Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God's Politics (abbreviated version)

As we all engage today in that great American privilege of voting, we do so amidst a cacophony of voices that are accusatory and condemning of those who disagree. Sure, this is not the case with every person involved in the American political process, but clearly there is little humility or grace exhibited in the political conversation in our nation this day. With great discredit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many in the Christian community are vociferously making their ideology supreme over their theology. Those on the ideological "Right" accuse those on the "Left" of everything from being uncaring to conspiring maliciously to destroy the United States. And there are the incredible attacks those on the "Left" make on the "Right." From vicious ad hominem ridicule (as in the case of Sarah Palin) to attacking conservatives as the "enemy," as our own President Obama did when speaking to a Latino group recently.

Now, I'm not trying to be cute here. I am politically conservative, and I believe in the superiority of capitalism over socialism, and of a free society over a managed society. However, I am also quite aware that I have brothers and sisters in Christ who sympathize and support "left-of-center " political causes and candidates. As I read the Bible, being the simple Kansas farm boy that I am, it seems pretty clear that my relationship as a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ is far above and far more permanent than anything in the political realm. God wants my theology always to trump my ideology! The Apostle Paul drives this truth home in his letter to the Romans (who, appropriate to this discussion, were very much like us Americans in so many ways).
  • If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  ...You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? ...For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  ...Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. ...For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.... (Romans 14:8a, 10ac, 13a, 17)
Plus, again as I read the Bible, I am to support and pray for my political leaders regardless of their ideology, politics, and even their personal beliefs. In fact, not only am I to pray for my leaders in my society, but I am to view them with the eyes of God: as humans for whom Christ died and who God loves regardless of their faults and shortcomings. So, I am not to view my leaders, my fellow citizens, and my fellow Christians through political lenses, but through the lens of the Cross, which makes us all fellow sinners in need of a non-partisan Saviour!

It seems God works with whatever political systems are in play in any society of people. All economic and governmental systems tend toward corruption, since human sinfulness is inherent in all systems no matter how well planned or how well intended. This does not mean that God is (or that we should be) totally neutral about politics and governing institutions. Clearly, occultic racist Nazism and soulless Marxism are to be deplored and fought against, while democratic and egalitarian practices in governing are to be rightly preferred. The more a political system works against the significance and dignity of humans as made in the image of God, the more it is to be opposed. The more a system affirms these basic realities of humans, the more we should embrace it. This is a biblical view that Christians of all cultures, politics, and countries can affirm together.

I will vote today for those candidates that I believe will help the most in keeping the United States a nation of free men and women who can enjoy economic opportunity with the least government interference. Yet, the Christian writer who impresses me as one of the most insightful followers of Jesus Christ I know of is Jacque Ellul, who while espousing an "anarchist approach," was a very passionate and active French socialist. Clearly, there are things in my life that are far more important than who I vote for and what kind of government I want. Quite literally, thank God for that. What a bleak existence it would be if my highest aspirations and most meaningful actions were merely political.

As we exercise our rights today and vote for what we believe are the best candidates for our society and government, I pray that those of us who count ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ will remember who we really are, Who really makes our lives worthwhile, and what kingdom we are really committed to. In so doing, we will be able to see our political adversaries first and foremost as persons who we love and pray for because of Christ and his sacrifice for us all. Hopefully, we can pray with love for those we vote against, and pray with humility for those we vote with. Let the world see something that transcends the fury and ferociousness of human-centered politics. Let the world see a God-centered people, and in wonder see again the work of God described in Acts 4:32, "All the believers were one in heart and mind."

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