I needed this. As of last night I came off of my self-imposed Political Fast for the month of August, and honestly I’m not sure I want to go back. By a political fast I mean that I purposefully stayed away from reading anything or listening to anything having to do with the present political races of Hillary and Trump. Really the whole system as well. Sure I was tempted a few times and know that at least once I started down that road of “just to see” what the story behind the latest headline was. But I didn’t fall prey to the calling and got through August with pretty much no political writ, radio, or video. I think I’m healthier for it and not certain I want to go back to my old norm.
This is not to say that I no longer have political thinking. I am not saying that I no longer believer that some politics and laws are just bad. This is not to say that I no longer believe that some candidates are way off and therefore they will be advocating systems and laws which will hurt people.
Yes, I still intellectually and morally believe there is a clear right and wrong. Some candidates get that and others do not. But I also believe that the attention to these issues in the political sphere is no longer as high on my emotional radar screen as they once were. I always knew that the Kingdom of God is the bigger picture. It’s just taken my emotions a while to catch up. While some of these political and legal issues are indeed important; they are just not the “most important.”
So after 31 days of political and social media fasting, I’ve arrived at four things that I do know for sure and four things I plan to do.
- Personally; I am not called to civic, state, or national politics and governance. Politics are not the reason why God created me and put me on this planet. So to give too much time in this arena detracts me from my purpose. However, there are people who are uniquely gifted and called to this realm. My friend Joe La Rue is an example of this as he practices Constitutional Law and works to protect religious freedoms in America. He’s a really smart guy. Actually, lawyers aren’t always bad and we see that the apostle Paul requested help for his attorney friend Zenas. So while suggesting that followers of Jesus take a political break might be helpful; a total call of abstinence from governing is by no means spelled out in scripture. The fast does not apply to all.
- No candidate or party is 100% spot on and this should be quite clear in our present political arena. It’s funny though to listen as both sides of the political spectrum pull out the Jesus card when they believe HE will help their case. But Jesus has endorsed neither party. The real problem arises when followers of Christ get divisive on this issue and if the truth be told, it really comes from both sides. Usually the tension starts when a person’s social or moral hot button is pushed and then the lines are drawn.
- Politics are temporal and God is still sovereign. There have been times when I’ve had to remind myself of this one. Usually when I got stuck in the present cultural arguments. The reality is that various phases of politics and morality come and go in history. Culture has suffered at the hands of legalists and also bled in the aftermath of licentiousness. Remember that the Roaring 20s were called that for a reason. So no matter what the political struggle is today, it will be replaced by something else tomorrow. In the big picture though, we see that the Kingdom of God stands forever and God continues to reign on His thrown no matter what humanity does. Isaiah noted that “the nations are like a drop in a bucket” and are regarded as “dust on the scales.” Daniel declares that just as God changes times and seasons, He “deposes kings and sets up others.” Again, this is not saying politics have no value, but in the grand scheme of things they are not of first importance.
- Ultimately, politics will not change the human heart. I’ve spoken of this many times before. The best of politics, rules, and regulations in the world can never change the human heart. In fact, the reason why we have laws is because the heart is corrupt and selfish. Jesus noted that it was out of the heart that “evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” come. There were a lot of really evil things going on in the days of Christ, but He came to change the heart and elevate it to the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. When a heart is transformed it will naturally do what is good for their neighbor whether there is a law in place or not.
Here’s what I plan to do:
- By simply being a good citizen I’ll take my civic responsibility seriously and vote accordingly to my conscience. It’s kind of like jury duty. When you’re called to help the process out; you help.
- I will keep in the local fight to help others. It’s one thing to cheer for national political discussions; it’s another thing to get our hands dirty in the local mess of life. Sure, we can cheer for pro-life and helping the poor and downtrodden, but are we willing to financially help those around the block and sacrifice time and energy for those who cannot pay us back? It’s the boots on the ground in our local areas that will bring real change. I’ve not been asked to speak to congress; yet, but I have been asked for help by a neighbor.
- Keep Praying. Jesus clearly called his followers to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Paul, under direction of the Holy Spirit, called for “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” The interesting historical context is that Paul actually wrote this while the known world was under the control of the poster child of evil Emperors, Nero, who was presently on the throne in Rome. For me, there were times when about the best prayer I could muster for a crooked politician was something along the lines of “Lord, please protect this person from Satan, soften their heart, and bring one of your children along their path.” At the end of the day, by having a stable government, it is much easier to spread the love of Christ rather than living in chaos without the rule of law. Thus, we pray for those in authority.
