I’m going to be completely honest with you right now: I don’t want to write this article. I hate that I have to. And no, Drew isn’t forcing me. The current state of Christians in politics are. I’d hate to compare myself to Paul, because I’m nowhere the man that he was, but I understand where he was coming from when he wrote to the different churches, exasperated by how they were displaying Christ.
It’s frustrating, honestly, to look at how the church is handling things. I know this article will not make me popular– in fact, I guarantee that it won’t, but I’m not going to sugarcoat things to prevent feelings from getting hurt. With all that’s been going on in the news, especially with what happened in Charlottesville, Boston, and everywhere else right now, we need to have a talk.
My History with Politics
Since about eighth grade, I’ve been extremely interested in politics. It’s a messy game and it really does bring out the worst in people, but it’s fascinating to me. I grew up in a Conservative home, as I imagine many of you did, and, therefore, my views turned out to be primarily Conservative. I argued from a Republican school of thought, and that was that. I honestly couldn’t comprehend how people could be a Democrat and a Christian. I, like many people do today, viewed Christianity and Republicanism as two peas in a pods. I parroted opinions heard on Fox like a good little Conservative and believed in them wholeheartedly for no other reason than because that’s what I thought I should do.
As I got older, I started to think more about what I believed. Not what my parents believed. Not what the media said I should believe. But what I believe. How did I feel about what was going on in the government? Did I really support the people I said I did?What did I think of ‘x’ when it came down to it? I got to the point where I was genuinely concerned with my own views. I’m going to keep them out of play here, because that’s not what this is about. However, since about my Junior year of high school, I’ve identified and signed on as Libertarian or a Moderate (insert jokes about both here).
I honestly credit this shift in my way of thinking to the people in my life around that time. In eighth grade, I really wasn’t a popular kid, so I spent a lot of time on forums. I would get into politically-heated debates a lot and end up looking the fool. Still, I wouldn’t give up, though. I was headstrong and wouldn’t so much as even try to understand the other side of the isle. To say I was ignorant was an understatement. It wasn’t until some guys I greatly admired called me out on this. They told me that if I wanted to competently debate, I needed to understand all sides of the argument. This was like a light bulb moment for me and my cognition shifted, for the better, I’d say.
Dehumanizing Your ‘Opponent’
There’s a lot to cover in this article, so please bear with me. I wanted to give you a bit of a history on myself to let you know where I come from in this political realm. To start, though, I want to hit on that last point that I made:
I needed to understand all sides of the argument.
One of the biggest problems with politics today is a lack of empathy towards the other person. Many people like to demonize the other side; it makes it easier to yell at someone and treat them as less-than-human if you don’t even view them as a human. The school I went to was primarily Republican (it’s just the nature of a Christian private school) and so I heard other students talk about how ‘evil’ all Democrats were. You’d think they were some Lovecraftian-horror monster based on how people described them! It’s just as true on the other side, though, too. Liberals insist that all Conservatives are evil and heartless racists.
You may be thinking “I don’t think they’re all like that.” But I’d beg to disagree. When you ascribe an adjective to a label like that, you automatically go into every encounter with someone under that designation with a preconceived notion. Simply put, when you say that the general population of Conservatives/Liberals are evil, then you go into every encounter with one of them, assuming the worst. And you know what? You’re going to see the worst. You’ll see what you want to see.
It’s intellectually dishonest to make these assumptions, but we all do it. Every single one of us has biases that we need to face every single day. We have to overcome them and it’s not easy. It has to be a conscious decision. But honestly, what is the problem with this? Why is this such a bad thing?
When you convince yourself that the other person isn’t just wrong, but heartless, evil, racist, etc., then the dynamic shifts. You’re no longer debating, you’re trying to be a hero and defeat the villain. It’s not a debate at that point; it’s a war. In this war, however, no one wins. You don’t try to understand the ‘enemy,’ you just want to defeat them.
Understanding Your ‘Opponent’
In psychology, we’re never content with just solving the surface issue. Someone is depressed? Okay. We’ll help with the symptoms, but we also want to find the underlying cause. Is it family strife? Personal conflict? Mental disorders? Whatever the case, we want to figure out the what and the why.
