Note: For those of you who are auditory learners, you can bypass what follows and 1) click on the 'TASTM Podcast' tab at the bottom of the danielfoundation.net 'home' page and then 2) click on the 'God & Politics: Kingdoms in Conflict' 5 minute podcast and listen. If easier, you can copy and paste this link to get there:
Strange times, these. I hope this finds you well as we enter day 36 (?) of social distancing and economic restrictions.
Having had ample time to introspect of late (!?) I have noticed an inverse-relationship between faith and politics. I've noted that the less I exercise the spiritual disciplines of meditation over select passages from the Old and New testaments, prayer and journaling, the more I become obsessed with, and devote more time and energy to, politics. In short, the more attention I pay to God, the less attention I pay to politics. Have you noticed the same thing?
Political passions are running high these days, thanks to Covid19. In spite of the oft repeated mantra ‘we’re all in this together,’ we’re not. There’s a rift developing between the 'safety-firsters' and the ‘return to businessers.’ The former paint the latter as 'heartless and greedy’ while the latter paints the former as ‘cowardly and lazy.’
I am far more susceptible to being dragged into the ‘get-down-and-dirty’ world of inflammatory political rhetoric when I am not recalibrating my life each morning by spending time alone with God via use of the spiritual disciplines. When I neglect to do so, I forget who I am and as such, I'm much more prone to label those who disagree with me as uninformed or better yet, malicious. Later, of course, when emotions subside (when I stop watching the news and/or log out of Twitter) I feel ashamed.
I feel ashamed because I’ve become more an 'ideologue' than a (checkered but sincere) follower of Christ. In so doing, I am contributing to the common image that Christianity is little more than the Trojan horse within lurks a partisan political ideology. Bill Buckley once described an 'ideologue' as: 'Someone for whom ideas matter more than people.' Sacrificing others on the alter of political purity is pretty much the polar opposite of 'loving one's neighbor (even when they vote differently than me) as oneself.’
I’m ashamed because, when I elevate party or politics to a disproportionate level of importance, I am tipping the hand of my heart for all to see that, deep down, when push comes to shove, I believe that history is ultimately determined by kings rather than the 'king of kings.' That sentiment doesn't square well with that troublesome first commandment thingy that rather insistently asserts: ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’
That is why Orthodox Christians and Jews have always had to qualify their national and political allegiances, making one's loyalty to nation, ethnicity or to Caesar himself, subservient to one's fidelity to God. (which, of course, is a pretty good way to invite Caesar's scorn....as countless martyrs can attest).
One of the habits of Israel throughout the Old Testament was to do exactly the same thing. It's what landed them in a world of hurt with King Saul and many subsequent kings. Israel was in the habit of believing that history in general, and that their lives in particular, were in the hands of kings, not God. They no doubt believed ‘if only we could get the right man in the seat of power’ or 'if only we can form strategic political alliances,' all will be well...but it always ended badly. Idolatry always does.
The good news, however, is that God never departed and his devotion never waned. For those of us who are tempted to believe that we've worshipped one to many idols, deceived one too many people, turned our backs on God for way too long, betrayed one too many friends, broken one too many promises, committed one to many sins, slept with one too many partners, stolen one too many items, condemned one too many 'sinners,' had one too many bottles of Jack Daniels, gossiped once too often, left one too many churches or distorted God’s image once too often.......that’s good to know. Good news always is.
Be wise and be well,
All the best,
The Daniel Foundation