The political arena is a bigger cage fight than we think.
Our entire country is suffering from the ill-effects of politicization. For instance, the recent wave of explosive devices sent to high level Democrats. The selective shooting of Republicans at a baseball game last year. Not to mention the use of natural catastrophes and crimes as political talking points until the victims are all but dehumanized.
In these cases and more, people are acting as though their only hope in life is that their party wins. Under this kind of pressure, they do crazy things, like a sports team that starts to feel like it’s losing and begins making illegal hits on the other side. We need the truth of Jesus to make sense of the situation, so we don’t get sucked into the same downward spiral.
In this post, I’ll only have time to nibble at this subject, because a true democracy like the U.S. is complicated, requiring a lot of time and wisdom to navigate.
First of all, never assume that the American political forum is neutral, as though everyone involved in it is selfless, and seeking only the good of the country. As shown in Psalm 2:1-5, there’s a reason for the present political turmoil.
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure
According to these verses, the nations are busy trying to get rid of God’s authority over them as shown in the determination to break bonds and cast away cords. There’s no neutrality in that struggle.
Americans wonder how verses like these reconcile with the idea of separation of church and state, but that is not really the issue. While we try however tenuously, to separate the visible institutions of church and state, There is no separation of religion and politics.1
Politics refer to the arrangement of community and community interactions. But underlying all such political opinions is something deeper—religion—even if said religious ideals don’t involve God at all.
How could religion not involve a god? Easy. Consider Buddhism. No god is worshiped in that system, yet Buddhism is ranked as a major world religion. In fact, “religion may be defined as a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements.”2
Everybody has those. Atheists included.
That’s where the rage is coming from in Psalm 2—political forces fight God based upon attitudes and beliefs about Him. Everyday, people from our various political parties push agendas on a raft of religious beliefs—inviolable worldviews, so deeply held that they are religious in nature. So when political clashes swirl around our country like a hurricane, it’s really a clash of religions, a virtual battlefield of gods ultimately aimed at getting rid of the real God.
It’s easy to overlook this dynamic. Recently, a senator on the senate judiciary committee was questioning a law professor who had been nominated for a place on a circuit court. The nominee also happened to be Roman Catholic. The senator expressed misgivings about the nominee’s faith, saying, “Your dogma lives loudly within you.”
That’s another way of saying, “Your deeply held beliefs are a disqualifying factor.” But what was missed that day, was how the senator’s dogma was living loudly in her, that is, her deep devotion to a secular society, where, if there is a god, that god has no influence on our morals, our thoughts, or our decisions. Though not immediately apparent, her objection was theological. It was bad theology, but theology nonetheless.
Neutrality is an illusion. As a Christian voter, the next time you feel compelled to back off because you don’t want to impose your religious views on others, remember that they will be very happy to impose their religious views on you.
Secondly, we shouldn’t trust any party to be completely right.
Each of them starts off in a good place, but taken to the extreme, each also has a trajectory that ends up in rebellion against God. For instance, the Republican party tries to emphasize traditional values, and some of these roughly approximate Christian teaching. That’s good.
But at the other end of the trajectory, that same party ends up not keeping the very values it purports to stand for. For instance, traditional marriage. I believe natural law demonstrates the case for traditional marriage, Scripture teaches it, and Jesus defined it in Matthew 19 as a life-long union between a man and a woman. But some of those who most loudly trumpet this belief have been in and out of multiple marriages and divorces (not on biblical grounds), and have been caught in sex scandals, and adultery. That’s not traditional marriage.
When we tell everyone that we believe in something and that it should be normative, yet don’t do it ourselves, that’s hypocrisy, a sin Jesus combated relentlessly—especially among those who were of a conservative bent.
Then there’s the Democratic party, which also begins in a good place—compassion and equality for people. Those are important Christian values. Jesus Himself said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Likewise, Paul showed us in Ephesians 2 that the middle wall of division between races has been broken down by the cross of Christ, forever disallowing racism.
But eventually the Democratic trajectory goes to a place where not only people, but everything else is equal, including moral constructs. The individual becomes the final arbiter of what is normal, even if it is bizarre, and contradicts reality. Gender for instance, is viewed as a fluid state of mind rather than obvious biological fact. An unborn child can be depersonalized to a fetus, or promoted to the status of “baby” solely based on the preference of its mother. It is delusional to think reality must obey our whims. Jesus would say to such a mindset, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).
In either case, with either party, there’s an extreme, where something good eventually becomes an idolatrous challenge against the Lord and His Anointed. God’s response:
6 “Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”
While all the raging goes on, God has set his King in the place of supreme power. The inaugural moment is mentioned in the next verse.
7 “I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.”
From the beginning, Jesus was God’s Son, but God made this announcement afresh when He raised Christ from the dead. Jesus Christ is now King based upon His being God’s Son through resurrection. If we want to know who is in charge today, we only need ask who has died for our sins, and then risen from the dead.
God says to His appointed King,
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron;
You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”
10 Now therefore, be wise, O kings;
Be instructed, you judges of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
Verse 9 indicates that the raging, rebellion, and smart-mouthing of the nations will come to an end as the Son breaks them in pieces. And so in verse 10 there’s a warning to all the politicians and their nations who reject the Son, to turn and serve Him, rejoice before Him, and even kiss Him. The only trustworthy alignment is with Christ.
At an earlier stormy political era, a man named Charles Colson served as special counsel to President Richard Nixon. Colson was known as Nixon’s hatchet man. Due to his political wizardry, voices in his own party referred to him as “the evil genius.” He once said he would run over his own grandmother to get Nixon reelected.
But later Colson saw where such unqualified trust in the political system went. The trajectory led him right to the middle of the Watergate scandal, and then, prison. However, Colson heard the gospel and believed in Christ. He shifted his trust from the kings of the earth to the King. The rest of his life was spent learning to serve Him, rejoice in Him, and Kiss Him.
Let’s all learn something from Chuck, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 80. Hopefully, we’ll discover like he did, that faith in Christ not only has a good starting point—regeneration—but a trajectory that ends in glory.
In the aftermath of an election, what should we do?
First, humility, not triumphalism, is the order of the day. Remember that your party has in the past taken plenty of turns defying God through ungodly attitudes and disobedient policies. That’s nothing to be proud of.
Second, keep church fellowship a fellowship of the kingdom of God. Too many congregations have allowed secular politics to enter and turn the saints against one another. Before you begin openly pontificating on candidates or issues, know that not everyone voted as you did, and that Christian unity will never be found on Capitol Hill.
Honor your country, and obey the governing authorities (Rom. 13) according to the will of God. Let’s tone down the anti-American rhetoric. You’re blessed to be here in this country, and at any given moment, ten thousand people in this world would love to switch places with you. If an election didn’t go your way, tell the Lord you still trust him, because, “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”
1I’ve adapted this thought from Jonathan Leeman’s excellent book, How the Nations Rage. For a much better and professional analysis of the political process from the Christian perspective, I highly recommend it.
2This definition came from Wikipedia, but don’t judge me too harshly. I checked several scholarly sources, and found this one the most inclusive.