It should be the same way when you’re talking politics. Here’s an example: let’s say someone is for abortion, instead of calling them a babykiller, try to understand why. I’m personally against abortion in all cases, but whenever talking with someone on the issue, I want to understand why they feel the way they do. Maybe they feel like someone is trying to control their body whenever someone proposes banning abortion. Maybe they had some trauma in the past where someone controlled them in a perverse way, so the very idea of someone saying that they have a say on what happens to them causes them immense stress. Maybe she was going to have a baby, but it almost killed her and having an abortion saved her, despite it causing her immense psychological trauma to kill her baby.
These are extreme examples, but I hope you see where I’m coming from. There’s always a reasoning behind someone’s beliefs. When you start to figure out why they think the way they do, you begin to see them as human. I can’t relate to any of those issues, but I can empathize. I can try to put myself in their shoes. While I don’t agree with abortion and actively speak out against it, I’m not going to assume the other person is just some heartless monster that enjoys seeing babies killed.
This scares us, though. When we start to think of the other person as an actual human being with problems, issues, and stress, then we can no longer view them as evil and try to destroy them. Instead, we’re forced to empathize with them. And yea, empathy takes work. To try to seek out the other person’s reasoning isn’t easy. But as Christians, we aren’t called to take the easy road. If you really want to show the love of Christ, show people that you care enough to hear them out and try to understand them.
No True Scotsman
Look, there is a right way and a wrong way to be a Christian. There are certain guidelines to follow and certain criteria to meet in order to be classified as one. I hear Christians on both sides of the isle, however, state that the other can’t possibly be a Christian for one reason or another. For the left, it’s that the right doesn’t care about the poor. For the right, it’s that the left are baby killers. They say that because of these things, the other person isn’t a real Christian. We act like one of these is true and the other is false, but what if they’re both true? I’m not going to get into an abortion debate in this article; I refuse. However, I do not believe that you can be a Christian and, in good conscience, be okay with the murdering of a life. I just can’t. Hate on me for it all you want, but it’s the truth. Now that I’ve said that, half of you will hate me and the other half will be on my side, but hold on, I’m not going to make any friends with this article.
One of the biggest opposing arguments to abortion for an unwanted baby is to put it up for adoption. But you know what those people arguing for adoption would never do? Adopt a kid. “Someone else will do it, just not me,” or “if God wanted me to, he would give me the means,” you say as you sit on your Macbook or iPhone reading this article. The fact of the matter is, we live in quite possibly the wealthiest country in the world. A majority of churchgoing Christians can afford quite a few luxuries. If you can afford a new iPhone every time one comes out, you can afford to adopt a kid that needs a family to show them the love of Jesus. If you’re arguing against abortion and you say that adoption is a viable alternative, but you’d never consider adopting, is it really an alternative? On average on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 kids in the foster system.
Further, to those on the left advocating for higher taxes to help those in need, when was the last time you personally gave out of your own pocket? It’s delusional to think that the government gives 100% of the money you’re taxed on to people who need it. It’s also delusional to think that because you support welfare programs through your taxes, that you’re doing what Christ would have wanted in helping the poor. If you’re so down on Republicans for being obsessed with money and not willing to help those in need, then you better make sure your checkbook matches what you preach. If you’re not willing to voluntarily part with your money to help someone on the street, then you involuntarily “helping” does nothing. Even a prisoner of the state is forced to do community service.
I understand that these things can be expensive. It’s our money, we want to hold on to it, right? We worked for it and seeing it vanish is disheartening. The fact is, though, we tend to live above our means already. Based on stats from the IRS in 2014, the average American income can range from $35K to $118K (based on marital status and how they file their taxes). Based on a survey from the BLS, Americans tend to spend 94% of their income each year. I want you to think about what you spend your money on. How often do you spend it on essentials and how often do you spend it on luxuries? I know that I rarely spend my money on things I need to survive. A lot of what we as Americans spend our money on are things we see and want, not need. If you want a good indication of where your heart is, take a look at your bank statement.
I know that these are not the only two differences that people get hung up on, but they are two of the biggest ones I hear a lot. While I don’t think you can be a Christian if you support the killing of unborn children, I also don’t think you can be a Christian if you turn a blind eye to the poor, the helpless, and those in need.
