Five Things I Wish Christians Knew About Politics

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Faith and politics will always be connected to each other, and each elicits strong emotions, but here are 5 truths I wish Christians would apply to their faith:

 

No Politician—or Political Party—Owns God

 

Despite the constant rhetoric spewed about who is the most “Christian,” “Godly,” and “moral,” the reality is that no candidate or political party has the market cornered on God.

 

Despite testimonials of personal religious experiences, Biblical references, spiritual gestures, prophetic promises, and faith-based posturing, no political entity can entirely represent God. And although many will try to replace God as a source of hope, inspiration, and salvation, thousands of years of history has proven this to be a foolish endeavor.

 

Much of the God-talk is simply an attempt to pander to Christian voters, and commonly enters into the realm of sinful hypocrisy—where soliciting for Christian votes is simultaneously completely void of any of the fruits of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

Government Isn’t Our Final Hope

 

It’s ok to be political, but it’s never ok to trust in any government entity more than God. It’s obvious that many Christians have idolized their political beliefs in ways that have superseded their faith and hope in Jesus, and this is never more obvious than when their political ideas and actions are completely anti-Christian and contrary to the example that Jesus set.

 

Governments can do a lot of good things, but they’ll never be able to provide people the peace, comfort, and security of Jesus.

 

While some political aspects will certainly be more Christ-like than others, governments and their leaders will always be co-opted by other secular agendas, circumstances, and events that will prevent them from overtaking the role that followers of Jesus are ultimately meant to play: bringing the goods news of Jesus to the world around us in the form of humble sacrifice, service, and love.

 

Political Leaders Don’t Make a Nation Christian or Non-Christian

 

To claim that any nation is Christian or non-Christian is a dangerous oversimplification, but it should be reiterated that the state of our corporate faith isn’t determined by one President, a single particular party, or any particular style of government.

 

When “Christian” Presidents and parties have been in control of our nation’s government, things such as slavery, segregation, racism, sexism, corruption, war, and rampant social injustices were widely commonplace and even rampant. Our society’s morality isn’t at the mercy of a few political leaders—it’s our own responsibility.

 

Additionally, Christian communities exist—and even thrive–around the world within many different types of government systems. No matter who is leading, what laws are created, passed, and enforced, or what our government ends up looking like, it’s up to us to follow God’s commands no matter what. Being like Jesus is more important than being Republican, Democratic, or even American.

 

Power Comes from Jesus, Not the Government

 

It’s hard to imagine not being content with having an all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent God, and yet Christians continue to crave more financial, militaristic, and social power through political systems.

 

The radical message of Jesus is that all our Divine power comes through following Christ, which is a power built upon selfless love—not aggressive violence, global growth, or political security.

 

Additionally, Governments shouldn’t be used by Christians as a form or pseudo-judgment, where they represent a faith and authoritatively become a form of morality police—controlling the masses via legislation to conform to Christian values, and punishing all those who don’t comply.

 

Promises of worldly power in the name of God under, any political banner, is a sign that people have lost faith in the gospel message of Christ.

 

Christians Can Have Differing Views…and Still Be Christian

 

Christianity is as complex as the people representing it, and is only perfectly represented by Jesus Himself. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Christians will support a wide variety of candidates, policies, platforms, and opinions—and still be Christian. Voting for one person over another doesn’t automatically damn you to eternal hell or guarantee God’s everlasting favor.

 

Just as Christianity itself has a vast array of denominations, sects, and traditions, Christian voters are influenced and motivated by differing platforms, attitudes, viewpoints, and thoughts.

 

Christians aren’t a synonymous group of people that believe that exact same things. In fact, beyond a few orthodox doctrines regarding Jesus as being Divine and dying on a cross–and ultimately being resurrected from the dead—Christians hardly agree about anything.

 

Certain political things will be more Christ-like than others, but politics itself will always be flawed simply because it’s a secular system establish upon worldly power and control. Ultimately, anything not founded up Jesus—including political systems—will fail.

 

Most importantly, as followers of Christ, we should never idolize politics by mistaking our worth and identity in anything beyond God. So no matter what your political opinions are, they should never contradict or supersede Jesus.

 

Follow Jesus. Love God and love people. Amen.

