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God’s politics: it’s time for Christians to quit the political games

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I wrote this article for SPU’s newspaper in Fall 2007

The words written in red, white and blue pop out from the bumper-sticker attached to a nearby office door. Surrounded by bright stars and bold stripes they announce, “God is not a Republican.” The small letters bellow them require a closer look, but reveal the punch line, “or a Democrat.”

Recently, a teenage girl, who will turn 18 just before the 2008 presidential elections, asked her father what he considers himself—a Republican or a Democrat. His response was simply, “I am a Christian.”

Many SPU students are in the same place as this young girl. For the first time, they will be making serious political decisions. The pressure can be overwhelming. Those who don’t give into complacency often default to the political party of their parents, or that which seems to have the most popularity. But if this is all their vote is based on, one must ask if they really know why they are voting one way or the other.

If God had a political party, deciding which candidate to vote for would be a much simpler process. Yet, as the bumper sticker notes, he does not. Christians are left to sort through the confusion on their own.

Many have not done a very good job. In her book Jesus Rode a Donkey, published in 2006, theologian Linda Seger made this observation on the division of our nation: “This is not just a division of Democrats versus Republicans. This is a division of Christians versus everybody else, and Christians versus other Christians” (Source: Seger, Jesus Rode a Donkey, p.2).

Dr. Davis, chair of the SPU Political Science department and former Chairmen of the King County Republican party, said, “I don’t know any who would feel confident saying that their party is a divine institution.”

And he’s probably right. Most would back down before actually articulating such a claim. Yet, this is often how Christian voters act.

Church leaders and politicians alike are guilty of trying to mix God and politics. “I wonder if recently we haven’t had too many political partisans going to church for a religious experience, and too many churches supporting a social agenda,” said Davis.

Barak Obama, a candidate running for the Democratic Presidential ticket, recently told church members that faith in God, “Propels me to do what I do” and that, “God is with us, and wants us to do the right thing” (Source: msnbc.com).

Sincere or not, Obama’s statement reveals why politicians feel the need to seek “a religious experience.” Christians want to vote for someone that they feel God favors. Christians also want a candidate that stands for the issues that they feel are God’s concerns.

“There are issues that have moved the church to get involved politically,” said Davis. As Davis sees it, these are the issues of life and death. Issues such as slavery, abortion, and assisted suicide cannot be ignored because, “Christians are called to justice.”

Yet, this can be dangerous. As the abortion issue demonstrated, political involvement on the part of Churches can confine God to a political party.

When the abortion issue entered the platform in the 1970’s some Christians felt so strongly that God was pro-life, that they felt they ad to associate themselves and God with the Republican party.

This left Christian Democrats feeling as if they needed to defend their Christianity in light of their political affiliation. The result is now an ugly political version of Children picking teams on the playground screaming, “I had God on my party first.”

Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the confusion surrounding God and politics. Likewise, church leaders and politicians are guilty of dragging God into their political agendas. As a result of this carelessness, political divisions have seeped into the church, causing hatred, misunderstandings, and confusion.

Christians shouldn’t let political parties divide the Church. There is enough that does that already. Dr. Davis recognizes that political parties are a compromise. However, maybe this is better than battling to get God in our political corner. Not everyone in the Church will completely agree on every political issue. But maybe that is okay.

It seems that there are more important things. This is what the early Church had to learn: some differences are too petty to make issue over. Ephesians offers a great reminder of this: “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” (Ephesians 2:19). Gentiles, Jews, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—all are part of God’s family. And God’s family is not a political party.

When asked what Christians should look to as they make voting decisions, Dr. Davis pondered awhile before replying. “Begin from the premise: every individual is of equal moral worth.” According to Davis, this is the best place to start. From there, it is our Christian duty to support political issues that protect human rights.

Politics should be about the issues and the principles, not the political party. It seems it is time that Christians vote based on issues and not parties.

It is time that the Christian community admit it has been playing childish political games. This is not an attack on Democrats or Republicans, but a wake up-call to the Christian community to truly live and vote as the body of Christ.

It seems that the answer lies in the man’s reply to his teen-age daughter. Christians need to identify themselves foremost as Christians and vote, not a Republicans or Democrats, but as citizens of God’s family—as people concerned primarily with basic human rights.

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Written by liferenewed

September 6, 2008 at 12:43 am

Posted in Christianity, Politics

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