So we just talked about how money can tend to be a bit of an idol… okay, it’s an idol. But so are politicians. Many times, we are willing to overlook some of the bad someone has done in favor of the good. This is the case with the lesser of two evils arguments. “Oh, well Trump wasn’t as bad as Hillary,” or vice versa. More than that, we also look at one side, point to their past, and say how disgusting of a person they were while also telling people to ignore the past of our chosen candidates.
While I will argue until the end of time that people start voting third party/independent, I am skeptical that people will. We’re stuck in the lesser of two evils mentality. C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity had some pretty strong words about that, though:
“I feel a strong desire to tell you — and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me — which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs — pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking about which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
We never think about it, but we have made our politicians into gods. We treat them like literal deities. But rather them be holy like Christ, they are more like the Greek gods, fallible and human. I think we’d prefer them to be that way, though. If someone in such a high position of power is fallible and messes up, then our mistakes and mishaps are not nearly as bad. Our humanity isn’t as flawed when we compare it to that of false and broken gods. I’d much rather be judged by a human than by a perfect God.
So we excuse their faults because their faults are are own. Then, we turn a blind eye to theirs and to ours as well. Our politicians are a mirror of us as a people. We elect those that represent us not only in political views, but in personal views as well. Just keep in mind that when the political and social climate is a sewer, don’t be surprised about what rises to the top.
The Church and Politics
I think one of the things that I found extremely disgusting during this political cycle was how people were comparing Donald Trump to a biblical prophet, namely, Nehemiah. Trump is many things, but a biblical prophet is not one of them. A certain pastor said that he would bring America back to its former glory and build our walls up again like Nehemiah did. I actually lost a lot of respect for this man because of it and while I doubt that he cares what one person with one opinion has to say, it was actually a deciding factor on whether or not I wanted to be instructed by him.
Regardless, I believe that the church should be involved in politics. Not like a Theocracy, mind you. However, the church stays silent far too often on issues that we need to speak up against. Instead of backing a candidate who will fail you, back scriptural truths, back ideas, back causes. Yes, our president deserves a certain amount of respect because of the office he holds, and while I will pray for him and hope he does well, I will not blindly back him. Nor will I trust him to do what’s in the best interest for God’s people. Trump isn’t Jesus Christ, guys. Stop treating him like he is. People were kidding themselves if they thought that Trump was going to overturn Roe v. Wade. Your best interests aren’t what he’s thinking of. They wouldn’t have been Hillary’s either.
If you’re tired of the way things are, then you fix them. In an infamous quote, Ghandi once said “our words are backed with nuclear weapons,” but he also once said “be the change you want to see in the world.” Don’t think that others will do it for you. The American Christian church has one of the biggest cases of the Bystander Effect. We’re content to sit by and allow the government or whoever else to take care of what we should be doing. Every church should have some involvement in a homeless ministry. Every church should have a widows ministry. Every church should seek to meet the needs of the people that God has put on this earth. So not only should we speak out on the issues, but we need to back them up with our actions as well.
It’s very telling that we would rather argue than get along and work towards a common goal. I think that the best way to destroy a group, a government, or a nation is to convince its people that the other side is out to get them. Pitting people against each other eliminates the need to do anything as the group tears itself apart. Before you all go yelling “this is what George Soros wants!” and pitching the conspiracy theories (though, you wouldn’t be too far off), this comes down to an individual problem. We would rather be correct and win the argument than be wrong and solve the issue. I think that ultimately, though, there is one thing that we as Christians have done to bring this divisiveness to the forefront of the Christian church.
We have lost sight of the cross of Christ.
We’re not focused on salvation or winning hearts for Christ as much as we are focused on coming out on top. But at what cost? Literally, what is it costing us? Right now, no one’s winning. Not the church, not America, not your individual pride. The only one having any victory would be the devil. How best to stunt the growth of a body than to have its parts destroy each other? The way we’ve injected a toxic political culture into the church is like if a healthy person purposely gave themselves Lupus, which is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks tissues and organs. We think we’re rooting out the disease and defeating the bad body parts when in reality, we are the disease. We are the ones killing the body and rejoicing at the destruction.
This isn’t supposed to make you feel good. I really hope this makes you mad. I want you to want to take action; to take back the church from the toxicity of being “right” and being politically charged in a way that detracts not only from each other but from the goal of Christ.