Saturday, September 29, 2012
Some Myths About Politics
Special thanks to Dr. Jeff Myers, PhD, of Summit Ministries for this great insight! Check out Summit at www.summit.org!
Over time four myths have developed that keep Christians in a state of suspended animation when it comes to political involvement. Worse, some consider their adherence to these myths as virtuous, viewing their passivity as an exalted state. Let's take a look at each of the four myths as well as the biblical reality that breaks the spell under which many Christians have fallen.
Myth #1: "God doesn't care about politics."
Saying "God doesn't care about politics" is a kind of "get out of argument free" card when under withering assault from the secular elite. It is the equivalent of saying, "Yes, I am a Christian but the one true God doesn't care about politics, so please don't judge me by the political viewpoints of my fellow believers." God cares about politics because He cares about everything. The reality is that God is concerned with His glory, and Psalm 57 says that His glory covers all of the earth.
Washington, D.C., and your state capital are not black holes where no concern need be taken for God's glory. As Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers said, "It is inconceivable that God would ordain government and then ask His people to stay out of it."
This is not to say that Christians should get involved in politics merely to claim their fair share of power. Rather, involvement proceeds from this: the end of every life pursuit is to know God and make Him known. Politics is a form of discipleship, our involvement in which helps shape us into the image of Christ.
Myth #2: "It's not my problem."
Let's say you walk in the break room at work and it's a mess. You have several choices, including cleaning it up or using the occasion to inspire others to an ethic of cleanliness. But most of us would be tempted to say, "I didn't make this mess - I'm not cleaning it up at all." It seems entirely fair and reasonable that we would respond this way.
In terms of community, though, the problems faced by some are ultimately going to be faced by all. In a democratic republic the people - not government employees - are in charge. Problems that aren't solved while small become bigger ones we'll have to face later. It's like the auto mechanic in the commercial who admonishes viewers to get their oil changed: "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later."
It's not enough merely to refrain from bad behavior. No one has ever received
a good citizen award by virtue of disciplining himself to not rob convenience stores. Public virtue means choosing to do good, at personal expense, as an example to our fellows and for the sake of those who come after us. We must do this. As
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
Myth #3: "Choosing between the lesser of two evils is evil."
Of all the objections Christians lodge against political involvement, this one sounds the most noble: "I refuse to traffic in evil, and politics is evil; therefore my passivity is virtuous."
The reality though, may surprise you: Politics is evil - just like you and me. We live in a fallen world. And it is not that Christians are the pure few who must simply bear the weight of evil perpetrated by others. Romans 3:10 says, "None is righteous, no, not one." Proclaiming that a person running for office is the "lesser of two evils" is to deny at some level the truth about our own state before God. As theologian RC Sproul often says, all of us are really a lot more like Adolf Hitler than we are like Jesus Christ.
"But," you protest, "are we not capable of discerning the difference between good and evil?" Certainly. But let's look at the "choosing the lesser of two evils" statement in the light of our sin nature:
1. Choice. Making politics about a one-time choice, a vote, is misguided. After voting, we acknowledge the authority of our public officials and do good to them.
2. Lesser. To say that both candidates are evil and one marginally less so is to misuse the principle of discerning good from evil. The entire world is fallen. All our choices - not just political ones - are corrupted.
3. Evil. Romans 12:21 says "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." The word "overcome" in Greek is nikao which means to have superiority over. We are to be so proactive in doing good that evil loses its grip.
Myth #4: "Politics doesn't matter."
Virtue has a public component, not just a private one. Unwise political policies have destroyed the lives of tens of millions of people. Wise policies have brought freedom to tens of millions.
Properly conceived, politics offers a platform from which to encourage virtue, and virtue is at the heart of good government. To those who think it is only about liberty, consider the warning of the great British statesman Edmund Burke: "But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint."
The big things America is proud of - the freeing of oppressed peoples around the world, the welcoming of the "poor, huddled masses yearning to be free," the right of people to live their lives and carry out their business without the threat of unlawful search and seizure - all of these are political products that came about only when good people got involved in politics.
It's safe to say that there is not a single act you take in any given day that is not either facilitated or hampered by political decision-making at some level. Most of us have never really thought about it, and that's part of the problem. Thomas Paine said "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly."