5 Political Season Reminders for Christians
There’s always a strong pull to unplug from all social media as the political season picks up. It isn’t the dialog that annoys me; it’s the vitriol—particularly from Christians. It won’t be very long before many of the friendly, reasonable people we know start filling our news feeds with bitter, biting commentary about pundits, parties, and policies.
Before the political season really heats up, here are some things it would be wise for Christians to consider:
1. We are not a special-interest group
It became obvious in the mid-to-late 70s that whoever could convince the evangelical community and conservative-leaning Catholics to vote together would control one of America’s largest voting bases. It wasn’t just right-wing candidates that benefited from this realization. Jimmy Carter’s popularity in the polls came from his openness to call himself a “born-again Christian.”
Since then, politics has become a ridiculous game of courting the evangelical vote. Every politician goes out of their way to show that, yes, they are a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving candidate.
This means that to really stand out in the crowd, pundits have to appeal to Christian fears.
The need to let us know that Christianity is “under attack” in America, our freedoms are being taken away, godlessness is on the rise, or that some other scary religious group is rising to prominence is all a marketing scheme designed to secure votes. I really can not say that strongly enough. These messages are tested and tested to play into the fears that will translate into Christian votes.
It really shouldn’t be so easy to cater to Christian fears and the desire for religious prominence. We’re not a special interest group. We’re called to be as wise as serpents (Matt. 10:16), and therefore shouldn’t be so easily swayed by people whose sole desire is gain power.
There is no political message that isn’t practiced and deliberate. If a politician is constantly appealing to his/her religious faith or courting us through fear, they’re simply looking at us in simple mathematical terms.
I’m thankful to live in a republic where I have the opportunity to help choose the people I want to represent me, but make no mistake, my happiness, fulfillment, or contentment does not rest in who is in the White House or who controls the Senate.
Christianity should always be skeptical of politics and power.
2. Political stories are a product
Welcome to America where the free market runs on advertising dollars. We’d like to think that news agencies, political websites, blogs, and every other place we get our information was out to inform us based on benevolence and objectivity, but they’re not.
Every place you get information is working diligently to figure out how to offer news in a way that brings us back. Every news program, website visit, or blog post is judged entirely on it’s ability to generate ad revenue.
Why does this matter? Because if you keep going to the same place to get all of your information with the understanding that you’re getting balanced coverage, you’re fooling yourself. Every story is a product and it’s packaged to appeal to a specific palate (yes, even this one).
Christians need to start looking at the wizard behind the curtain. What’s the product being sold and why is it being packaged the way it is? It’s super easy to see how the water in your neighbor’s well might be tainted, and be blind to the poison in your own.
3. The tone of our discussion matters more than the content
Paul tells the Colossians to make sure their conversation is full of grace and seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). When it comes to political themes, the conversation of many Christians is so salty that it’s entirely unpalatable.
As a Christian, you may feel you have a civic duty to be involved in the political process, and I would never suggest that wasn’t the case. But what value is it if your party or candidate gains power but you’ve turned people off of Christ?
The willingness for many Christians to bash and demonize political opponents paints a picture of Christianity that runs so contrary to the Christ we claim to follow (and the world-at-large knows it). Long after your argument is over and forgotten, people are going to remember your tone. Was it loving? Gracious? Kind? Generous?
To be so focused on this or that political race is so short term. We’re looking forward to a kingdom that will last forever. Let’s not turn people off of that kingdom because we’re so set on securing the next four years in this one.
4. Well-meaning Christians can disagree
Whether it’s labor unions, gun ownership, or poverty, many people have that one defining issue that drives them politically. It’s so important to them that they have a hard time understanding how any other “true believer” could possibly not prioritize their issue, too.
You might be so focused on the issue of abortion that you cannot fathom how anyone could vote for a “pro-choice” candidate. But another believer might be convinced that focusing on ending abortion isn’t as effective in bringing down the number of pregnancy terminations by lifting people out of poverty, educating teens about contraception, or closing the pay gap between men and women.
The ways in which one policy affects another are often numerous, and the discussion can be very nuanced. To focus on one particular goal above every other, to the point that you think that every Christian should agree, can do a lot of damage to your relationships and the church at large.
There is definitely room for this discussion, but there isn’t room for vilifying individuals who see things differently. In fact, you might actually benefit from listening to the views of others.
5. Our hope is not in the polls
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.—Isaiah 40:15
The Jews had over 600 laws. If it was possible to secure our relationship with God and our personal righteousness through the right legislation, they would have accomplished that. They didn’t.
“Thy kingdom come” is not a prayer that will be fulfilled by casting a ballot or making the right bill a law. A changing of the guard isn’t going to make this a Christian nation or establish God’s rule on earth. Politics will never, ever, ever save us.
But Jesus will . . .