Hypocrisy. “Hypocrisy” is the first complaint many people make against Christians. And you know what? They’re right: we are hypocrites. Especially when it comes to politics.
Politics First, Faith Second
I’ve noticed that many American Christians are shaped more profoundly by the political views of our respective tribes—liberal, conservative, etc.—than we are by the Jesus we claim to follow. Recent polling of American Catholic views of Pope Francis are a good example of this tendency:
- Conservative Roman Catholics are in approval of the Pope’s views on same-sex marriage and abortion (he’s opposed to both) but they disapprove of his remarks on climate change and his critique of unfettered capitalism.
- Liberal Roman Catholics are the exact opposite.
I am not in any way implying that the Pope speaks for Jesus, nor that all Christians ought to think the same way as Pope Francis. My point is simply that it is troubling that American Catholic views of Pope Francis break down along partisan lines.
And it’s not only Roman Catholics who do this: Protestants like me do the same thing as well. And this tendency to put politics first and faith second is extremely problematic.
Jesus is Lord, Not Caesar
“Jesus is Lord, and not Caesar.” For 2,000 years, Christians have made the claim that the ultimate authority is not whoever holds temporal political power, but that Jesus Christ is rightful Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord, which means his place is first, and I (and everything else) am second. But when people who claim to follow Jesus take their identities from the Democratic or Republican parties first and from Jesus second, we are effectively saying, “Caesar is more important than Jesus.” We are saying our first allegiance is to our political tribe and we are only paying lip service to our Lord. Our tendency is to justify our political views with our faith, rather than beginning with our faith and then trying to work out our politics. In other words, we are hypocrites.
No, It’s Not Wrong to Vote Red or Blue
I am not saying that if we all just followed the Bible then we would know exactly how to vote. I’m not that naïve. The Bible is not always easy to interpret or understand, and even if it were, this world is complicated and imperfect, so policy decisions are always going to require choices between lesser and greater evils and actions without certainty of outcomes. Life is complicated, and because of this, some Christians will believe that they can be more faithful Christians in the public square as Republicans and some will believe they can be more faithful followers of Jesus as Democrats, etc. It’s not wrong to take a political position on this or that issue.
What is wrong is to be a Republican or a Democrat first, and a follower of Jesus second. If you believe everything in your respective party’s platform is 100% in line with the teachings of Jesus, you have a problem. It should be obvious that Democratic or Republican policies are uncertain attempts to work in a messy world—they are not gospel, and we should not confuse them as such.
A Quick Self-Assessment
How do you know what you believe? If you are a Christian, do you believe what you believe because you have deeply wrestled in prayer and searched the scriptures over this or that issue, or do you believe what you believe because everyone in your political tribe thinks this way?
So, with regard to the topics below, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do we believe what we believe?”
- Same-sex marriage
- Drone attacks
- The Planned Parenthood videos
- The Death Penalty
- Welfare policies
Jesus is Not Running For President
We are going to have to pick a president next year, and that president will not be perfect. Christians will disagree over which man or woman running is best equipped to lead our country. That is okay. What is not okay is for me to transfer my ultimate allegiance to my political tribe. Jesus is not running for president, and political parties and partisan positions shouldn’t be worshipped. Don’t make the mistake of putting second things in the place of what ought to be First. That’s called idolatry, and it never works out very well.
Just ask the builders of Babel.
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