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.
Not only are believers excused for their political indiscretions, but they are often applauded for committing them. Slander is explained away as righteous anger; winning arguments are esteemed higher than truthful ones (whether or not the “facts” align); and those who stir up dissension are given the pulpit. So I balk when pastors tell me the Church should engage in the political process. Why would we do that? The political process is dirty and broken and far from Jesus. Paranoia and vitriol are hardly attractive accessories for the bride of Christ.
Rather than engage in the political process, Christians have a duty to elevate it. Like any other sin, we are called to stand above the partisan dissension and demonstrate a better way. Should we have an opinion? Yes. Should we care about our country? Yes. Should we vote? Yes. But it’s time we talk politics in a way that models the teachings of Jesus rather than mocks them.
Here are seven things to remember about politics:
1. Both political parties go to church
There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right. Larry T. Decker is a lobbyist and head of the Secular Coalition for America. He’s an “unaffiliated Christian,” but his entire job is devoted to keeping religion out of the U.S. government. Party lines are drawn in chalk, and they’re not hard to cross. The Church must be engaged in politics, but it must not be defined by the arbitrary lines in politics.
2. Political talk radio and cable “news” only want ratings
When media personalities tell you they are on a moral crusade, they are lying to you. These personalities get rich by instilling fear and paranoia in their listeners. If we give our favorite political ideologues more time than we give Jesus, we are following the wrong master. There are unbiased, logical and accurate news sources out there. But it’s up to you to be a good steward of information—to fact-check for yourself, take ideology with a grain of salt and make decisions based on facts rather than gossip.
3. Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others
They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of weak faith (Proverbs 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; James 4:1) and are among the things the Lord “detests.” We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to keep gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics and gun ownership; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side.
4. Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake
The social policies of your party were constructed by imperfect politicians fueled by ambition. It’s nearsighted to canonize them—and it will make you obsolete in a few years. Every four years, the parties adopt a current, updated platform at their respective conventions. And while they stay on general tracks, every four years the platform evolves to meet the needs of a growing, modernized and changing party. The Republican party of today doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago. We need to know when to change our views to meet a changing culture—and when to stand by them.
5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-4) and to respect those in authority (Romans 13:1-7)
Translation: if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. This doesn’t mean praying the President will be impeached; it doesn’t mean praying your candidate will win. God commands us to pray for our leaders—for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.
6. Don’t be paranoid
The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Stand up and demonstrate what God has given you. America has functioned—albeit, at varying levels of success—for years under the direction of alternating Democrat and Republican control, and at every flip, the other side thought it was the end of the world. It’s not. And if we’re a Church that believes God is in control, we have to believe that He is the one in control of the end times—not whoever’s in office now, and not whoever succeeds them.
7. Stop saying, “This is the most important election in the history of our nation”
It’s not. The most important election in the history of our nation was when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Before that, we thought it was OK to own people. Every generation thinks it’s living in the most important moment in history. We’re not, our parents were not and our children probably won’t be. And that’s OK.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from an original version posted in September 2012.