Over the years, Christians have had less and less of a voice in politics, whether it is because people are trying to “separate church and state,” politics feel like a hopeless battle, or some other reason. However, it is critical that Christians play an active role in politics, standing up for Christian values in the public sphere.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Christy Stutzman, author of The Spiritual Price of Political Silence, to discuss why and how Christians should engage in politics.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As we enter the new year, no one needs to remind you that 2024 is an election year. In light of some organizations attempting to use evangelicals as a voting bloc. Some Christians might think the best strategy is to simply withdraw. But Christy Stutzman makes a good case for Christians to stay engaged in the political process. Stutzman is a small business owner, former teacher, and state legislator, an accomplished writer who spent decades engaged in the political process. Her new book, The Spiritual Price of Political Silence, is a call to action for all Americans of deep faith. Christy Stutzman is here with us today. Welcome to Family Policy Matters.
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be with you.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right, first of all, give us a brief bio; you’re a very interesting person. And you’ve had a lot of background and not only politics, but music as well. Right?
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: Right, yeah, I actually studied voice in college and wanted to go into fine arts, and I did. Eventually I was a fine arts teacher for many years and really enjoyed that. I also am a composer, so I’ve written music most of my life. And I’ve been involved in the performing arts. So, drama, and musicals and stage productions has been my background for many years. But I’m also a dedicated Christian. I’m a mom, wife, and mother, and I’ve really enjoyed that as well. And you know, the Lord works in mysterious ways. So, I was married to a guy who was a businessman, and had a farming and agricultural background, and we live in northern Indiana. And when 911 happened, we were holding our three-week-old son, our first son, in our arms, and we decided to get more involved in our community. And one thing leads to another as you open yourself up for opportunities and he ended up serving in the statehouse for about eight years and served in Congress. So, I’ve had a first-row seat to watching policymakers and decision-makers on the state and federal level. I’ve been able to travel on diplomatic missions with my husband all over the world and have learned a lot from that experience, especially having come from a fine arts background and never expected to be doing stuff like that.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Talk about the consequences of political silence because I’ve got so many lovely Christian friends who are very well-spoken. And they just stay out because it’s in their minds too messy. But you say there are some real consequences for staying out.
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: Right. Right now, we’re actually looking at the price that we’re paying for our political silence as believers. And what I found is I did a deep dive research into our founding fathers, their writings, the mentality of the people who first came to this country seeking religious freedom seeking asylum from religious persecution. Their whole goal, and effort, and mindset at that point, was to ensure that they would never lose that. And the way they decided to do that was to establish a government where they made one assumption. And in the book, I talked about this. The one assumption that those who formed our government made was that people of faith would always be involved. I think they made that assumption for two reasons. First of all, out of self-protection, they really thought that people of faith would, when they had the opportunity, take action to protect their rights and their freedoms as given to them by God. But second of all, they knew that if a moral people were not at the table, helping to guide and lead this nation that it would not last.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So how did we get here? How did we get to a place where we don’t feel welcome and maybe even are self-censoring our views as Christians?
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: It’s been about 100 years, where we have been targeted as Americans and as believers in Christ. We have been targeted by a group of people who are intellectual elites, who reject everything having to do with any type of Judeo-Christian belief or principle. So, they are rejecting that there is a God. They are rejecting that there is any authority other than their own authority. It’s a humanist, Marxist belief, and it is permeating our culture. And we’re seeing that played out in the lives of not just my generation but this new generation, which has not been given a lot of guidance or even access to truth. There’s been a lot of misinformation, and I think, as Christians, we have actually swallowed the lie that, well, it’s too ugly.
You know, it’s too divisive. I don’t want to get involved, or I won’t make a difference; my vote doesn’t count. And there’s so many things in the book that I share that disprove all those theories. The other thing that we have actually allowed ourselves to accept is an intimidation factor. The fact that as Christians, we really don’t have a place in the public arena. And what’s unique about America is the fact that we are the only place on Earth where we actually belong in the public arena. And we were expected to be there or else it won’t work. So, we’ve just received this misinformation from people who have spread lies about, you know, what the founders said, the separation of church and state, everybody thinks that’s a constitutional thing. And it’s not, not at all. And that wasn’t the intent of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote it in a letter to some friends. So, there’s a lot that we need to refresh ourselves about and remind ourselves about the truth of our country and the golden opportunity we have in the history of the world, to actually have a say in our governance.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You mentioned the separation of church and state. And I hear that, you know, from Christians, as well, and they do misunderstand that, briefly tell us what that is supposed to mean.
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: Originally, the whole mentality of people that came here out of religious persecution, which were a lot of immigrants in the beginning, 1600s and earlier, so they were really concerned about a church-established state, they really didn’t want what they had experienced in Europe. And that was a king having authority over the church and the church having dictatorial authority. And that was actually happening in the colonies. In the early days, there was implementation of Church-State. And if you didn’t go to the right church, you were persecuted, you were, you know, your freedoms were taken away in certain ways. There are some people that were jailed for preaching what they believed. So, what they wanted to do was to make sure that the church would never establish an official government church, but they never intended for people of faith to not have the ability or the motivation to be involved in government. So there’s a switching of the principle that they were trying to protect by saying there should be a separation of church and state, there should be a government, and there should not be a government dictating to ask what church we go to,
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: From your studies, are there protections beyond what you’ve just mentioned that keep the government from having too much influence on us as believers?
