I want to wrap up the week with an idea I read in Relevant Magazine. In an article called “7 Things Christians Need to Remember About Politics,” a very true statement was made.
“Political discourse is the Las Vegas of Christianity – the environment in which our sin is excused. Hate is winked at, fear is perpetuated and strife is applauded. Go wild, Christ-follower. Your words have no consequences here. Jesus doesn’t live in Vegas.”
What It Does to Others
We have to remember that everything we do affects our Christian life, including our political involvement. When we go to a political rally, we take our souls with us. When we vote, we do not leave our spiritual health outside the polling place. Our relationship with Christ is inescapabable. But politics is a part of our lives that we do tend to divorce from our religious experience. I’m not saying that we forget our morals when we vote, far from it. Most political participation in America is motivated by some moral conviction. The Pro-Life movement is an excellent example of this. pro-life supporters are oerwhelmingly people of faith. There is absolutely nothing wrong with acting on one’s convictions.
But very rarely do we look at the consequences of our actions. Sticking with the pro-life movement, let’s examine a common case of activism: picketing abortion clinics. What effect does this have, not on the protestors, but on the women they are protesting at? These women are in one of the most difficult positions of their lives. The decision to get an abortion is not an easy choice and going in to a clinic is not an easy thing, even without a group of shouting protestors outside the door. What are the consequences of such protests for these women? Do you think it does their soul any good? Or does it inflict more anguish on them than they are already experiencing?
My point in using this example is that sometimes political participation suffers from a lack of compassion. I would not tell anyone to stop protesting. But I would say that it needs to be tempered with kindness and love. I have seen quite a few anti-abortion protests and participated in them. But in none of them did I see any compassion for the women who were having abortions (or who were quite probably using the clinic for its other, non-abortion related services). I always thought it was wrong that while we hoisted the cross on our signs that we never talked about what it actually meant: Christ’s unending, unconditional love for every soul, including these women and the unborn. Do you think any of those women would have stepped into a church after seeing us yell and harass them? At that time, even I didn’t want to step into a church and I was one of the people holding a sign.
What It Does to Us
Christ was not a yeller. He didn’t threaten damnation to people, hold signs, or anything like that. Instead, he was a loving person to all, even the greatest of sinners. It did not matter what someone had done (and he knew exactly what that was). He still treated them like a human being.
I think one of the biggest problems with Christians participating in political matters is that it takes us away from emulating Christ’s example. We forget to love or to have compassion. Or even to be honest. Most of us are familiar with the axiom that “politicians lie.” Time and again this is proven true. But have you noticed how many of those politicians have called themselves Christian? I can’t help but wonder if they would have done the same kinds of things if they had not been so involved in politics.
In order to get our political points across, we do tend to excuse behavior that is, frankly, inexcusable. What happens in politics stays in politics, and ends up having very little to do with our spiritual lives. It is Christianity’s Las Vegas.
So what do we do about this? I personally am an advocate of the separation of church and state/politics, not because I believe politics should be strictly secular (which I do), but because I believe religion should remain religious. Mixing the two together makes religion a servant of politics, not the other way around. If you want evidence of that, just look at the argument about whether Obama was a Muslim. His religion at that point was made a political point, which is not what religious belief should ever be. I know there will be people who disagree with me on this and that is perfectly fine. Hopefully such disagreement will eventually yield the fruit of reform. It is only by talking about this issue that we’ll get anywhere close to fixing it.
In the meantime, our political involvement requires a lot of prayful reflection. How do our political actions affect our spiritual life? Should we do this political thing? What would Jesus do? Change has to start individually. Without a true change of heart at the level of us and our personal relationship with Christ, nothing will ever get better – not religion and not politics either.