I just had dinner with a nice couple from my church who are pretty fun to spend time with. We spoke for a while about church, recent events in our lives, and through my questions for them, politics.
I know there are some people who don’t just launch into political discussions, but I think that so long as you try to be respectful, there isn’t all that much to lose. There are definitely issues that can set people off, but overall, the most important identity for people already under Christ is that you are a Christian.
Talking with people inside and outside of the church about politics is productive. Regardless of the results of this election, working across party lines and towards reconciliation is really important for people who believe in Christ. Most importantly, discussing politics can be a really good exercise in learning to listen and see things from alternate perspectives. In the hour or so I talked with these friends, I understood a lot more of their frustration and disappointment with the current state of affairs in the US. Though we certainly come from different schools of thought when it comes to politics, the fact that we are willing to listen to each other is probably the most important purpose of that conversation. Likely, no one was converted into my school of thought, nor I theirs. But the fact that people with legitimate differences are willing to listen and support one another is a valuable goal in and of itself.
Politics doesn’t always include discussions about things that matter, but it can. At it’s best, politics can be inspired by the desire to see God’s justice here on earth and love for creation. There are so many people who are currently suffering and to them, if God isn’t actively pursuing justice in a way that can be considered political, he must not be real. Who is God if he doesn’t really care about me and my situation? How can you try to tell me about God and not address the fact that I’m suffering?
Ultimately, the desire to see God’s kingdom on earth should be larger than the strategies we use to accomplish it. Different political parties are like different philosophies on what is best for most people, and what people really need. As a Christian, my faith is a worldview that outranks my opinions. I endorse specific strategies that I hope will help the poor, the foreigner, the elderly, children, the oppressed, and families. I could tell you how my political orientation relates to my faith, but at that rate, is it really political?
Another uncomfortable reality related to politics is that no matter how great our lives are on earth, heaven is better. Which also sounds like a cop out to people who are legitimately suffering. Still though, if any of us got everything most people strive after, it still wouldn’t be as good as God’s kingdom and all that exists through the spirit. If we invest too much in trying to manipulate every detail of this life and try to convince people we’re right about everything, do we lose sight of God? People who only care about politics are exhausting.
So, which is it? Does faith cause you to participate more in politics, or less? Maybe it calls us to participate in ways that could be both? Or that when we allow ourselves to be led by faith, others attribute political intentions over faithful ones?
If you don’t know God, faith can seem a lot like passionate politicking. When people assume that our greatest bone to pick is probably political, that just reflects a lack of understanding of God. Overall, God is greater than the political squabbles because he’s GOD. Like, he’s so much bigger than that.
The body of Christ is made up of a bevvy of different opinions, which all matter less than the perfection of God. You’ve got people from every tribe, nation, and tongue who are gradually adding up to praise the Lord, and the cultural diversity alone isn’t going to allow a situation where everyone agrees about everything. Given how much people’s opinions change within one culture over 100-200 years alone should be enough evidence that most of the things we believe don’t ultimately matter.
In the end, politics is useful only so long as it is useful to God. God can work through a variety of different methods and more often than not, mistakes. His plan doesn’t require our righteousness. The fact that he doesn’t need us to be right is good.