It’s definitely worth reading Our Radicalized Republic from FiveThirtyEight.com. Lots of data to consider even if you disagree with some of the analysis.
When I first set out to join a United Methodist congregation, I asked the pastor for definitive information on United Methodist beliefs. With much trepidation, he provided me with a United Methodist Discipline. I read the first hundred or so pages, not being too interested in the details of the church’s committee structures, including the statements of belief and the social principles. On returning the book I asked him whether I was expected to affirm the social principles. He said, “No.” Good answer!
I don’t mean that Christians should have no political involvement. I both comment on issues and vote. I vote in every election for which I’m eligible, even if there’s only one or two items on the ballot. What I mean is I’d like to see an end to a specific set of political principles that someone, anyone, claims form “Christian politics.” Sorry, UMC, I have never warmed to the social principles, even the ones I agree with. I would only truly like social principles that said how I should behave toward my neighbor, not ones that say how I should carry that behavior into the political sphere.
I’d like to suggest that Christians argue for political positions they believe to be right, moral, appropriate, effective, or whatever other good adjective you find, because the policies are all those good things, not because they are the right thing for Christians to propose.
Here are some of my reasons:
- In the United States we live in a secular society. I think it’s appropriate to make political arguments that can be understood by my neighbors of any faith, and those who profess no faith at all.
- Politics leads us to careless and even intentional falsehoods (for the greater good, of course). When we attach the word “Christian” to that behavior, we blaspheme Christ.
- Politics leads us to violate the golden rule, treating others as traitors, scum, demonic, evil, or otherwise corrupt, simply on the basis of their affiliation. That’s sinful.
- Politics leads us to take God’s name in vain and engage in false prophecy, as when we preface our own opinions with a “thus saith the Lord.” Ezekiel 22:28 applies.
- Politics, especially partisan politics, leads us to carelessness.
- Politics leads us to fear, panic, and unwise actions.
- When we try to express modern political positions as somehow scriptural, we tend to look amateur in our exegesis, in our theology, and in our political theory.
- Politics leads us to depend on human authority and power rather than on God’s power and the Gospel.
The last one is one I regard as a great danger, one into which I believe most of the American church has already fallen.