- Keep my eye on the eternal ball. As a kid I was never good at sports and that’s partially because I couldn’t throw well. The reason I couldn’t throw well was because I’d take my eye off of the target. Thus the main reason for my huge arrest of political dialogue is simply because I know it carries me away from the big picture and point. I can lose focus and miss or blow a chance to convey what is eternal and really important. So I try to bite my tongue and refocus as much as I can in order to stay on track. I suppose it would be similar to a recovering alcoholic staying clear of a bar. It’s just not worth it.
Well, that’s something to start with. What would you add and how would your thinking be affected if you gave politics a rest?
1. Agreed on the submission to government. Seems though that the tension is between the general world view of those in the 17th -18th century and today regarding God. Agree some were deists but others believed in a moving God. Either way, there seems to be a divide between the idea of today, that no God talk should be allowed in the public arena, and the past. I’ve also pointed out before that the big part of the founder’s intent was to prevent a STATE Church, like in England. That is difference from divorcing God from societal and governmental discussion.
2. Indeed, our present culture, and many times in generic church culture, sex outside of marriage has become more acceptable despite clear teaching in scripture. The goal is to point to God’s design for marriage and sex in all areas.
3. I believe part of the tension arises because we do live in a free culture and the question exists as to what we do when we see evil and danger being played out in front of us. I would say that Bonhoeffer went too far. But where is the balance? Suppose it’s just making a difference when and where we immediately can.
4. Part of this may be a freedom in Christ issue. As noted in the blog, I see the problem arise when Christians pull out their loyalty for Christ along with specific social / economic issues. “Real Christians will vote / do . . .” type talk.
Note that in the NT both Paul and Peter very clearly say we are to be subordinate to governing officials (and both were executed by Nero). That of course flies in the face of our revolutionary heritage, where we killed those over us, and their minions, in order to do our own thing. Ironically, our founding documents are not based on orthodox Christianity, but on Deism and the Enlightenment. Governing officials in the U.S. did not have a religious test, which created quite a stir among some of the literati, who thought that the government was cut off from true Christianity. The separation of church and state had more to do with no state sponsored, and tax supported, denominations, and not so much whether people could pray in school (yes, both back then and now). Of course now, state paid teachers cannot force students to pray to Mary (which was the prayer under attack in the famous Madeline O’Hare Supreme Court case in early 1960’s). This is just more backgrounding, as my mind wanders.
Remember that John the Baptist got in trouble in part for condemning sexual sin by Herod (violation of incest laws). I suspect that all national candidates see nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage, with living together, and with adultery if the married persons are “no longer together.” More so for divorce, a scourge inside of the church. The church gets foamy at the mouth about abortion, yet true Christians do not have to have abortions (China of course went the other way until recently). Despite the national uproar, homosexuality is a very small percentage of the population. People cohabiting, even inside the church, is probably much more common. Think what would happen to any church leader who condemned all sexual sins, in both political parties. Beheading might seem a relief.
Back to now. Can any American separate personal political desire from their view of politics and politicians measured in light of scripture. I doubt it. We read back into the Bible our deep seated longings for some one or other to win, and make solemn pronouncements how God favors who we want to vote for. Reading up on candidates does not solve this problem, since we read and filter according to our biases, again, with rare exceptions.
Another fundamental mistake of Christians in America is viewing the choices as binary, that is, I must vote one way or the other. Not true. Nothing in the Bible says it is un-Christian to not vote at all. Also, why should I vote for “least worst” when both candidates defy the living God. Why should I not call both candidates to repent and obey. Why should I not repent from my own wickedness and pray, regardless of who is running or who may win?
[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14. And if we are to “slander no one,” Titus 3.2a, then our participation in politics may be even less. Lawyering the point, truth is a defense to slander. That is, slander is still slander, but you get away with it if what you say is accurate. But Paul does not say slander is okay if it is accurate. Besides we filter what we believe to be accurate about our opponents to a certain extent at least.
I will of course vote, but may not vote for either presidential candidate. I voted in 2008 for president, but not in 2012. And no I see no value in symbolically writing in a candidate and voting that way. That conduct is for I do not know what really, a little silliness perhaps.
Do I have strong views on what I see going on. Of course I do. But I cannot justify my views or any proposed political action as such as ordained or sanctioned by God. God has his own agenda for the nations (gentiles) and he determines where the nations are and when they will exist, despite our best efforts to control our own fate.