Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who would Jesus vote for?

Ok. I’ve written and re-written this thought for Thursday a dozen times and I’m getting nowhere. Why? Because I’m trying to tackle a difficult topic and I’m having trouble getting any traction. The topic? Politics. The trouble? As a pastor, I do my best to stay out of partisan politics. The reason is simple. As a pastor some people look at me for direction as to what God would have a person do in his or her life. That’s reasonable, I guess, and it works for some areas of life but not for others. Why? Well, I’m not perfect so often I don’t do what God wants. Just as important, there’s not always one way to live out our Christianity in the world around us. Just because I decide to do or not do something, doesn’t always mean you have to do the same.

That is especially true in politics. Lot’s of people want to know, “Who would Jesus vote for?” That sounds like a good question. In many ways, though, it’s impossible to answer, at least in any definitive way. For one thing, Jesus never voted. He didn’t even have the opportunity to vote. And as difficult as it may be for our modern sensibilities he didn’t even address the topic. He spent zero time on suffrage issues. The few times he did address earthly political leaders, he was pretty dismissive of their false positions of power. Jesus was political, no doubt (he was executed as a political dissident), but he wasn’t political in the way we so often use the term.

Does Jesus’ lack of involvement mean we shouldn’t be involved in partisan politics? Not at all. We live in an entirely different situation from Jesus. We have the opportunity to have a say in our government - a say that can have a major effect not only on our neighbors here in America, but on people around the world. Such opportunities are no doubt a gift and a responsibility from God. But how do we, as Christians, employ that gift? How do we get from the world of the Bible, where voting was a non-issue, to modern day life, where we live and work and breath?

First of all, we make the move humbly realizing that when that much distance exists between the world of the Bible and our own world, very reasonable, dedicated Christians are going to come to different conclusions concerning how their faith will inform their politics. Just because someone chooses to vote differently than me, doesn’t mean they are less of a Christian. Let us treat one another with civility and love. Second, we approach the task with a healthy bit of skepticism. I don’t mean we should be cynical about politics – far from it. The political world, whether we like it or not, is where we make decisions in this country. Democratic (that’s little “d”) politics really are better than the alternative - there are no participatory politics in a totalitarian government. No, we shouldn’t be cynical, but we should be skeptical. The kingdom of God can’t be reduced to partisan politics. No political party, no politician, no political system will save the world. Politics can certainly make things worse or better, but only the gospel of Jesus Christ can make people whole.

Jesus answered [Pilate], “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36.


Patrick said...

I really like your blog. I think I'll steal this topic for mine.

When you start your on-line megachurch can I be your cyber youth minister?

Taylor Sandlin said...

Thank you Patrick. You can steal anything you like. I really am all for Christians engaging in the political world. I think the manner in which we engage that world is as important if not more important than what party we happen to engage it on behalf of. Civility, forbearance, kindness ought to mark the Christian as something quite unique in the political world. Alas, it seldom does. My personal silence concerning my own partisan preference has to do with the unique position of being peoples' pastor. Pastors, in my opinion, should be especially non-partisan. Obviously, others disagree. Without tipping my hat, I am actually finding this election season to be pretty facinating.