Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Do Politics Have to Do With Faith?

In case you don't want to read this because you're already sick of reading about people's political views, I promise you that this post is NOT going to endorse any political party, view, or candidate. But with a presidential election coming up in less than two months, it seems that politics are at the forefront of everyone's mind right now. Commentary about the parties and candidates dominate Facebook and Twitter every single day. And much of that commentary consists of people engaging in all-out bashing of the party or candidate they oppose. In fact, at least in my experience, bashing the opposing party is much, much more common than actually demonstrating what is admirable about the party you support. In this area as in most, perhaps just because of human nature, it's easier to tear people down than to build them up.

But I've noticed something very troubling: if the derogatory comments about other parties and candidates aren't bad enough, people also take it upon themselves to tear down anyone who supports the party or candidate they don't like. Romney supporters use online forums to attack Obama supporters, and vice versa. They try to attack their intelligence, their upbringing, their patriotism, and even things like their femininity or masculinity. (Don't believe me on that last one? Haven't you heard people say, "I don't know how anyone could vote for Romney and still consider herself a woman"?)

Here's the worst part: I've noticed that many, many Christians have no qualms about maligning the faith of other Christians simply because of who they vote for. They take no issue with telling other people, at least in so many words, "You can't possibly be a Christian/ be making the Christian choice if you vote for [insert a candidate here]" or "It's only really 'Christian' to vote for the candidate I support, and if you don't, then I call your faith into question." I see this attitude all the time, even though it's admittedly a lot more subtle than in the examples I just gave. And indeed, Christians need to seriously consider how their faith and the principles of God's Word should affect who they vote for. But here's the thing: it's not as if it's "Christian" to vote for one candidate and "non-Christian" to vote for another. There's no explicit indication from God about who to vote for in the 2012 election. And so we must each make a choice through prayer and discretion--but it's not as if one choice is "right" and the other is "wrong," as long as they are made after seeking out God's will on the issue.

And this form of tearing people down and judging others through political posturing has got to stop, because if it doesn't, I fear it will cause fault lines to form in the church itself. We cannot treat other people as if we doubt their Christian faith simply because of who they vote for.

And what else do politics have to do with faith? We are to pray for and submit to the leaders and governing authorities that God has placed over us. Yes, that does mean what you think it means. Even if you hate our current President and everything he stands for, God still expects you to pray for him. The same goes for whichever individual is elected in November. I know I don't make this a regular part of my prayer life, but I certainly should. We are to pray for our leaders and to show respect for them. According to 1 Timothy 2, we are also supposed to thank God for them. Now call me crazy, but I'm not really sure how bashing candidates we oppose fits into that framework. Why are we so willing to assume others aren't voting "the Christian way," when there's no one perfect "Christian candidate," when we aren't even willing to follow the political instructions God has explicitly given? Pray for our leaders. Thank God for them. Respect them. Submit to them. Simple as that.

Judging from the opinions I've heard over the past couple of months, some people pretty much think the world is going to end if their favored candidate doesn't win. Does the President have power to change our lives dramatically? Yes. But who is really in control? The leader in the Oval Office, or God?

I believe that God appoints leaders for such a time as the one we're living in. As an article I read recently pointed out, every generation thinks they are living in the most important time in human history. Every generation thinks the next election will totally change life as they know it. But good times and bad times have faced the American people before, and God has still--always--been the one on the throne.

The Bible says, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord." Not, "Blessed is the nation whose president is Mitt Romney."  Not "Blessed is the nation led by Barack Obama." Or anything else. "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."

So I leave you with this: Yes, it's important who we vote for. Yes, we need to seek God's leading in all of our political decisions, as in everything else. But before we enter total political panic about what's going to happen in November, we need to be asking ourselves, "Do we live in a nation whose God is the Lord? Do we live a LIFE in which the Lord is God and the Lord is in control?" That's where real change and transformation starts. And if we allow the Lord to be in control, life as we know it really will change, but the blessing will ultimately be ours.

"There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord." --Proverbs 21:30

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