American politics, and the 24 hour news networks which go along with it, have become conduits of fear mongering. This is in stark contrast with how Jesus interacted with the crowds in his ministry. As followers of Jesus, what do I need to keep in mind if I choose to be involved with the American political system?
Breaking News: we have a presidential election occurring here in the US later this year.
You may have missed it, or perhaps you noticed a web article about it.
Or newspaper article. Or magazine article. Or a TV commercial. Or news coverage. Or trending twitter topics. Or one of the debates. Or a billboard. Or a robo-call to your phone. Or unending posts about it on your Facebook feed.
It’s hard to miss, is what I’m getting at here.
My question is this: in the midst of often 'spirited' debates, how can Christians debate and discuss who to vote for and retain our identity as the Body of Christ?
Sorry to bum you out, but for the next year, you're going to be hearing wall-to-wall political coverage. What the latest poll says, who won the last debate, how each election or caucus turned out, who got an endorsement, attack ads, scandals, etc, etc, etc.
Canada just had their longest election season ever. It lasted 3 months.
Most of the American political candidates announced their campaigns with over 16 months to go.
Since we're going to have to deal with this topic all over our phones and computers and televisions for the next year, it would probably be a good idea to consider how being a follower of Jesus should impact this part of our lives.
To me, they indicate that I am not simply willing to accept what I hear as fact.
They mean that I think for myself in an age where we have multiple cable channels that are incredibly popular simply because they tell people what they want to hear.
I'm always weary of 'group think', the dynamic where alternative perspectives are ignored for the sake of pseudo harmony.
If you put me in a situation where everybody is agreeing, I'm going to start playing counter point just to force everyone to examine their own belief or opinion.
Sometimes, I may go a bit far and start arguing just because I like to argue, but the overall purpose is to make sure there is safety in sharing opposing viewpoints for anybody who wants to disagree.
Sometimes, I flat out disagree with commonly held viewpoints ("As an American, I have a duty to engage in the political process by voting"), and other times I feel it is important to explore nuances ("Does supporting troops mean that I support war?")
Now, I think that in order for an unpopular opinion to be valid, you must be able to defend your position. Taking a stance just to get a rise out of people isn't valuable in the least.
Anybody can say that they hold another viewpoint, but without the ability to intellectually defend a position using respectable grounds (logic, philosophy, theology, scientific, etc), you're demonstrating ignorance. On the internet, we call this 'trolling'. I'm not a fan of this.
We must be willing to drop our opposing viewpoints if facts or compelling arguments demand that we must do so.
I am willing to be proved wrong as I explore new concepts within frequently trod paths of understanding.
Our brains...our intellect...is a gift from God. I never turn it off. Not when I watch TV, not when I go to church, not in meetings or conferences.
As long as we know how to have respectful discussion around disagreements, sharing differing perspectives and viewpoints makes us stronger.
Oh, and I almost forgot:
Cats are better than dogs.
U2 is the best band of all-time (Coldplay is 2nd and rising fast).
Hawaii is overrated as a vacation destination.
35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.
Pray for those who are in charge (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Pay taxes (Mark 12: 13-17)
Nothing about being required to help shape the government. Nothing about trying to get more moral laws put into place. Nothing about political activism whatsoever. Seriously. Find a place where Jesus does absolutely anything that’s aimed at accomplishing political ends.
At the time he was in Israel, it was dominated by a brutal Roman regime. Does Jesus say anything about revolt or uprising? About people being freed from its authority? About how God wants them to have a democracy?
I haven’t been able to find any of those ideas so far.
You may think I’m being anti-American. I’m absolutely not. I’m not about to go into some diatribe about how terrible America is or some such silliness. America is one country out of almost 200 countries on earth. I don’t think God loves it more or less than Uzbekistan, Peru or Turkey. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving your country. But I do think we must be careful not to confuse patriotism with the call to be in a relationship with God.