 

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About the Author

Stephen Mattson

Stephen MattsonStephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Sojourners, and The Burnside Writer's Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at University of Northwestern – St. Paul. Follow him on Twitter @mikta and on his personal blog stephenjmattson.comView all posts by Stephen Mattson →

  • WFU86

    A timely and much needed warning to all that call themselves disciples, as we head into a season where politics often becomes king. Caesar can take the shape of any political agenda, when it’s prioritized above Jesus’ lordship over our lives.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Frank

    Well said. Governments, laws and politicians are not the solution. The less government the better so that Christians and churches can fulfill thier responsibilities.

  • redletterchristians

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  • Vince

    Good article. Governments can do good and bad and most do both. I am pretty uninspired by the presidential election that I may exercise my right not to vote. I first voted in 1988 and they are still promising the same things. The debt in 1988 was $252 billion today is over $19 trillion and we have the same problems we have had since the 1960’s. But I am inspired by so many stories of churches and individual Christians doing good. If you look past all the shaming on the news of evangelicals, policemen, conservatives, etc., there are amazing stories of Christians doing good. That is what I am more interested in.

    I also think we need to stop saying that our rights come from god because they don’t. Our political rights come from governments that god institutes through his sovereign will. The right to assemble, bear arms, press etc. are nowhere found in gods word.

  • Vince

    This is a timely message for Canadian Christians. Thanks for being so courageous to speak out about these things even if it so unpopular to do so.

  • Patrick Holt

    Trump’s grandma gave him a Bible, and he’s faithfully worshipped Mammon and his sense of his own magnificence instead ever since.

    • Vince

      Like we all have at times.

    • JC is a lefty

      That is true. It is so easy for some to choose Money over God.

      • WFU86

        Agreed, but I’d say more than just some. The rich by no means have a monopoly on the love of money. Those without money are often as obsessed with having it as those that already have it are with getting more. It’s an unfortunate part of the human condition and at the heart of Jesus teachings.

    • otrotierra

      I don’t know anything about Trump’s grandmother, but affirming Jesus above mammon, military, and sate is indeed terribly, radically offensive.

      • JC is a lefty

        I wonder how many of us strut around saying I am worth X in public for all to see? Certainly not me. Trump the $10 billion dollar hero …….

  • SamHamilton

    Amen Mr. Mattson. A well-timed commentary.

  • JC is a lefty

    Good article. Interesting responses

    • otrotierra

      Affirming Jesus above Caesar is terribly offensive, that much is true.

  • MableSpam

    That being said, some politicians better reflect the red letters… In the presidential race, Bernie might be the only reflection.

    • otrotierra

      Jesus was a Jewish man who cared for others without apology and was politically offensive to the religious establishment. Those most like Jesus today will likewise care for all of God’s children without hesitation and will likewise be terribly upsetting to religious and political elites.

      Truth is indeed so politically unpopular that it is unthinkable among those who shout and scream the loudest.

      • WFU86

        No one in your target audience is upset or offended at the notion of caring for people without apology, or feels threatened by the red letters. Where we disagree (see point #5 above) is how it should take place. Jesus didn’t work through the political or religious establishments of His day to enact change. Jesus didn’t outsource the responsibility to anyone who wasn’t a disciple. Jesus did the hard work Himself and taught us to do likewise. No one should trust government with the task that we’ve been given…their history of waste, fraud and abuse speaks for itself. Just because some of us don’t think government is the answer, doesn’t mean that we don’t follow Jesus or recognize that there’s a problem.

  • Schuh

    I appreciate the intent, but this article needs an editor badly. It’s full of wrong words, grammatical errors, fuzzy concepts, and illogical rhetoric. For example:

    * “[A]lthough many will try to replace God as a source of hope, inspiration, and salvation, thousands of years of history has proven this to be a foolish endeavor.”
    * “[G]overnments and their leaders will always be co-opted by other secular agendas, circumstances, and events that will prevent them from overtaking the role that followers of Jesus are ultimately meant to play …”
    * “[T]he state of our corporate faith isn’t determined by one President, a single particular party, or any particular style of government.”
    * “The radical message of Jesus is that all our Divine power comes through following Christ, which is a power built upon selfless love—not aggressive violence, global growth, or political security.”
    * “[A]s followers of Christ, we should never idolize politics by mistaking our worth and identity in anything beyond God.”

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