Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Christians and Politics



At the current time, if you are in the US, you know that we are bitterly divided about one freed prisoner of war. You know that we are divided about the circumstances of his disappearance and those under which he was released. So many among us are engaged in mud-slinging, name-calling, early judgment calls, and hate. What should be a joyous occasion that should unite us all, has bitterly divided us. This isn't the only time we have been divided. It seems that over these past six years, we have been divided over one person and even over if he has the right to hold his position. As Christians, depending on if you support a "social gospel" or believe that we should stick to "personal discipleship only," you probably support one party over the other. If you are outside the US, you probably support your party in the context of your own culture. Is this what we are called to do?

The Current Controversy

In the US, I notice that we are divided and much of it is along party lines. You're doubtless aware of the raging controversy over Bowe Bergdahl, the former POW who had been held in an Afghanistan prison for almost five years. As Christians, many of us may be much concerned with the exchange of five prisoners, as who knows what these men may be let loose to do, especially to other Christians who may be in the line of fire? I'm hearing about numerous accusations of Bergdahl as being a "deserter" and a "traitor." President Obama is being accused of "treason" for "letting out a deserter and a traitor" as well as "letting out terrorists." Those five Gitmo detainees were not, according to reports, involved in the September 11 terrorist bombings. Yes, they are "bad guys." Yet now we are bitterly divided over a homecoming that should be a happy event. It's understandable, because of the circumstances of the former POW's disappearance and his rescue. Or the alleged circumstances. How would God have us respond not only to this but to our differing visions from our two-party system, that tend to cause us to divide so bitterly over hot-button issues and even in the Church?

How Should Faith Influence Our Politics?

It seems to me that in the Christian community, we have the "Christian Right" and the "Christian Left." The Christian Right subscribe to the conservative value system. This belief system holds that government is not the solution to our problems, and is, in fact, the problem. Because of this, it cannot be part of the solution. The exceptions are in the areas which the Christian Right see as core values, such as our right to life (anti-abortion, pro-gun rights), and homosexuality (anti-gay marriage, pro-traditional marriage). Only on these, conservatives hold, should politicians speak into our lives with their policies. The Christian Right seem to hold that all other issues are far less pressing than the two values they perceive as core values. Hence, they believe in "limited government" that emphasizes personal responsibility in all areas of life. In one's Christian life, the person who subscribes to this view seems to stress personal discipleship above social responsibility, making him or her seem indifferent to the human needs of a large portion of hurting humanity. Those who subscribe to the Christian Left value system often call themselves "progressive Christians." This belief system holds that the government has the potential to solve many of our social ills through their policies. Thus, progressive Christians call for what is known as a "consistent life ethic" where all life, and the lives of all people groups, are protected and upheld. Progressive Christians also call for improving the quality of life for all those who are vulnerable, like raising the minimum wage, improving workplace conditions, strengthening government programs, and more. Thus progressive Christians believe that government has a role in our lives while stressing our social responsibility. In our discipleship, progressives tend to stress a social gospel above relationship with God and our responsibility to share our faith. Which side is right? If you read the Bible, and especially explore the life of Jesus, you see that God transcends both worldviews. Just when we think that He supports a conservative worldview, we see His heart for the poor, the sick, the disabled, and sinners. He calls for social responsibility. Just when we think He sympathizes with the Democratic worldview, we see that He hates sin and loves holiness, and calls for personal responsibility. Realistically, when we go vote, we often vote for only one party. We do have the option of voting a split party ticket. Scripture does not tell us how to vote, but we are told to let God rule every area of our lives including our voting. So where does this leave us as Christians and as we think of the division over Bowe Bergdahl?

How Then To Respond To the Current Controversy

We know that Jesus wants all of us, as Christians, to be united. We also know that He calls on us to believe and teach according to the truth. We know that whether we subscribe to the Christian Right or to the Christian Left political worldview, we usually see our politics as better than our neighbor's? Or maybe I'm missing something here? The truth is that neither political party is all right or all wrong. So while we may differ in our politics and on varying issues, including the Bergdahl raging controversy, we can still love each other in Christ despite our political differences. Sadly, this does not always happen. In past months, a Christian personal removed me from her friend's list over a post I made on my Facebook profile, about President Obama. Maybe the split would not have happened if I had sent her my message via my message inbox but maybe it would have anyway. The debate and the person's name are not important; what is important is that a political difference had split up two believers. The US is bitterly divided over Bergdahl but let this controversy not divide us as believers. Bergdahl, after all, has just been accused of desertion and treason. Evidence is still murky in this area. The principles of Scripture call for people to be convicted of crimes only in a court of law through hard evidence. Public opinion does not count. Whatever has happened to patience and impartial justice no matter what our politics?

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