Why We Can’t Talk Nice About Politics

Unless you’ve been living in the mountains of Nepal, you’ve probably noticed the political campaigns have a bent toward the negative.

Mitt Romney is portrayed as a cold-hearted CEO who built his fortune bankrupting hard-working Americans. He wakes up every morning plotting how he can hurt the poor, elderly, and minorities to enrich the fat cats.

Barack Obama is portrayed as an inept socialist who rose to power on flowery rhetoric with no substance. He wants to divide the country, diminish America in the world, and bankrupt us all for the sake of his ideology.

Sound familiar?

The debates between Republicans and Democrats in the media are increasingly hard to watch. Words like “extremist”, “hate”, “bigot”, “racist”, “liar”, and more are being thrown like hand grenades designed to strip the opposing side of any right to be heard.  One side is waging a war on women; the other a war on success. One party will destroy the economy; the other will destroy human rights. With every passing day the divide between donkey and elephant seems to widen. As it does, the shouting matches on television get louder and the rhetoric nastier.

Why can’t we just play nice? Shouldn’t we have honest, substantive debates about the issues? Shouldn’t we listen to, respect, and value opposing ideas? Shouldn’t we shake hands and let the country decide who has better solutions? Shouldn’t we politely disagree without ripping the opposing side’s heart out of its chest like the crazed bad guy from the Temple of Doom?

We can’t play nice because political parties, ideologies, issues, and leaders are more than parties, ideologies, issues, and leaders – they’re gods and saviors. We assign them ultimate worth and value. We believe if our god –party, ideology, or leader – was reigning over the country we would live in paradise. Our politician, political philosophy, issue, or party will rescue us from our hell and deliver us to our heaven. The political podium is a pulpit where politicians and activists preach the glories of their various gods and saviors and warn of the dangers of the other side, all while faithful worshipers sing the praises.

That’s why we must win at all costs. Our god and salvation is at stake. It doesn’t matter what lies we tell, what truths we spin, what people we cut down and dehumanize, what system we cheat. All that matters is my god reigning victorious and bringing salvation to the earth. The ends will justify the means.

If I assign ultimate worth to freedom and make it my god, Ron Paul becomes my savior who rescues me from the hell of big government and takes me to the heaven of limited government.

If I assign ultimate worth to social justice and make it my god, the Democratic Party becomes my savior to rescue me from the hell of inequality and oppression and take me to the heaven of equality and fairness.

If I assign ultimate worth to economic security, fiscal conservatism becomes my savior to rescue me from the hell of a declining economy and take me to the heaven of steady growth and prosperity.

If I assign ultimate worth to the female gender, pro-choice becomes my savior to rescue women from the hell of being chained by sexual choices and to take them to the heaven of achieving all they want.

When my god or savior is attacked, I have to demonize and defeat the attacker. That’s why conservative commentator Ann Coulter writes a book about liberals called Demonic. Liberals aren’t just wrong; they’re possessed by evil. That’s why liberal commentator Keith Olbermann writes a book largely about conservatives called The Worst Person in the World. Conservatives aren’t just wrong; they’re so bad every liberal is more righteous.

Is there a way out of this mess? For many, the solution is not to care. They look for gods and saviors in other places such as money, fame, family, sex, or entertainment. But these issues, politicians, and parties are important. They matter for our future and our country. Is there a way to care deeply about these things without them ruling over us as little gods?

The answer is found in Jesus Christ. If Jesus is my God, He is my source of worth and joy. I don’t have to look to freedom, economic stability, gender equality, social justice, or something else. If Jesus is my God, only He can ultimately give me heaven. I don’t have to seek it on earth through the government or free markets. If Jesus is my God, it’s not because I am better than anyone else. I can’t look down on or belittle another person.

A conservative may believe their philosophy, morality or self-reliance makes them superior to a liberal. A liberal may believe their education, compassion, and tolerance makes them superior to a conservative. When we believe in our own superiority it allows us to beat each other up. But a Christian is only made by the grace of God; not education, morality, or compassion. Thus, a Christian can never view themselves as superior to anyone.

Now some may object. Many Christians can be quite nasty politically. But the answer isn’t found in Christians, but in Christ. When a Christian fails to worship Jesus and instead places their hope in political figures, causes, and parties, they sin against Him.

Let us hope in Jesus as our God. Everything we need is found in Him.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” –Ephesians 1:3

Let us look to Jesus as our savior. Only he can bring us to a real and lasting heaven.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” – Revelation 21:1, 5

And let us remember we are who we are only by the grace of Jesus.

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:28-29

What place does politics hold in your heart? These issues matter, but we’ll only be free to honestly debate, humbly win, graciously lose, and genuinely love those we disagree with when we have bigger God and a better Savior.

-Brian

I would like to credit Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll for their insights on false gods and saviors that have helped shape my thinking!

(image credit)

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