Friday, March 3, 2017

God Is Not a Member of Your Political Party

I do not believe in the separation of church and state as it is usually understood--which is that anyone who is in the church had better leave the state alone. I do not see why having an idea about God disqualifies a man from also having ideas about Washington. Politics should mean trying to achieve the best for the country; and doing that means having some idea what the best is. I cannot see why having some coherent vision of the universe should bar a man from having a vision of the nation--nor, especially, why it should be barred in the name of religious freedom.

On the other hand, I do not agree with those within the church who believe there is something incongruous in a Christian having a role in politics. Though being a Christian introduces a host of new responsibilities to a persons lives, it does not abrogate old responsibilities. The Bible makes it very clear that Christ transforms but does not destroy the essential relationships and responsibilities of humanity. (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:8; Ephesians 6:1; Titus 2:4-5) The idea of self-government (out of which modern American politics arises) is merely an expansion of the elemental responsibilities of humanity, just as the idea of a nation is merely an expansion of the family. As such, there is no reason why a Christian should not be involved in politics.

But, with all that being said, we must face one obvious fact--there is nothing wrong, in principle, with a Christian being involved in politics; but there is obviously something wrong somewhere. Much of what goes on under the heading of religious politics is clearly an offense, both to religion and to politics, and most of it (rightly) disgusts most outsiders looking on, religious and irreligious.

And the problem is that too many Christians have put their faith in politics and not in God. I realize that very few have done this deliberately or even consciously, but this seems to be the reality. I know some will immediately rejoin with: “But you can't say politics isn't important.” And I don't. Politics is important. Money is important. Education is important. Freedom is important. But none of those things hold the hope for our race--at least, not in themselves. God may use political action to bring about His kingdom. Paul told Timothy to pray for politicians for just this reason. (1 Timothy 2:1-4) But politics does not hold our hope.

God may use money to advance His kingdom. The Bible speaks of the importance of good stewardship with money and using it for God. But if we met a man who was obsessed with making money, whose hopes and fears all rode upon the rising and falling of his bank account, who ventured into doubtful ethical waters in order to make money,  who risked alienating his friends and fellow-Christians in order to amass wealth, and if he defended his actions in all this by saying that he was raising money for God's kingdom--if, I say, we met such a man, we would all instantly recognize that had tripped up somewhere and had put upon money a value which nobody (least of all God) could really justify. And that is a rather accurate picture of the way certain Christians have treated political matters. They have put political matters in the place of primary importance, have placed all their hopes and fears upon the marks in the ballot box, have done and defended doubtful ethical things, and have risked the alienation of fellow-Christians and the world they are called to reach--and then they tell us that they do it all so that God's kingdom may advance.

The name of this mistake is idolatry and it is a common enough mistake for humans. There are plenty of people who make no claims to Christianity who are obsessed with money or politics, there are plenty of people who worship means as if they were ends. However, when this kind of idol is introduced into Christianity, it has a rather horrible consequence. The idols we set up in order to help God will always end up calling God to help them. The man who worships both politics and God will find that his “god” will be very useful to politics. Things an ordinary, moral man might have difficulty justifying to himself become very easy to justify once it is the will of God. People we might not be able to move to our political cause can be moved when we evoke the name of God.

And so at last, God has become a means to an end. We pray for God to help our candidate to get elected without every asking if He has any thoughts on the matter. We feel quite certain that if God physical cast a vote, He would be registered to our party. We feel quite justified in saying, if our side wins, that God had His hand in it because He sovereign.(Whereas we seem quite silent about God's sovereignty when our side loses.) We put a great deal of faith in God--as the means of helping out our particular political cause. The people of Judah put their faith in the Ark of the Covenant to protect them, even when they broke the covenant of the ark. But it did not help them--because God was not in the ark. And when we have finished building our ark of politics, we are bound to find the same thing--that God is not in our ark. Because there is one thing God will never do--God will never worship an idol, however much we may worship it. God will never consent to be less than He is, simply so some trivial thing may be lifted to heights it does not deserve. God will never be a member of our political party. Our only hope is that our politicians may be members of God.

And if we continue to place politics above God, it will have one tragic (and humorous) consequence: that we will end up without the power of God--and also without the power of politics. Indeed, I am not so certain this has not already happened.

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