Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why Politics Still Matter For Non-Political Christians

"So far, I don’t see evangelical Christians being very shrewd about the political world, shrewd enough to protect their own interests with a candidate who can’t win without them. And that’s the reality. Romney can’t win without you; it’s not that you can’t win without Romney. May we never forget the order of things! And may we never stop thinking carefully about what “winning” is. Winning isn’t the election of a Republican. Winning is the advancement of the gospel, the sewing of a biblical vision of the ‘good life’ in American life and culture, the strengthening and spread of the cause of Christ through His Church, a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and holiness. That’s a far loftier goal than either electing Romney or defeating Obama, and it doesn’t depend on who “wins” the election when neither candidate really represents you."
--Thabiti Anyabwile 

I am truly grateful to Brother Tyrell Samuels who let me know about the wonderful article where the above quotation is found.  I'm also grateful and encouraged that Pastor Anyabwile, while somewhat disgruntled at the selection between the major political parties, wasn't endorsing a total retreat from politics altogether.  Instead, he confessed his own need for a "new political sojourn".  Many Christians are  feeling a lot like a certain 4 year old girl who has gotten a lot of press lately-- we're all tired of President Obama and Gov. Romney's campaign.  But hopefully you'll find a few reasons to stay engaged with the process during AND between elections.

1.  A nation's politics reflects a nation's respect for the truth.  Think about it.  Would we be seeing half-baked commercials if either major party actually respected the public?  The American voter has been treated to two major distortions that have a smattering of truth in them: A) President Obama doesn't think entrepreneurs "built" their own companies  B) Gov. Romney was lumping/mingling war veterans and the mentally disabled in with his statement about "the 47 percent".  

But we live the time of "gotcha" politics-- it's not about discovering what a person really means in context.  Politics is about how to snatch your opponents words to make them fit YOUR narrative.  This means that the politicians and their handlers know that most citizens are either too lazy, distracted, disinterested, etc. to research a claim for themselves.  Or, it could mean that they are certain they don't have to convince "the base" with truth.  Just give them reminders of what they're already indoctrinated to believe (Republicans will kill old people and love the rich, Democrats will make us look weak in Foreign Affairs and destroy business, etc).   

As Christians, we dare not be deceived into thinking that this kind of problem is self-contained in politics.  When people totally mangle the Scriptures because they've always heard but never read "judge not, lest you be judged" for themselves, it's the same disease but in a different realm.  A fever at work is a fever at home too.  Therefore, if we're willing to stand for truth in our churches, demanding contextual accuracy in the pulpit, we ought to demand it from public officials as well.

2.  National politics is a main contributor to the use and abuse of language.  "A woman's right to choose".  "All military options are on the table".  "Government shouldn't choose who you should or shouldn't love".  "Perhaps I misspoke."  We could go on and on.  There are dozens of phrases that are now "political-speak" and Christians had better be aware of those statements.  If nothing else, the disciple of Christ who is hoping to broaden their influence for Christ needs to stay on top of these mind-bending statements so that they know how to counter them.  For example...

One of my least favorite among the jargon is the statement, "A woman has a right to do as she pleases with her body."  This is political-speak for, "If a woman wants to end the human life in her womb, she has a right to do so."  But the earlier statement is used because of the implications for the so-called "pro-life" position.  If you're against elective abortions (an elective abortion means that the abortion procedure is  not necessary to save the life of the mother), it means you want to control a woman's body and think that she shouldn't have a say over her own body.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a "pro-life" libertarian-leaning individual, I firmly support a woman's right to do what she wants with her body.  I'm against that woman harming the body of another- specifically the human body that is naturally housed within her as a result of sexual relations.  I don't need a Bible verse to prove that a fetus (which is the Latin word for "infant")  is alive-- that's why they have to kill him/her.  I don't need a pastor to know that the baby is a human (human parents can't make anything else).  So unless someone can produce evidence that an unborn child committed a capital offense, they shouldn't be executed- especially without due process.

I'll mention this in passing:  I am equally displeased with the idea that a candidate can be "pro-life" and at the same time endorse preemptive military strikes.  The kind of carnage produced by unnecessary, unconstitutional wars (no declaration of war by congress), doesn't come from a truly pro-life perspective.

3. Political images are carefully chosen to make arguments that could not be won with words.  If you live in Maryland like me, you've recently been flooded with flyers regarding Question 6 and "marriage equality".  My wife and I had noted how the first flyers were simply beautiful pictures of the First Family and some quotations about "the freedoms we hold dear".  No actual content on the issues, just pictures and the imperative: Vote  Yes on Question 6!

But then I saw a more recent flyer.  It had a picture of newborn twins and presumably the same twins as children.  The two pictures talking about how much the same they are being born minutes apart and that the law should treat them equally.  But then, the twins are adults in the third and final picture.  It is then that we are told one of them is denied her dream and because she's a lesbian, the laws are unfair for her.  Therefore, we should vote "yes" for question 6.    

It's a stroke of genius because what's said in pictures could not be successfully argued with words.  The photos in that arrangement with that narrative backdrop implies that the lesbian was "born that way".  And so, through no fault of her own, her behavior and choices already locked in, she needs my vote to set her free to marry.  When you have a good photographer and a decent writer, you don't need a scientist.  

Remember the Zeitgeist movie?  Much of the power in that presentation was the similarity of imagery between mystery religions and early symbols associated with Christianity.  In modern America, images aren't merely evidence.  Pictures are proof.  I know Zeitgeist is already considered old, but trust me, there's another documentary coming that will go viral and shake many.  

So as I see it, the political realm is a crucial one for Christians to participate in because it's a barometer for where the nation is and is headed.  I'm going to vote because God could have given me Haitian parents who were in Haiti at the time of my birth.  But He didn't.  He gave me Haitian parents who lived in NYC so I know I'm a U.S. citizen by His sovereign choice.  I don't think He made me a citizen so that I wouldn't vote.  That's my conviction.

The vote is a public expression of a private opinion.  So, if you choose not to vote and have good reasons, I would urge you not to keep those reasons to yourself.  Have the courage to influence the various circles you are in and be willing to both speak and listen.  If you are a Christian determined to vote, I challenge you to worship God (not the government) with your vote.  Honor Him by having a free conscience, being assured that the platform of the candidate you choose is as close to God-honoring, biblical principles as possible.  Don't worry about which candidate wins, make it your aim to vote to the glory of God.     

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