For a long time now I have been struggling to articulate my beliefs about the link between faith and politics. Amid so many loud voice preaching political parties and all the trappings of that kind of affinity, saying anything against them (or it, really) is to be taken as siding with their enemy, the other guys. On top of that, anything that derides the whole process and the institutions that it supports is taken advocacy of apathy, regressing into anarchy, its often violent party expression.
Historically, it is a slam-dunk that putting ecclesiastical persons into positions of great power is 100% disastrous.
This week I saw a Facebook sharing by a relative that was so inaccurate,even in its association of issues with parties, that I had somewhat of an epiphany – a Eureka! moment. It has become clear to me that people like to fight in their ideologies. That is, the combat of words and ideas, none of them original or even well thought-out, provides some level of personal significance when those ideas are advanced through successful voting. And what is achieved is, in a word: control.
When the Moral Majority came into prominence I was a very young Christian. As someone who was new to the faith, I listened intently to the scriptural arguments for their stances and actions and was without defense or alternative. It all sounded right, and “right” is the way it leaned politically. So that was what it meant to follow Jesus – think and vote like that.
I will not in this entry, even talk about agreeing with this or that stance on this or that issue; it’s completely irrelevant to the underlying error of the Church of Jesus Christ, because the goal in political striving is not the same as the goal of Jesus Christ.
I’m putting the finishing touches on a musical setting of The Beatitudes. God willing, I will be recording a string quartet and a singer (or multiple singers) soon and posting the production on Youtube. The lyrics all come from Matthew 5:3-12
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven
It’s an amazing passage, full of endorsement of a life that is completely contrary to the systems of this world. It defines the life of the life of the believer. But one of the blesseds is this: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Now, those who pursue political power will say they are pursuing righteousness, both right and left. But both choose those issues that matter and choose their stance on those issues based upon their tribal beliefs and ideology.
I would say unequivocally that they are not pursuing righteousness first and foremost but control. The reasoning they use is this “If we can elect officials who will make laws to govern the land then we will control the bad behavior of our political enemies, throwing them in jail if need be, to advance our cause.”
This is not hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The difference between the two is that real Christian righteousness has people surrendering control to God. That is fundamental. And it starts with me, not you. It does extend to you, even as (or before) I am anything resembling righteous, because it’s God’s work, not mine. But it is independent of human power; we must get that right.
As Jesus told Pilate:
John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
What I am advocating is not an abandonment of political advocacy or activism, but a cleansing of the motives believers who are so drawn. For example, we can’t just be against abortion, we need to help unwed mothers have and raise babies (and we are, praise God). We can’t just be anti-anything without addressing the problems that led to it or result from it. It’s messy but it’s what disciples are called to.
As for tribal conflicts we must redefine the battlefield or simply lose. It’s not for the masses, it’s for the individual. For the battle to belong to the Lord, we must hunger for people to come to Him, not just be conquered by our larger vote count.