While global warming remains controversial among conservatives, something we can probably all agree on is a phenomenon I call, “Washington Warming.” The hot season has come a little early this time around, but as presidential campaigns get underway, the political atmosphere heats up; as it does, Christians need to keep our cool. Allow me to explain . . .
The best way for Christians to contribute to the political life of our country is to keep to the big picture. Faith informs politics, but not the other way around. Faith is bigger than politics, partisanship, and personalities. God’s ways (“faith”) are infinitely higher than man’s ways (politics). That doesn’t excuse apathy and disengagement. Faith propels us towards politics, but not beneath it.
Christians end up beneath politics when we let politicians and political powers drive our thinking, our actions, and our anxieties. This happens when we see the political as the be all and end all. I cringe when I hear Christians say, “If Congress doesn’t pass this law, we’re through,” and, “If the Supreme Court issues this ruling, we’re done!” or, “If the President orders that, we’re finished.” How could any of this possibly be? No earthly, human, limited potentate possesses absolute or ultimate authority over anything, let alone the future of humankind!
There is only, “one Lord.” (See Ephesians 4:5) and, “he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) When we assign ultimate and absolute outcomes to the machinations of human actors, we diminish in our own minds the absolute and ultimate power of God. This is a form of idolatry, and it is a sin and a heresy.
Christians need to be engaged in the political process at all levels, from simply being informed, to voting, to attending town hall gatherings, to running for office. In all of this, we must assiduously maintain a faith perspective. Our anchor must be the Bible, the model of Christ, historic Christian moral teaching, and prayerful reflection. These must must be our only ultimate reference points.
The dirty side to politics in unavoidable. After 21 years in Capitol Hill, I know it too well. Voting blocks will be identified, categorized, marketed to, exploited, and manipulated. It’s the nature of the business. Even if the candidate doesn’t approve of this activity, the thousands of businesses and individuals that stand to make millions of dollars off of campaigns will do what they need to do to outshine their competition, and that means yank you and me around.
We must not play their game or let them play us. Instead, we need to be the voice of conscience and confidence at the table. We know the rules, because they were given to us on Mount Sinai and at Capernaum. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, together with all of Holy Scripture, constitute the only ultimate and absolute platform for every part of the Christian life, including the political.
When it comes to the anxieties attendant to the political season, we must remember to, “Never worry about anything. Instead, in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. “ (Philippians 4:6) I love these words of Paul because they’re not only emphatic, they’re optimistic. He tells us to include “thanksgiving,” presumably because God will and does answer, but in His time and in His way.
As this political season continues, we must be informed and engaged, but we must also be cool. In the end, God will have His way, whether we like it or not.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)