When Politics and Religion Collide

Doanld Trump. 

This has become a name that can make you want to throw things at your TV in rage, or breathe a sigh of relief because he is the candidate who is going to "stick it to the Man", meaning he seems like a real threat to upset the apple cart of big government. 

Both of these feelings are justifiable. So let's start there. 

There are a number of people who have been trampled on by big government policies, and there are a number of people who have been seriously offended by Trump's disregard for women and minorities. Sometimes these groups overlap, and I can't imagine how confusing it would be. 

The overall polarization, however, is between a religious right who longs for smaller government, more and better local jobs and more moral laws of the land, and a generation people (which include youth, minorities, and women) who are tired of the good ol boys running the show. 

Really, what I'm interested in most here is Christian involvement in Politics, the religious right in the West, and the way that politics seems to create a breeding ground for Christian idolatry. 

Before getting into things, understand that any political view comes first from a philosophy about politics. There are two major branches of American Political Philosophy (and by extension, Canadian Political philosophy). Conservativism and Liberalism. The political conservatism I think you will find in most coffee shops has little concern for philosophical conservatism, which was a rejection of the French Revolution, and was focused on bringing back stable institutions that the revolution was revolting against. It also rejected the violence that accompanied the liberal philosophical movement that led to the French Revolution.

Modern religious conservationism in America shares some threads with it's past, but tends to be focused on a steadfast view that the only way to ensure prosperity is to moralize the Laws of the state according to the laws of the Bible, and to protect the first amendment. In summary, the modern idea of the religious right comes from a view that because the state is an instrument of God (Romans 13:4), the state should institute laws which are pleasing to God. I still haven't figured out how routinely carrying a deadly weapon which would cause a Christian to willfully break the first commandment is pleasing to God ... but I digress ...

The problem, of course, is that Romans 13 has nothing to do with what a 'Christian government' should look like. In fact, reading Romans 13 contextually shows us that whichever government is in power is the one God has put in power, even if it's a hideously violent Roman Emperor such as Nero, who had Christians mass murdered for fun. That brings up a whole other bunch of problems, but the point is that we need to stop putting all of our faith in political leaders. They're just people. All of them are flawed.

Further in Romans 13, the idea of rebelling against a government was a direct response to early zealots who believed the only way to institute God's true reign on earth was to violently overthrow the Roman Empire. Romans 13 therefore has much to say to both the philosophically conservative and liberal. And much of Jesus' teachings speak directly to the religious 'take our country back to the bible' groups. In contrast to the zealots and the 'back to bible basics' (which are confusingly the same group in America at times), all of Jesus' teachings, which are reiterated by the Apostle Paul reject violence as the path to God's kingdom. This includes violence of words and action. Rather, it is through agape love, self-sacrifice, and the gifts of the spirit (Romans 12-14) which establish heaven on earth - the kingdom of God - the place where God's will is done. It has nothing to do with following moral codes or religious practices or voting. But it has everything to do with the Gospel.

The lesson here is that it doesn't matter which government is in power. Christians are not called to moralize the world. We are called to be radical lovers, servants, generous to our neighbors and those in need, and the kind of people who make the world a safer, kinder place to live by virtue of who we are and what we stand for. 

The hope we are called into springs from the Gospel, and the resulting belief is that love, patience, kindness, gentleness, joy, self-control, faithfulness, and purity of heart are eternal (Galatians 5). This means we believe violence, slander, greed, lust, and so on will not be able to stand against the fullness of God's presence, when that time comes. Therefore, we believe that our best course of action is to live in such a way that we partner with God to bring about the above eternal while stifling the temporal in our lives.

The path to this is not following laws. The path is Jesus (John 14:6).

When I say "we" and "Christians", I'm talking about a group of people who are sometimes at big odds on the details. There are many Christians who believe that violence is the only way to stop evil, that there are some people who don't deserve to be loved, or that it's ok to be greedy sometimes because otherwise, you might get trampled on. And the arguments to these ends are sometime convincing, because the best of them point out real experiences of people who went through unimaginable pain that could have been prevented but wasn't.  

Sooo ... it's complicated.

But back to the topic of politics. I will say this -- the slandering and violent language you hear from Christians against all sorts of people is not of God and does not represent God. 

What does represent God? The answer, of course, is Jesus, who is the exact representation of God's being (Hebrews 1:3).

I therefore won't tolerate any more slandering of transgender people, homosexual people, Muslims, Democrats or anyone else from Christians. We're all flawed and we will all say things from time to time that we regret. And we are all prone to be ignorant at times. For that, we can have grace with one another. But as Christians, if we find that we are constantly degrading others based on what we see as their 'sin problems', I think we need to re-evaluate whether or not we have replaced Jesus as our saviour with something else. 

I say this because to believe the Gospel is to believe that I myself am on the same playing field as the next person. As bad as I imagine someone else to be, I should consider myself the same or worse (1 Timothy 1:15). The only difference between me and you is that there is no difference. Jesus died for all of us equally, because we all need it equally (Hebrews 7:27, Romans 3:23). 

I also want to say something about Laws. Laws against things, which the religious right deem pleasing to God, tend to be derived from a legalistic reading of the Bible which places Jesus as one voice among many rather than as the voice which trumps all others (including the voice of Trump ... I know. Groan!) The result of not placing Jesus at the explicit center of the Christian faith is a Christian faith and subsequent systems that claim to but in fact do not look anything like Jesus. And this, I find extremely troubling. It's how a movement called "Pro Life" can foster and even encourage people who kill other people in the name of being "for" life. That's insane. And it's not happening on purpose. It's happening because modern Christianity has systemically removed Jesus as the author and perfecter of faith.

Forget putting Christ back in Christmas. It's time to put 'Christ' back in 'Christian'!

And the cure is the Gospel. The good news is that you don't have to be tossed around by the insanity. You don't need to follow the disembodied news clips, ignorant social media commentary, and disjointed media frenzy that surrounds politics. 

Christians have a king who is above all others. It is He whom we serve, and in serving him, we are beckoned to also serve humanity. (Mark 12:28-31, Galatians 5:14)


Ryan, I am no theologian or good at controversial topics, but I appreciate your candor and openness. It is always good to be reminded that everything needs to be brought back to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Only He knows the future and the whole plan. Life can really be awful and heart breaking sometimes. But life is not about being happy and having it easy. It's about serving our risen Savior and bringing glory and honor to His name. He, who loved us so much that He would choose to die in our place, He deserves no less.

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