faith. They live out that faith. They’re a positive influence in the culture, and then they elect people that share those same values.”

Sen. Lankford went on to say that Christians will never be elected to Congress unless the community shares and shows that faith.

“So if you’re going to be an influence on what’s happening in D.C., and you’re going to send people into that, then the community has to be that as well. That means we have to get busy influencing our culture and standing up for life and truth.”

As someone who previously worked with young people and is currently an elected official, Sen. Lankford also frequently gets questions from younger groups about how to get involved in politics or how to run for office. He said that working on a campaign trail is one good place to start, but it’s not enough.

“A campaign is the job interview. If you’re good at the job interview, okay, fine, but you have to be good at the job when you actually get it as well. So, the first thing I tell people is, ‘If you’re gonna be an influence in your society, in your culture, and in your environment, you need to do the work. You need to actually learn this stuff. You need to learn your history. You need to learn the issues.’ It’s one thing to know how to be elected, and it’s another thing to learn how to do the job when you’re actually elected.”

Regardless of what the position or role is, Sen. Lankford said that by learning the job, a person can do the job well and in a God-glorifying way.

“By the way, it’s a biblical principle to be able to honor God in our work and to be able to say, ‘Whatever I do, I should do for the glory of God. So I shouldn’t be weak in what I do — I better be the best in what I do.’”

He went on to state that to take on a job without having studied, learned, and gained the experience to do it well is actually dishonoring to God because the job is not being done to the best of the person’s ability.

“People know that I’m a Christ follower on the Hill, so I should be the best legislator on the Hill to show them that this is what a Christ follower does. I don’t want to be elected to a task and people say “Well, he’s a nice guy, but he can’t get the job done. So don’t elect Christians because they can’t get the job done.” That’s not true. That actually dishonors Christ in the task on hand. So, for people that are interested in this task, go volunteer in a campaign. Go get involved. Go study all those things, that’s a good thing to do, but don’t stop there. Learn the issues, do the research, do your homework, and learn the issues so that when God puts you in that spot, you’re actually prepared for the task as well.”

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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