Why Religion and Politics Don’t Mix

Posted on December 14, 2011 by

Christians must always remember  that our primary allegiance is to Our Savior, not the flag and not the Constitution. We should expect our elected leaders to govern within its guidelines, but it cannot be our primary concern. When we make a stand, our primary motivation should not be personal prosperity but a heart-felt desire for a just end even if we don’t directly benefit. If we believe in less government in our personal affairs, then we should believe that even if we fall behind on our own house payments. Anything else reeks of hypocrisy, and Paul warns us of the danger of focusing on earthly comfort:

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… Philippians 3: 18-20

While most of us associate this warning with the “prosperity gospel” preached from the pulpits of some of America’s wealthiest and most well-known preachers, we are increasingly hearing this “gospel” preached by  conservative commentators and others who would have us believe that Jesus cares about the how American politics affects the pocketbooks of His disciples.

The message is seductive because of its subtle ring of truth when laced with religious phrases and patriotic rhetoric, but it twists the Truth and causes those who hear the message to focus on their own comfort, prosperity, and future. These are things that we are supposed to trust to the Lord.

I consistently vote for candidates who promise to cut taxes and rein in spending. Common sense dictates that a continuous cycle of expenditures exceeding revenue is a recipe for national disaster. Still, Jesus commanded that we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and once the votes are counted our responsibility is to pay our taxes, trusting the Lord to provide our needs. Jesus’ command for us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” wasn’t a mistake. He was not ignorant about the times in which we live. For something to be Biblically true, it must be true for all believers in all places at all times. That alone should settle once and for all the notion that Western culture and prosperity is in any way synonymous with a so-called Christian lifestyle. Baseball and apple pie are fine symbols of American culture, but they aren’t anymore Christian than paella and bull fighting.

One of my biggest problem with the hypocrisy stems from the fact that many who populate these emerging conservative movements profess Christianity.  I can hardly count the times during this perpetual election cycle I have seen interviews where politicians and voters alike have called for spending cuts then draw the line at the point where the cuts will affect them or their district. Everyone wants someone else to make the sacrifice.

Even the calls for family values and godly morality ring hollow when looked at through the lens of fact. I lean almost as far right as you can get, and the contradictory messages  from the religious right hamper even my ability to appreciate the merit in many of the arguments. Newt Gingrich, anyone?

Washington is a snapshot of what has happened all over the country. Our financial stupor is giving way to the next morning’s hangover, and now we want to drag out the Scriptures concerning debt, honor, and responsibility. Now we want to take responsibility for being charitable the way the Bible says; freely and without coercion. This after using our homes as ATM’s not to give to the poor, but to increase our property values  Now we care about honor even though the so-called conservative party behaved dishonorably in a number of ways.

I wonder if all this compromise on the part of people of conviction serves to reveal that we have ceased from viewing our American liberty as a blessing to be used for the spreading of the gospel so long as we have it, and have instead turned it into an idol. I’ve given this a great deal of thought since I was guilty of this very thing. I  invite fellow believers to examine themselves as well. Scripture clearly reveals the purpose for the liberty we enjoy in Christ, and how we are to use whatever freedom we are blessed to enjoy:

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I believe we should use our physical and political liberty the same way we are to use our spiritual liberty; not as a means to indulge our selfish desires, but to love others. I have no problem for standing up for what is right. I believe we can and should stand up for what is right. I know that the Scriptures say  a person who wants to eat should expect to work. However when our standards are inconsistent, and our moral compass changes based on our personal conditions, we need to question whether we are truly standing up for what is right or simply pretending to for our own selfish ends.

I live in a state where retirees comprise a large portion of the electorate. Their voted is heavily courted. Most of the campaign ads that run, even those for state races that have no bearing on Social Security and Medicare, play on the fears of seniors concerning whether or not their benefits will be cut. Even among the Tea Party set, which is largely populated by confessed Christians, few dare to bring up the fact that Social Security as it stands today is not only unsustainable, but a financial noose around the necks of the children and grandchildren of  people who lobby heavily to preserve the status quo. Think about that for just a minute. Our nation is so addicted to entitlements and comfort that we are willing to bankrupt our own children and grandchildren!  So much for “the greatest generation.”

In this regard, I have  more respect for the people on the left than I do on the right. However illogical they are, at least they’re consistently so. But for so-called conservatives (and I heard this repeatedly during the healthcare debate) to be suddenly irate that the Democrats were cutting Medicare to fund their socialized medicine floored me.  Why the outrage? I think I know, and it flies in the face of this Scriptural admonition:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Phil 2:3-4

On the one hand there is grumbling and complaining about being forced to help  the less fortunate with our tax dollars. On the other hand these same people possess the disposable income to travel across the country to rally for their rights holding signs demanding that their entitlements remain untouched. It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

We castigate poor single and divorced mothers. I am not excusing the sin or downplaying the effects of single motherhood on the larger culture. Please don’t misunderstand me. Then we turn around and vote for a man who left his first wife and children and his running mate, a woman who parades her pregnant unwed daughter onto the national stage to be gawked at. Besides the fact that the latter pair had enough money to keep their single mothers off the welfare rolls, what was the moral difference?

For the Christian, there should be a higher order of thinking, and in the three years since the last election I haven’t seen much of a shift in consciousness among the religious right. My only consolation is that if the Holy Spirit has convicted me, surely He has convicted others, too. I hope we get this message and soon. Jesus doesn’t care any more about what happens in Washington D.C than He cared about what happened in the halls of the Roman government. He had a higher mission to accomplish, and so do we.

Despite  my political passions and opinions my faith demands that I keep a proper perspective. That I am careful not to identify more with being an American than with being a Christian. I need to be especially careful not to apply dishonest scales, using one standard to weigh those whose politics lines up with mine, another standard to those whose politics don’t line up with mine.

This type of behavior does not reflect well on us, or on the Savior we claim to represent. We would do well to remember that.

In other words, at the next election I’ll just write Ron Paul on the ballot and walk away with my conscience intact.