If you look back at the history of this blog, political issues seem to give me something to write about. The thing is, the more I see of political discourse today, the less interested I am in participating (this from a guy with a Bachelors in Economics, a minor in Political Science, and a penchant to argue about anything). I’ve resisted the urge so far to comment, pontificate, or otherwise engage in the acrid cesspool of 2012 American political discourse. If you know me at all, you should admire my restraint, because I’ve seen the gamut of name-calling, stereotyping, and general human-bashing, and at times been the victim of it, from both sides of the political battlefield (it’s no longer a spectrum–it’s two fairly neatly polarized ideologies, with little tolerance for moderation, let alone differing opinion).
So why don’t I just keep my thoughts to myself, and not add to the cacophony? Several reasons:
- What’s getting represented as “Christian thought” in the debate doesn’t align with my understanding of Christ’s teachings.
- I believe when we personalize the beliefs we’re discussing, applying them to real individuals that we actually know, we have the greatest chance of considering a differing viewpoint as something more than the misinformed understanding of a bumbling idiot, or the evil scheme of a mastermind intent on ruining the world. I’m hoping that those who know me can look past our disagreements (and I’ll bet that not one of you will agree with me on every point) and consider the validity of the thought, and more importantly the person who had the thought, even if you choose not to adopt it.
- I believe that the biggest threat to our nation today is not Iran, Al Qaeda, the budget deficit, abortion, health care reform, big business, illegal immigration, or the restriction or proliferation of guns. It’s the de-humanizing and depersonalization of our fellow man. By withdrawing from the debate, as much as I would prefer to do so, I am abdicating the fight against this threat. And that’s not my way.
Christians in America today have lost our focus, and in the process of trying to “reclaim” America for God, we’ve given away our credibility in our culture. We are mocked for our lack of compassion, lack of intellect, and lack of moral values. Jesus healed the sick…we rail against government-funded health care for our poor (more commonly referred to as the welfare bums), yet offer no solutions of our own. Our nation is hungry for hope and change, yet we offer them nothing more than stifling restrictions and government intervention. Jesus didn’t give us a set of rules, he gave us a change of our very heart. The rules method didn’t work out so well in overcoming man’s evil nature in Jesus’ day, why should we think that outlawing abortion, gay marriage, etc, will induce Godly values 2000 years later? Our morality is totally inconsistent: We mourn the death of millions of unborn children, yet advocate for the death penalty and dehumanize birthed humans who don’t ascribe to our religious or political beliefs. Most frighteningly, we tell the world that Jesus is the only hope for mankind, yet wring our hands and proclaim our doom at the prospect of a nation ruled by a political candidate whom we don’t agree with.
Before all of my Christian acquaintances de-friend me, let me say that I’m first and foremost accusing myself. I was the worst offender in almost all of these areas not all that long ago. Those are stories for another day, but I can assure you that in my past, I could out-Conservative just about any one of you reading this, no matter how far right you are. But God has taken me on a journey where he keeps confronting me with Jesus’s teachings contrasted with my attitudes and actions, and then gently asks me, “Which will it be? You can’t serve both. Is Jesus Lord of your life, or are you? If Jesus is your savior, then Mitt Romney (or Barack Obama) can’t be.”
So where is God in presidential politics? I honestly don’t know. And it really doesn’t matter. No president is going to win America for God. Billy Graham couldn’t have won America for God if he was president. And if the Christians in our country today keep thinking we’re going to transform this nation through politics, we are going to fail our God. Because if you believe the Bible you read, God “deposes kings and raises up others“, not us. Depending on your exegesis of that passage and your particular theological bent, you can interpret it to mean that God picks every political leader, or that he chooses at times to intervene to empower or depose particular leaders. Regardless of your interpretation, I don’t think political campaigns are where God wants us focused.
While it’s true that the concept of democratic election of leaders wasn’t relevant in Jesus’ time, I see nothing in his teaching that should lead us to focus on political solutions to our nation’s problems. Jesus’ world was rife with many of the same cultural issues we face in America today. He didn’t solve them by political action (much to his followers’ chagrin). He transformed hearts with the love of God, manifest in the real, practical outworking of that love, impacting the lives of those around him.
Voting in the election of our next President is a foundational attribute of the nation that I dedicated most of my adult life to serving, and it’s my civic duty. I don’t take it lightly, and haven’t missed an opportunity to cast my vote in any election since I voted for Uncle Ronnie’s re-election (man, I miss that guy!). But my hope is not in politics, and my energies aren’t there either. My spiritual commission is to make disciples (committed followers of Jesus), teaching them (meaning all I have influence with) to practice the things Jesus taught. He didn’t teach political activism, he taught us to love God and love our fellow man (all of them, even the heathen Muslims). And we demonstrate that love not by imposing legalized morals on them, but by walking out God’s love in front of them, and manifesting it to them, in such a compelling way that they can’t resist his love.
Me loving God and my neighbor won’t change the world, but it will change my neighbor. And if each of us were to love our neighbor, and they did the same, pretty soon, God’s love would spread across this nation, and that would change the world.