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Monday, September 3, 2012

Christians and Politics: Lord Help!

Things are heating up in the 2012 Presidential Campaign between President Obama and Governor Romney. Attack ads from both candidates aimed at the other are all over the radio and television. The amount of money spent on these advertisements is enough to feed a third world country for years to come. Frankly, this over-spending sickens me. It is nearly impossible to tune into the news and get an unbiased, fact-based, spin-free take on each candidate’s social, economic, and military policies. The volatility, angst, and demonizing that fuels this campaign is, at first glance, hopelessly unredeemable. However, upon closer inspection, this emotionally charged political context is a field perfectly ripe for the Church and the optimistic hope she extends. So my advice is not to disengage from the political pessimism, but to engage it with values reflecting the kingdom of God. Here are a few things for followers of Christ to keep in mind as November nears:

·         Be known more for your allegiance to Christ than your political affiliation. There are some Christians among us who are known in their workplace and neighborhood, even their church, more for their Democratic ideals or Republican vision than for their Christian faith. Our number one commitment is to the often counter-cultural values of Christ’s kingdom not to the politics of our party. Whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent, certain policies of your party clearly do not always align with Christ. We gain credibility and Christ gets exalted when we admit this. If I asked someone in your office, neighborhood, or extended family to tell me what makes you tick, would they mention the Prince of Peace or your political party?

·         Always avoid political hate-speech. I have heard preachers from the pulpit call certain politicians the anti-Christ. More often, I have observed long-time Christians talking about Hillary Clinton or George Bush with venomous hatred in their voices and words. It may be okay for a reporter on Fox or CNN to use hate-speech, but when used by a Christ-follower it diminishes their witness to the world concerning the God of love. I am not at all suggesting that in the name of love we never speak out against the social and economic injustices of a politician or a party. I am suggesting that our naming of injustice should never turn into childish name-calling.

·         Don’t be a lemming. A lemming is defined as “a person who unthinkingly joins a mass movement.” Forgive me for the potential offensiveness of this imagery, but I tire of watching Christians simply take their political cues from others without critically and prayerfully thinking through the issues. While I sometimes appreciate the political commentary of people like James Dobson, the late Chuck Colson, Tony Campolo, and Shane Claiborne, it would be inauthentic and perhaps foolish to buy into their political convictions cart blanche without thinking through and developing our own. Perhaps your wrestling through the political issues with the help of Scripture and prayer will lead you to some different, and maybe even better convictions.         

As always I welcome your thoughts, even and especially if they conflict with my own.