I recall the story of Jonah; a man who put his nationalistic zeal above God’s will.
See, Nineveh (capital of the Assyrian Empire) is involved in some pretty bad interactions with Israel. At one point, they took almost 30,000 captives from Israel and Israel at times had to pay tribute to Assyria. You can probably understand then, when a man who loved Israel with all his heart was told to go and lead Nineveh into repentance so God would forgive them, why he instead chose to run in the exact opposite direction.
Jonah’s love for his country prevented him from serving the kingdom of God in that instance. I don’t think it’s evil to love your country and support it, but it is critical to make sure we are seeking first the kingdom of God.
When the apostles are confronted by the Sanhedrin in Acts 5, at no point do they question the authority of those in government. Even in their disobedience (“We must obey God rather than man (v.29)), they accept the punishment given to them. In fact, they rejoice in their punishment (v.41).
I do not believe that politics is how God plans for his kingdom to come and his will to be down on earth as it is in heaven.
I believe the government should govern. That’s the job God has given it. But I do not believe I am called to realize the kingdom of heaven through the machinery of politics or government. The kingdom of heaven is much larger. The idea that politics could even begin to encompass God’s purposes is a joke. Sadly, it’s a joke that many people have bought into. Legislating morality, imposing monolithic standards on large groups of people; some people view this as not only being their right, but their duty.
Jesus didn’t try to find ways to back people into a corner where they had no choice but to do what he said. He didn’t look for ways to force his preferences upon everyone else. He loved, he accepted, he inspired. The only people he got furious with? Those who were trying to force people into a religious paradigm.
Politics is the art of gaining, keeping and using power. I serve a God who, by example, demonstrated that it’s my job to serve. Those who want power can have it. I’ve got more important things to do.
I started reading ‘Bringing Up Girls’ by James Dobson yesterday, but I stopped after the first few chapters because I was getting annoyed with it. He keeps inserting political opinions into the text. That’s right, in a book about raising daughters, he wants me to hear all about his political leanings. Why do we do that in Christianity? Politicize our faith?
I used to think it was important for Christians to be involved in politics.
Then I became adamantly anti-political party and anti-politician.
I’ve now arrived at the place where the politics of this planet do not matter to me. I’m pretty sure they didn’t matter to Jesus, either.
The people following him wanted to make him a king, but he wouldn’t let them. About the multitudes who were starting to follow him, the bible says, “but Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.” (John 2:24-25)
That’s why, when he was entering Jerusalem and everyone is cheering and giving him a regal entrance, Jesus ends up crying for the city. (Luke 19:41) He knew that days later some of the same people shouting ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Crucify Him!’ (Luke 23:21)
When he had a great crowd, instead of fomenting a political movement, he gave the ‘eat my flesh, drink my blood’ talk and many left him. (John 6:22-66)
When Pilate questioned Jesus about his rule, Jesus said “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)
Jesus didn’t come to win a seat on the Sanhedrin and enact new legislation. Heck, he didn’t even care about unseating the oppressive Roman government which was occupying Israel. He commends the faith of a centurion (Matthew 8:10), and even advocates paying taxes to this government oppressing his people!! (Luke 20:25)
I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote or do your civic duty. I’m just saying I don’t think political activism is what we are called to. In Galatians 5, where Paul lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit, he talks about the fact that those fruit can never be outlawed. He’s basically saying that the genuine Christian life is above and beyond earthly rules and regulations.
Some may disagree with me here, and I’m okay with that. I just think when Christians get into the political game, they cannot accomplish what they are called to accomplish. Getting abortion outlawed won’t change the underlying problems that cause a girl to get pregnant in the first place, and won’t help her be a good mother to her child afterwards.
If the law could save, we wouldn’t have needed Jesus.
We’re called to bring heaven to earth and the way to do that is not through politics and laws.
Okay, I’m done with this soapbox now, if anybody needs to borrow it…