The religion of politics

politicsWednesday morning, America woke up to discover that our electoral system has given us a President who says he will change the direction of the country – a prospect that horrifies and delights our divided population in equal measure. My soul was ripped to the core yesterday as I read post after post on social media that emerged from some of the darkest places of humanity. I waded through an ugly swamp – seeing both notes of bitterness and triumphalism.  In sorrow, I asked myself, “what kind of people have we become?” It is as if politics has become the new religion.  The expressions of devotion and the statements of dread reflect a kind of absolutism once reserved for convictions about the nature of God Himself!

My dear Christian friend, let me urge us all to reflect and realize that politics are a sorry substitute for the Gospel of Christ and the power of the Spirit for the salvation of the world. Russell Moore wrote that “the most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics.”  Christians need to be more than Republican or Democrat or Green or Libertarian!  We are first and foremost, of Christ and in Christ. It is to our shame that we let our convictions about health care, the role of government in welfare, human rights, and issues about gender divide those of us who are called to be children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. It has been said in my presence more than once, “He could not possibly be a Christian. Look at who he supports.”  Come now, friend. Is that really true?  Does support for the temporal agenda of some political party actually disqualify a person from knowing and loving Jesus Christ? Since when did how a person views climate change or gender rights become the litmus test for being ‘in Christ?’

When we elevate the political process and misplace our hope in the power of legislation to save and transform the world we have given ourselves to a false god and we have been seduced by an empty hope! The old cliché reminds us that we “cannot legislate morality.”  That is not say that we have no interest in public policy and how it shapes the world in which we live.  Christians, just like everyone else, have ideals that they would like to see written into law.  (And, just like everyone else, they will think differently about many things.)

In truth, our highest and most holy calling is not to write better laws but rather to bring salvation to the nations through the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ!  We transform our world by changing human hearts and minds not by trying to control behavior.  But, there is no way we (the Christian church) will be the place HOPE that we are to be IF we are as divided as the culture in which we live and as religiously devoted to the relatively petty processes of politics.

Moore declares that our privilege is to “maintain a prophetic clarity that is willing to call to repentance everything that is unjust and anti-Christ, whether that is the abortion culture, the divorce culture, or the racism/nativism culture. We can be the people who tell the truth, whether it helps or hurts our so-called ‘allies’ or our so-called ‘enemies.’”  A prophet speaks on God’s behalf with holy authority born of her intimate relationship with God. I will pointedly ask – when you make those ripping statements on Facebook, when you hurl hateful comments at the ‘other’ side, when you seethe with rage about some defeat of legislation or exult with something akin to religious ecstasy over the election of a President – is that the result of time before the Throne of Heaven and a profound experience of the Holy, or is it an expression of the preferences of Self?

Many Christians are like Esau of old, selling their souls for a pot of soup! I made that mistake a long time ago when I was enthralled with the siren song of the Moral Majority of the 1980’s.  It is not one I will make again.  Right or Left in our convictions, we cannot afford to become so closely aligned with one party’s agenda that we lose our ability to represent the One who is the Hope of the World.  I am a Christian first, an American second, and my political affiliation comes in a distant third. How about you?  Are you my brother or my sister in His family?

The word from the Word is a reminder of our true identity. I am His, He is mine.  In Christ, “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.  “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.”

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.”  (1 Peter 2:9-11)

_______________

Father God,  preserve us in this time of change.
Call us into Your holy Presence.
As we kneel humbly and gain the assurance of
The salvation and Your love shown us in Christ Jesus,
Help us to rise to love others to wholeness.

 Forgive us for making our politics into a religion,
For giving devotion and fervor rightly reserved for You
To lesser things.

 Make Your Church beautiful, a place of clear vision,
A people of hope, full of amazing, courageous, and bold love.
Jesus shine brightly in us and through us. Amen.

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