Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When Politics Trump Faith

Growing up, my grandfather was a doctrine-focused, KJV-wielding, argue-to-the-death pastor. Puffed up about and convinced his own "right"-ness, he sought out small, controllable churches on which to unleash his opinions, worldview, and knowledge of the Bible. He also LOVED to listen to attack-driven, hate-spewing political commentators.

Now, let me just be upfront here: I'm politically right of center on most issues, and I am a family values & free market woman. But the problem comes in when a person's politics override and even negate their faith. I had a hard time listening to my grandpa's sermonizing, when I knew he regularly used crude racial slurs, supported politicians whose private lives were every bit as screwed up as Bill Clinton (who he loathed), and lived for venomous, hate-filled political programming. His behavior overruled his claimed beliefs.

Three main problems occur when we let our politics overrun our faith:

#1- WE BEGIN ATTACKING PEOPLE INSTEAD OF IDEAS
You see it all the time... Ann Coulter recently criticized John Edwards by calling him a crude name, and refused to apologize. Ms. Coulter, a member of the Reformed Presbyterian church, resorted to a base attack, and for many people, that
alone will turn them away from whatever "good" ideas you may have. As Christians, we should not be in the business of attacking people. If our ideas are well-grounded and well-considered, we need not resort to mindless attacks, calling people names or slinging around insults. We can engage in a more thoughtful and deliberate way, by discussing ideas rather than personalities.

#2- WE FORGET WHICH IS A HIGHER PRIORITY: POLITICS OR FAITH?
It is naturally the case that many of the vocal Christian voices in America today are also apt to share their political beliefs, whether on TV, radio, or in print. James Dobson & other Christian commentators are popular because they take strong positions and are well-spoken. It is a natural next step for these same personalities to then feel free to speak out about their political beliefs.

The problem comes in when the distinctions begin blurring and we forget that while we may have a political difference with a Christian brother or sister, we have a higher bond between us
.

We can also make the mistake of equating faith with politics. Christians in Texas often view political conservatism (family values, a pro-life culture, etc.) as the only political position with merit. Christians in Arkansas may view social liberalism (caring for the poor & hungry, being good stewards of the earth, etc.) as the only political position with merit. We forget that reasonable people, thoughtful people,
Christian people can disagree on poltical issues and still be genuine in their faith.

#3- WE DROP THE BALL ON ISSUES WE OUGHT TO CARE ABOUT
One of the issues politically-conservative Christians have really dropped the ball about is the environment. Because it is seen as such a "left" issue, we often leave it to the other guys to think about, or it even becomes an issue that is scoffed about. We can get snide about it: "Yeah, I know... we should save the whales and kill the babies".

Now, I'm certainly not saying that we *necessarily* need government intrusion in this area, nor am I saying that this should *necessarily* be a top priority for Christians, but we ought to be concerned about not intentionally sabotaging the beauty God has created. We ought to be discriminate in the trash output from our home, we ought to try to recycle or reuse as possible, and we ought to be intentional about caring for whatever piece of earth we've been entrusted with (whether that's a backyard, the wilderness we go camping in, or the roadside we're driving past).


There are issues that left-of-center Christians have dropped the ball on as well, but I'll not delineate those here, as there are plenty of other sources you can look to that will give you criticisms and problems with the political left.


PROPER PRIORITIES
There are other problems too, for example, when we are "choosy" about whose immorality we will judge and criticize. For example, many of the same commentators who made lots of money and spent lots of airtime criticizing Bill Clinton NOW support men like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, who have themselves admitted to many indiscretions. But I'll save that discussion for another day.

My point is this: we need to remember where our highest allegiance lies. When we approach political issues, we need to not only come with a Christian perspective
on the issue, but we also need to approach these issues as Christians, offering grace, kindness, gentleness, and peace to those with whom we disagree.

Thoughts? Further comments?

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