political participation

Kelly passed along a prompt for an article that someone needed written. I’m not certain if this will ever be published other than here, but I figured I’d throw it out for comment here at least.

Conservative. Liberal. Our modern day political arena often paints people with a broad brush. You’re either for the war in Iraq, or you’re not patriotic. You’re either pro-choice, or you don’t believe women have any rights. You’re either for the death penalty, or don’t really believe in justice. Every day there is a new wedge issue promoted by both sides, telling us the world we live in is simplistic and easily boiled down to a few core dichotomies, and that your morality and spirituality are determined more by a paper ballot than how you live your life.

Since the inception of our country, there has always been an uneasy relationship between church and state. Today it seems that religious groups want the church to be highly involved in the state, in many instances dictating policy, while at the same time wanting the state to be not involved at all in the church. At the same time, non-religious groups often want the state to be involved in regulating religious groups, but don’t want religious groups involved in government in any way. As Christians, sometimes it can be difficult to determine exactly how to integrate our faith and beliefs into our participation in a government of the people, by the people and for the people, especially when our ability as people of faith to have influence in the political arena is a relatively young concept. As we struggle with what to say and do in our modern political system, I believe the following principles can help guide us in making complicated political choices.

First, while it is vital for us to allow our faith and beliefs to guide our political participation, it is equally vital that we carefully examine both how those beliefs reflect on Christ, and the perceptions of non-believers regarding our actions. It is essential that we look not only at topics like abortion and homosexuality, but also at larger issues that affect billions of people worldwide like global poverty, international debt, genocide and the concept of justice for millions of people across the globe who daily endure gross human rights violations. Many non-Christians often view Mainstream Christianity as anti-homosexual, demeaning to women, and generally unconcerned with the poor. Whatever your political agenda, I think we can all agree Jesus probably didn’t have that goal when he said his disciples would be known for their love.

Second, we need to take a hard look at our personal actions and ask what we are doing to be a part of the solution to the world’s problems instead of participating in them. I know several Christians who would gladly picket the local Planned Parenthood, but who would scoff at giving their lunch to a homeless man. A recent USDA report found that in our nation of five dollar grande iced white mochas, 38 million people – about 12% of America’s population – were classified as “food insecure”, meaning that at some point in the year they had difficulty finding money to buy food. In Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz, the author writes about his friend Andrew who “believes that when Jesus says feed the poor, He means you should do this directly”, and sets up a makeshift kitchen on the streets of Portland each Saturday to serve breakfast to the homeless. As we read Scripture and discern the character of God, it is important that we focus politically on issues we honestly feel like Jesus would focus on. As we read again and again about God’s concern for the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, we must not only engage in making our voice heard in the political arena, but daily being the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing hope to a hurting world.

Though it’s often tempting to fuel the fire of political division, Jesus reached out across social, ethnic and moral groups to minister to anyone who was in need. As his followers, our primary goals should be ministerial, not political. When we become myopic enough to lose sight of people and focus instead on politics, we not only forget the mission of Christ, but nullify the essence of what it means to be truly Christian.

2 Replies to “political participation”

  1. so i realize that you don’t get many comments on your blog, but i wanted to say, ‘thanks’ for posting. i appreciate what you have to say. and i’m enjoying the photos of the butterflies.

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