Political Messiahs

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Jollyblogger has a really late followup to the discussions on Christianity and politics that many of us in the Blogdom of God and elsewhere were having a couple months ago. This post manages to express something that I don't think anyone had quite put into words, but I think this was my primary motivation for taking the general outlook I've defended. This new point has to do with where we really find our identity, and it's evidenced by how we react when we don't have much chance to think about our responses.

Jollyblogger thinks many Christians tie together the fortunes of the gospel with a certain political view, more commonly the right but for some the left. Those who think Christian values are threatened when the other party gets in have something right. This is actually true of both parties, though I think the Republican party, especially in the direction it's been heading since 1999 or so, has more of Christian values at its heart, and the Democratic party, especially since 2003, has been moving rapidly in the opposite direction. There Christian values at the heart of the Democratic party, though, and Christians who are more conservative can't forget that without being in danger of losing the gospel.

I remember being at a gathering of evangelical ministers in the Syracuse area a few years back when Syracuse had a mayor who was an outpoken evangelical and I believe during the 2000 election. Someone else there (not one of the pastors) made some presentation about how things were going in a great direction with a Christian mayor and the likelihood of an evangelical president. One of the elders from my congregation spoke up and asked him what he'd say if another mayor came in who was not a Christian and what if an atheist became president and starting implementing policies that would persecute Christians. The guy looked as if the question implied that the world would end soon, but it was supposed to remind him of the perspective that he apparently had never had of Christians throughout history and even currently around the world. The things he thought of as most important for this gathering of pastors to be excited about were quite small in the larger perspective.

This isn't a rare case, though. How many Christians rejoiced when they found out Bush had finally won the 2000 election after all that mess with the recount? What would their reaction have been had Gore won? What will they do if Kerry wins? Anyone who thinks something of gospel importance rests on this election is serving an idol. In many ways both Bush and Kerry will be fine presidents. There are concerns I have with both. I have far more concerns with Kerry on issues I care more about. Both would lead an administration that would commit some injustices. I'm more worried about what Kerry's would be. Both would initiate some good policies. I expect more that I would approve of from Bush. Compare them to Mao, Hitler, Hussein, or Castro, and you realize how unimportant this election is in the light of some other things. I'll upset if Kerry wins. In a post in the last day or so, I was writing about what might be true if Kerry wins. I remember wanting to put some parenthetical remark about how I really hope that doesn't happen, but I decided not to. The reason is because if Kerry wins I believe that will be because God wants him to win, just as I believe he wanted Bush in for this term and Clinton for the two before that. Any Christian who denies that has, in my view, a sub-biblical view of God's sovereignty.

That's not to say that God endorses everything those people have done or believed, but it is to say that God wanted those people in office at those times for particular purposes. Some of those may be because those people will do good things at the right times. Some of it may simply be to give people a leader they deserve who matches their unrighteous attitudes. So I shouldn't treat any victor in any political election as a spiritual victory for Satan, which is what some Christians seem to be setting themselves up for if Kerry wins. In fact, it's even a denial of God's right to set up any president he wishes to be too negatively affected when a candidate you don't like wins. You may think godly values would lead to another candidate winning, and you may regret the prominence of ungodliness among voters along with the ungodly laws and policies that might come into play with this candidate in office. Still, such regrets have to be balanced with an attitude of submission to God's will and an acknowledgement that even a persecuting authority against Christianity would be God's chosen ruler, as Paul said in Romans 13 and Peter in I Peter 3 about those in his day who did exactly that.

4 Comments

I'm generally in agreement here. I just keep thinking, and I think this comes out in your thought a bit, that american christians attach WAY too much importance to democratic elections. We feel it is somehow our responsibility to put the right man in office, even though we know we can't really control such things.

The idea of contolling our own fate seems like one of the subtle temptations of the modern world.

There are a whole host of related issues to this. One would be the idea that we should judge politicians based on how much prosperity they promise/are likely to bring about/have brought in the past. This seemes like the single most common way these days to judge politicians--the endless rehearsal of Clinton's "job approval rating" a few years ago should be evidence to back that up. This seems to run afoul of biblical religion in two ways. First, it denies the idea that God alone brings prosperity. Second, It gives prosperity a much too high place in our value system.

My two short trips to Ukraine allowed me to get to know a few Christians living within a terrible economic system with terrible politicians. They were still joyful people and had a lot of things to teach me, among them that economic strength does not equal strength of faith.

I would never wish for suffering or poverty for myself or anyone else, but I think we all need to say with St Paul that we are willing to be content with whatever God sends us.

Agreed and well said. Except that I of course would switch who I think would make a better president and I have some quibbles about your assesment of how the parties are doing in upholding Christian values. ;)

Just discovered you were saying more or less the same as what I have just said before I said it! I didnt copy, honest!

Weird how similar the sentiments I have expressed are in a couple of posts.

Those with Flash Player might enjoy seeing this point made in an animation that Sojourners has up on their site at:

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=action.election&item=petition_flash

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