Something I see happening more and more among Christians nowadays is that they are being dragged into the mud of the bitter political discourse and dramatic polarization within the U.S. Or, rather, they are jumping into the mud fight.
I use the term Christian in its most broad form here, because we all know examples of those to take the Christian label and show no outward evidence of true faith.
The roots for the current climate have always been present within the U.S. as far back as its founding and the same divisions hit its peak crisis during the civil war. The divisions flare up from time to time but this latest flareup seems particularly interesting because such strong political thoughts and ideas are seeping into the hearts and minds of very normal, every day people who otherwise wouldn’t have been overtly political in their thinking. And it is clear that there is primarily one source for this current trend which is causing further polarization and division: social media.
This issue is personal for me because I see it hurting people in my family. The intermingling of political beliefs and faith, and the loud expression of their opinions has actually caused certain people in my family to stop going to church and to be visibly weakened in their faith. They actually avoid going to church because they have the misconception that all Christians are very conservative Trump supporters. Obviously in some churches this would be the case. But to generalize all Christians as one particular political brand is not only very inaccurate but I also feel it is a tactic being used by Satan to cause division and to damage faith.
This perception is reinforced in stories like that caller who called into the White House on Christmas Eve and, after the Bidens talked with the parents and the 4 children, the father ended the call with social-media-generated catchphrase “Let’s go Brandon” that stands for “F*** Joe Biden.” Someone in the media tracked the caller down the next day and asked him about it. He insisted that he meant no disrespect to the President and that he was a “free-thinking American and follower of Jesus Christ.”
Now, depending on one’s beliefs, they may or may not support this person’s use of “free speech” in offending the president over the phone. But then he pulled the name of Jesus into it, and I had a sort of visceral reaction, like “someone is using my Savior’s name to go along with that?” I would ask: Is this man’s actions and self identifying as a follower of Jesus going to make anyone else want to become a follower of Jesus?
The clear answer is no. If you’re going to cause someone to turn away from the faith, make it because of righteousness, not for something done out of anger or bitterness against someone.
I can’t help but feel that extreme engagement in politics whether in the mind or with other people has at its root the issue of idolatry. This could manifest in various ways such as:
- We don’t trust that God is sovereign over leaders.
- We spend an inordinate amount of time on things that have a “political nature” such as watching the news, posting contentious things on Facebook or twitter, etc. If you find yourself getting angry often about political things, it’s time to look inward and see where your priorities lie.
- We place our highest personal religious value in who is president, which party controls congress, the makeup of the Supreme Court, what bills are being passed or repealed, etc.
In other words, when we make so much of the political system by getting angry or engaging in political squabbles with people whether in person on online, we are not acting like Jesus is the Lord of our life. If anger and vitriol spew forth, we act as though that particular subject matter is more important than Jesus.
I am not advocating for complete removal of oneself from all things political, nor the avoidance of political discussion if it so suits someone (although I personally feel that unless it is one’s job to be a policy maker, it is actually very rarely fruitful to discuss politics, on a practical level). What I am advocating for is two extremely basic ideas that seem to me to be somewhat dissolving in the chaos that is 2021(2022).
- If you’re going to engage in politics, make sure your beliefs are biblically informed as much as possible, not culturally (not just because everyone else around your thinks so).
- Always be loving, gentle, and respectful when engaging in discussion, and if you’re not, ask for forgiveness.
We are united to other Christians with a bond that transcends everything (or it should), and Jesus prayed for unity among believers. So when we allow our political beliefs to transcend this bond by creating divisions, we are letting it become a tool of Satan. Therefore, resisting this urge for division and maintaining unity is fighting Satan and strengthening the church.
Lastly, my main thought is this: If true Christians just focused on things above (Colossians 3:2) like abiding in Jesus and his commands, we would be much less concerned about all this social medial political bullshit anyway. We would develop “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. In addition to all these things put on love.” (Colossians 3:12-14).