Thursday, May 18, 2017

How Jesus Can Save Us From Our Politics

I hate cable news. I haven’t watched 10 minutes of it in the last five years. When I say that to certain people, they’re surprised. I think they assume because I worked in TV news for 20 years, that I’m a cable news junkie. I do keep up with the news – but cable is not the place to get it. It is a microcosm of what is wrong with our politics right now. If I turn to one network, I get everything slanted in one direction – if I turn to another, it’s slanted in the other direction. And on both, I get people calling the other side names, instead of engaging in ideas. I know this is what gets ratings, and that ultimately is the problem. Social media is just as bad if not worse when it comes to politics.

In an increasingly secular culture, politics has become a functional savior. People see new laws or new regulations, or repealing those laws and regulations, as the ultimate path to salvation for our country. And by doing that, politics or the politicians themselves become gods. This happens on both sides. And when you see your politics or a politician as god, then you have suddenly stepped into a battle of good versus evil – where the only chance good has is to defeat evil.

This is where our biggest problems lie in politics in America right now – we have elevated politics to a place it should have never occupied. Don’t get me wrong – the political process is important. It’s just not that important. It’s not of ultimate importance. See, the only real solution to our problems is that God’s kingdom come, and there are no political solutions for that. God’s kingdom will come when Jesus returns, and until then, we will all live in broken, messed up societies. We can try to improve them in the meantime, but with the understanding that all our systems will always be broken in some way.

Getting this wrong leads to all kinds of disaster. Here’s perhaps the most problematic one. Politics at its best is about persuasion. I believe one thing about an important matter. Another person believes another thing. So it is my job to persuade that person to my side. We have mainly lost the ability to do this in our culture now. Instead, when the average politically-connected person sees someone who disagrees with them, they see it as their job to destroy them, to defeat them. And we believe this because we see politics as ultimate – it’s going to bring the “kingdom” that we’re looking for.

When you as a Christian fall into this trap, it poisons all your other relationships. If you see people with whom you disagree primarily as enemies to be defeated, then you will look at them a lot differently than you would if you saw them as people who need to be persuaded. See, as Christians, we are told to love our enemies, and we’re told to do that because God through Jesus loved us when we were his enemies. We’re told that it is our job to take the message of truth to people who disagree with us – perhaps angrily or even violently – and love them unconditionally and sacrificially to the foot of the cross. And when we do that – and only when we do that – we see in-breakings of God’s kingdom right here on earth. But the point of those in-breakings is to point us to a time when God's kingdom is going to come in its fullness, and no politician can bring that.

This is how Jesus can rescue us from politics. If we primarily see those who we disagree with us as people who need to be persuaded, rather than enemies who need to be defeated, then it will change the way we think about the political process. It will allow us to seek solutions for the common good – without believing that those solutions are ultimate ones. Then, a political defeat is not a disaster. Because Jesus controls our fate, and the fate of our nation, and the fate of the world, and he has promised us how it is all going to turn out. No political party or politician can give you this, no matter how much they promise.

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