When Politics Trump Faith

Growing up, my grandfather was a doctrine-focused, KJV-wielding, argue-to-the-death pastor. Puffed up about and convinced his own "right"-ness, he sought out small, controllable churches on which to unleash his opinions, worldview, and knowledge of the Bible. He also LOVED to listen to attack-driven, hate-spewing political commentators.

Now, let me just be upfront here: I'm politically right of center on most issues, and I am a family values & free market woman. But the problem comes in when a person's politics override and even negate their faith. I had a hard time listening to my grandpa's sermonizing, when I knew he regularly used crude racial slurs, supported politicians whose private lives were every bit as screwed up as Bill Clinton (who he loathed), and lived for venomous, hate-filled political programming. His behavior overruled his claimed beliefs.

Three main problems occur when we let our politics overrun our faith:

You see it all the time... Ann Coulter recently criticized John Edwards by calling him a crude name, and refused to apologize. Ms. Coulter, a member of the Reformed Presbyterian church, resorted to a base attack, and for many people, that
alone will turn them away from whatever "good" ideas you may have. As Christians, we should not be in the business of attacking people. If our ideas are well-grounded and well-considered, we need not resort to mindless attacks, calling people names or slinging around insults. We can engage in a more thoughtful and deliberate way, by discussing ideas rather than personalities.

It is naturally the case that many of the vocal Christian voices in America today are also apt to share their political beliefs, whether on TV, radio, or in print. James Dobson & other Christian commentators are popular because they take strong positions and are well-spoken. It is a natural next step for these same personalities to then feel free to speak out about their political beliefs.

The problem comes in when the distinctions begin blurring and we forget that while we may have a political difference with a Christian brother or sister, we have a higher bond between us

We can also make the mistake of equating faith with politics. Christians in Texas often view political conservatism (family values, a pro-life culture, etc.) as the only political position with merit. Christians in Arkansas may view social liberalism (caring for the poor & hungry, being good stewards of the earth, etc.) as the only political position with merit. We forget that reasonable people, thoughtful people,
Christian people can disagree on poltical issues and still be genuine in their faith.

One of the issues politically-conservative Christians have really dropped the ball about is the environment. Because it is seen as such a "left" issue, we often leave it to the other guys to think about, or it even becomes an issue that is scoffed about. We can get snide about it: "Yeah, I know... we should save the whales and kill the babies".

Now, I'm certainly not saying that we *necessarily* need government intrusion in this area, nor am I saying that this should *necessarily* be a top priority for Christians, but we ought to be concerned about not intentionally sabotaging the beauty God has created. We ought to be discriminate in the trash output from our home, we ought to try to recycle or reuse as possible, and we ought to be intentional about caring for whatever piece of earth we've been entrusted with (whether that's a backyard, the wilderness we go camping in, or the roadside we're driving past).

There are issues that left-of-center Christians have dropped the ball on as well, but I'll not delineate those here, as there are plenty of other sources you can look to that will give you criticisms and problems with the political left.

There are other problems too, for example, when we are "choosy" about whose immorality we will judge and criticize. For example, many of the same commentators who made lots of money and spent lots of airtime criticizing Bill Clinton NOW support men like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, who have themselves admitted to many indiscretions. But I'll save that discussion for another day.

My point is this: we need to remember where our highest allegiance lies. When we approach political issues, we need to not only come with a Christian perspective
on the issue, but we also need to approach these issues as Christians, offering grace, kindness, gentleness, and peace to those with whom we disagree.

Thoughts? Further comments?


Kim said...

Right on, Jess. I think especially with the extreme polarization that occurred after the last two elections, we automatically equate Jesus/Christian with Republican and don't allow for those who love the Lord with as much fervor as we do but who believe different things politically.

Excellent entry.

Kimberly said...

Have you been reading Romans 13? ;)

All I can say is a hearty AMEN!

Great post!!

The Humble Housewife said...

Yet another great post! Being Catholic I have always had a hard time with politics. I am a staunch pro-lifer, but to me pro-life means ANY life, including prisoners. I am completely against capital punishment and think it is an absolute disgrace. My favourite bumper sticker is "Capital Punishment: What Would Jesus do?" But you can see my problem. If I vote conservative (which we mostly are) I am voting for capital punishment, but if I vote liberal, I'm voting for abortion. What to do?

I think one of the biggest problems in the states is the fact that there are only two real parties. That simply doesn't work. A population as diverse as the US cannot be split into two camps. Unfortunately it's not likely to change as the vote is where the money is, sadly enough.

I guess in this respect I'm glad to be in Ireland. Abortion and capital punishment are illegal. Heck, we only legalized divorce in the nineties and it's still not done very much.

It's just a big quagmire! :-)

On the environment, good thoughts... I've always thought God would not want us to abuse the earth our home and our bodies, two of the most precious gifts he's given us.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a very wise post. It is so easy to 'demonise' people who have a different view to you. And Christians of all people should be prepared to love each other, even though we have different ideas on 'how to put the world to rights'.

Anonymous said...

In recent years, I've shifted a bit as Christian, from being mostly right-leaning to being middle of the road, sometimes leaning left, sometimes leaning right. As a spiritual conviction, last year I changed my political status to Independent. It means that sadly, I don't get to vote as often, but I'm also not aligned with one side or the other.

This post is one I've been waiting to hear from a right-leaning Christian for awhile. Thankfully you have approached this topic with wisdom and grace, something we all need to do, no matter which side we're on.

Brilliant post. Hope more people read it and pray about it, and truly "get it".


Serena said...

My thoughts exactly, Jess.

*~Tamara~* said...

Your "proper priorities" paragraph is worthy of further discussion. ;-)

EmmyJMommy said...

Very interesting post...and responses. I have gone from voting strictly Repulican, to voting for where my beliefs lead me. My husband and I do not see eye to eye on some issues, but we discuss these issues in love and never disagree on them. We discuss how we vote and allow our children to vote with us, i.e. they sit with us while we fill out our ballots and we discuss afterwards. *we have found that it can be dangerous to discuss before hand, they tend to have comments while voting -- then*

The political world is interesting to watch...and very sad to think that there are people out there that allow it to become their belief system.

dcrmom said...

Amen. And can I just say how much I detest politics? I know it is ignorant to ignore them, but I feel like it is hopeless. And those people who are very interested in politics seem so harsh and mean-spirited. It seems to define them and has caused them to say hurtful things. I have really gotten very jaded about politics. It seems to me like we ought to be able to get along, but then we seem so far from reaching any sort of compromise.

Isabella in the 21st Century said...

This was a great, wise post. I can't really comment in too much detail as I'm not American. But, everything you said was sensible and right. I ditto Grace and Humble Housewife's comments too. There is no one party that can claim the Christian vote.