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: Yes, there were many protections set in place. One of the protections that comes to mind right away is a separation of powers. And a separation of powers is, you know, three branches of government: the executive, judicial and the legislative. And, you know, the lawmaking side, the legislative side, was given the most power. And the reason it was given the most power was so that the people could have the most say in the laws that were passed. And I think there was protection there, for people of faith to actually not just, you know, elect their leaders who were going to be making those laws, but to also run for office, and to be salt and light in the government. There are so many examples of, you know, our freedoms, our basic freedoms that were given to us by God, being actually taken away even today. And I think, you know, if you connect the dots, that’s one of the prices we’re paying for not being politically active. This is not a dictatorship that we’re living under. This is not an, you know, a royal family. You know, we don’t have that set up in America. And I think we need to remind ourselves that, you know, this is different, it’s different. And it’s a unique window of opportunity in the history of the world. So, let’s make sure that we protect ourselves. And that includes the bureaucracies that have been formed over the years, those are kind of starting to take away our freedoms as well. So, there’s, there’s a lot to do. And we need all hands-on deck right now.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Talk a little bit, too, about how we go about participating.
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: As Americans, it’s actually our duty to be involved. And so as we grow into adulthood and take on that responsibility, one thing that we can do is we can research those who are our elected officials, find out who works for them, their campaign managers, and their staff, and then reach out to them whether it’s an email, phone call, or meet in person, one thing that we’re missing is the fact that at every level, regardless of where you start, as a candidate, you can always run for something higher, and that usually happens. And so, what I’ve been encouraging people to do is, if you want to elect righteous leaders, you need to start on the local level; you need to start with your school board, your commissioners, your state representatives. And one way to do that is to list what is important to you your priorities in a candidate. Do you want them to have a Christian worldview? What are their associations? What is their business background? What have they accomplished in their lives? What is their walk of faith in the community? What is their testimony? What did they believe on pro-life issues and First Amendment issues and Second Amendment issues, list out your priorities, and then as you go to elect that person, so many people have said, well, they’re not going to make decisions on Second Amendment issues or pro-life issues on the school board level. So, you know, but they’ve done really well. All over here. And you know, they could be, you know, not pro-life or whatever. And it’s okay because they’re not making decisions on that issue. Well, the problem is, as they serve in that position, they are going to probably more than likely run for something else, whether it’s President school board or whether it’s your state representative, who will be making decisions on those issues. And so, to vet them early, and to vet them thoroughly at the beginning, gives you some insurance that they have the right worldview for you to be able to support them on the next level. So, one of the things that I’ve found is really helpful is to find out when they’re going to be in your area. And it could be a town hall, it could be actually a school board meeting, commissioners meeting, it could be a coffee that a friend is hosting for a state representative in your area. There’s so many things happening, but you really have to kind of be pro-active, and say, Okay, I’m going to find out, first of all, who are the elected officials? And then, second of all, where are they going to be? Is there going to be a school board meeting? Is there going to be a commissioners meeting? Okay, when is that? I’m going to put that on my calendar. And really, when you go, and you just attend, and you listen, you learn a lot. So, there’s things all kinds of things you can do walking in parades, making phone calls, you know, knocking on doors, talking to your neighbors. I just wrote an article for The Washington Times, and it was basically saying, I think it’s time to end Grandma’s rule of no politics or religion at the table. And the reason I say that is that if we don’t teach our children, and we don’t talk about it and learn how to agree to disagree, somebody else is going to teach them how to do that, or somebody else is going to teach them how to be divisive. So, I think it’s important that we start at home with our children, talking about major issues that are affecting our lives on a daily basis, governmental and otherwise, and make sure that we know our stuff, and then we share it with them. We’re ready for their questions and our challenges. And we can have a civil debate, which I think is really missing in today’s society. And we can be a part of bringing that back.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Last question. What gives you hope? Are you seeing signs of hope for the future in regard to what we’ve been talking about?
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: Yes, I’m seeing great signs of hope. And there’s three, and I’ll give you the first one. The first one is, as I talk to people across the country about this issue, I am seeing pockets of spiritual renewal and revival happening right now in our country. That’s an answer to a 20, 30, 40 year prayer that many people have prayed for our nation. So that’s hope. The next hope is that I see young people, many of whom have decided against, you know, the things that they have been presented in public schools, and they are deciding to stand up and take a stand for truth for right and be bold about their faith. So that is encouraging. We see movements like TP USA, and you know, FRC is doing things as well. There’s so many family groups out there like yours as well who were standing. So that gives me hope. And then third thing that gives me hope is my personal study on the apparatus, the governmental structure that we have set up from our founding fathers is still in place. It doesn’t look exactly like it should. But it’s still in place. And it’s still accessible to we the people, and the ultimate authority in America is still we the people; there’s corruption, there are problems. There’s voter integrity and fraud and think questions about that. But at the end of the day, if we all roll up our sleeves and decide to get involved, it is still possible for we the people to turn this thing around. So, we still have access to our government, and we still have the ability to run for office to have influence and to hold our government accountable.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Christy Stutzman, where can our listeners go to get a copy of your book, The Spiritual Price of Political Silence, and to follow all your other good work?
CHRISTY STUTZMAN: I’m on Amazon. The book is on Amazon. But you can find me at Books by Christy that’s C h r i s t y.org. So booksbychristy.org. And you can find more information about this book as well. I also have a music website where you can see some of my stage productions. I’ve got the musical One Calls the Heart the musical. I’m working on another one, and then there’s a third one on there as well. So, take a look at that. And that’s musicbychristy.com. So those are my two websites. I appreciate you reaching out to me. I’d love to hear from folks.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. Christy Stutzman, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
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