For regular readers of my blog, you know that I have a long history of political activity. I learned a great deal from those experiences and am grateful for that. I also learned some things that make me glad I’m no longer in politics professionally.
Now that I’m in ministry, all that politics is brushed away, right? Not. Not even close. In fact, in many ways, it’s much more difficult. I have a fine line to walk when I preach and when I wear a collar publicly representing the church.
I’m not a big fan of pastors taking up partisan arms for a political party. I can understand why some do, but I think it blurs the line of what we are. Are we proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus or partisan political party? Are we claiming that our faith is in Jesus, or in some politician in Washington, DC or another capitol?
This of course doesn’t mean faith and politics never intersect. I think that’s a big naive and dangerous too. We are called to be in the world and call out injustice. And often that happens in political ways.
When I see pastors that make excuses for politicians or political parties – for what they stand for, or the policies they promote – I have to wonder. Are they a partisan preacher preaching the good news of political party with its vision for how the nation will look when the party has power? I recently saw a video of a conservative pastor who was praising the current administration in Washington and made comparisons of the president’s leadership style with Jesus. I’m not sure what that had to do with the preaching of the Good News, but I do know that it advanced the Gospel of the administration.
Likewise, I remember pastors equating the previous administration with Jesus too – labeling the president as a messiah-like figure. Again, I’m not sure why that was necessary or how that promoted the kingdom of God. It sounded more like the advancement of the kingdom of partisan political party.
Where does our faith lie? Where is our hope? If it is in Jesus, then partisan politics can be seen for what it is – secondary. It is certainly not to be ignored. But neither should we put all of our attention and energy to it either. When we do that – when we obsess about politics and give it all of our attention, then we have made it into a god.
When our politics becomes the basis for our decision-making, when we feel the need to pay attention to every tweet and press conference and announcement from a politician or political party, when we believe that we will have a brighter future (almost heavenly) if only we fund a specific candidate and work to get them in office – then I have to wonder where our faith lies? Where does our hope lie? When politicians supposedly have all the answers to all of life’s questions and problems, then where is there room for mystery and faith? What is the point of faith at all then?
Too often I have seen Christians who are well-meaning turn to partisan politics. I get it. I’ve been there. Religion and politics are not very different at all. Both offer a vision for the future – of what is possible. Both deal with immaterial things. Both offer a gospel message. Both claim to be able to save people.
By all means, participate in politics. It’s how we advance policies. But be careful. When politics becomes the center and the foundation for making decisions, for the way we live our life, for how we spend our money and attention, then know that we have just exchanged our faith in God with a faith in a broken humanity.