Tuesday, October 10, 2006

confidence in politics

Tonight a good number of us were tuned in to a political debate between Governor Granholm and challenger DeVos. It is for me an interesting campaign. And I have to admit, I get a bit more interested in politics when election season rolls around.

But I believe that we, as those of the Jesus community, and I'm speaking for those of us who live in the United States- we tend to put too much stock in politics. I don't want to be misunderstood. I'm not saying that politics doesn't have its place, and that, in fact, it is an insignificant place. No. But I do believe our confidence in this political process and in political parties all but borders on being idolatrous. Bear with me a little.

I remember in Ohio, almost everyone I knew was a staunch Republican. And this included Mennonites (of which I was a part) who voted. I remember one particular uncle, a good man and Christian, yes- a Mennonite, who was a strong supporter of President Richard Nixon. I still remember the day, even though vaguely, when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency, really, in disgrace over Watergate. This should have been a wakeup call for Christians, particularly for evangelicals, of which I am a part.

Instead evangelicals began to band together to form a political influence that could carry clout right up to the White House. Of course President Jimmy Carter was the first evangelical president. And President Ronald Reagan came in, not without significant support from evangelicals, many who then left the Democratic party to register as Republicans. And Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell was in full force. Seemed like the tide was turning in our nation. Surely we would get rid of Roe v Wade and see the good, right policies of the Republican party prevail.

Well, here we are. It's now 2006. What can we say about the state of our nation? I know I'm jumping ahead, and not even mentioning President Clinton and his eight years in the White House. Much can be said politically about that time, as well as any other time. But back to our question. What good has all our political maneuvering, campaigning, fighting, voting and devotion done? I say, very little. And I'm not advocating that we should not vote. I believe every American ought to vote, or at least study or know something about the candidates and issues.

All I'm saying in this post is that we in the Jesus community no less- here in America, tend to put too much confidence in politicians and the political process.

What is needed is nothing less than a revolution. But not from either the Democrats or Republicans or some other political party or entity. Oh, we'd do well to want to see them all turned on their heads, for that matter.

No. What we need is a major revolution in seeing the kingdom of God in Jesus have an impact through us, as the Jesus community, first in our homes, then in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and in all spheres of life to which God calls us.

To get an idea of what this revolution would look like we should read and meditate on Matthew 5-7, for a start. If we concentrated on living this out, we would not put so much stock in the political process. We would not be sweating over who is going to win what race. We would know that these things can have their place. That God can truly be at work in them (look at William Wilberforce). But that the way of Jesus and the kingdom of God is a way that will cross out the ways of the world. It will run counter to it in how we live in Jesus. And we will be calling people to and endeavoring to live in no less than Jesus and his teaching.

If you sense a call into the political process, by all means go for it. It is a good calling, for specific people, and an important one indeed. But let's see through all the confidence that is placed in mere humans. They are but a breath and all their plans can come to nothing. Let's not go there. And in whatever we do, let us ever be seeking to be followers of Jesus. And be involved in this world as salt and light.

Why is it easy for us Christians to put so much emphasis on the political process? Why, or why not are we mistaken in doing so?


Anonymous said...

Good post.
We need a much more realistic view of what civil government can achieve. The state can only provide a very limited salvation.

Ted Gossard said...

Yes. We certainly need a change of heart as societies, if such practices as slavery and abortion really end and become taboo. Though certainly not discounting the good politics can do, for sure. Thanks for weighing in.

Benjamin Bush Jr. said...

You are absolutely right with your point about what has been accomplished politically in the last 25-30 years.

As far as your suggestion of seeking political office as Christians in order to be salt and light, does it really Honor Christ and advance His cause in this world if, in order to assume public office, we must first violate a direct command of that same Christ?

Jesus tells us to not swear an oath, yet, by law, an offical must take the oath of office before assuming duties.

Is this a sign of the nature of secular politics?

Ted Gossard said...


I just made a rather lengthy reply, tried to publish it, and it was lost. So I'll try again, but this time it will be shorter (I hope).

Thanks. And I appreciate your thought here.

Politics is such a hard undertaking when one considers what seems to be a part of getting bills passed, etc. That is, compromise.

As to taking oaths in the first place (as Bonhoeffer and some Mennonites and the like talk about), I see it as possibly akin to Jesus telling his disciples to go ahead and pay the Temple tax, so as not to offend them, even though by what was right and true, they did not need to do so. Though an unexact parallel, I lean towards looking at oath taking in the same way. Though our words should always be binding, to be sure.

Thanks for weighing in.