How does it feel being “used”?
You know, manipulated for someone else’s benefit.
I am thinking that most of us don’t like this but this is how some Christians intersect with politics.
They feel used.
It does not sound very good as politicians talk about “rounding up” the evangelical vote. It sounds like we are just a prize that a politician wants, a demographic they need to appeal to and if they say the right thing, propose the right ideas, we automatically reward them with our vote.
Why is it so tough to figure out our place in today’s political world?
Let’s lay aside not being able to relate due to candidate behaviors and beliefs and let’s try to discuss this on a higher plane.
Evan Koons explores this idea in a lighthearted way in his film “For the Life of the World.” As a Christian he agonizes about where he fits in. He does not see a place for his Christian belief in a world that divides itself into red states and blue states and pro this and anti that.
And yet we see Jesus making statements like this in Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
That hardly sounds like we are supposed to go “underground” with our faith but that is what some Christians do. They build walls and work hard to shut the world out. Rather than thinking about what to do, they would rather ignore the world and not make the choices that require a lot of thinking, like how we are to intersect with the world of politics.
Then there are those that just condemn everything that does not fit their “Christian worldview.” These Christians feel like they are supposed to dig in on their positions and never budge. They are the types of folks who can be very extreme in their positions and they wind up angering so many people due to their constant evaluation of others’ points of view.
The third group goes the opposite direction. They work hard to fit in, so hard that they compromise on any issue in order to be a part of whatever is popular at the time. At times it seems like their Christian values don’t exist because they have blended in so well.
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly told the Israelites to set themselves apart from the world. Have different eating restrictions, don’t intermarry, avoid the influence of worshipping other gods etc. God had a different agenda for these people as they were supposed to be His “chosen people.”
Then we have Jesus and things get a little more murky.
What Jesus says in Matthew 5 does not sound like disengagement does it?
Many in Jesus’ day would have liked Him to be a major political leader to take on Roman domination of their land and restore it to Hebrew autonomy but He seemed to have little interest in a direct confrontation of the Roman occupying army. When the Pharisees asked Him the tricky question about taxes [hoping He would advocate non-payment], He said “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” [Mark 12:17].
These don’t sound like words from a man who is intent on changing the political climate.
This still leaves us mired in our problem. As Christians how do we participate in politics today without feeling we have literally cast aside all our convictions?
Let’s go to an even higher plane.
Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
That is a perspective that may help us with our dilemma. What we offer to God by how we live our lives is our gift to Him. We can offer our gifts to Him in everything we do and every thought we express. We don’t have to avoid the world just because people in the world behave in ways that we find abhorrent. I firmly believe my job is to be here right now and do what I can do to make things better. I do this through God’s grace as He takes a very imperfect person like me and tries to work through me.
Yes, there will always be people who don’t want to relate to you on any level other than what you can do for them. It is sad that the world is full of manipulators. But it is. The political world is truly a poor fit for many Christians but don’t go underground, get so sour that people don’t want to be around you or toss aside your values just to fit it.
Give some attention to what is going on in politics even though the issues are so very ephemeral at times. Engage. Be a light.
Think of your intelligent engagement as your gift…your effort to make the world a better place.