Last night the President presented the annual State of the Union Address. He spoke about policy, foreign relations, budgets, etc… at least I assume he did. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t watch and I don’t plan to watch it replayed. In fact I don’t plan to watch any political talks for the foreseeable future. I have decided to quit politics. The elections, the policy debates, the news coverage. All of it.
This has nothing to do with the President’s political stance. This is not about any political party in or out of power. I am not quitting politics over any particular issue or law. I am not protesting some Supreme Court decision.
The reason I am quitting is I have decided that politics is bad for my faith.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about anyone else. I am not recommending others do what I am doing. I know many Christians who feel that politics is exactly where Christians should involve themselves. That’s great. But it is not for me right now.
As I attempt to explain my reasoning I want to briefly mention two very important points. First, before I decided to become a minister, I wanted to be a politician. I have always followed politics, global events, etc… very closely. So, to say I am quitting is a pretty big deal to me. Second, while I want to state my reasons, in a deeper sense they may be impossible to explain. They are in many ways a feeling deep in my bones as much as they are verbalized logic. But, here are my thoughts.
1. Politics is time-consuming. To truly stay in the know requires lots of time. Understanding the intended effects and unintended consequences of various policy proposals is quite an undertaking. To truly “get it” requires ongoing looks at economics and political science. Because it is so time-consuming it is easy to fall back on party affiliation rather than truly understanding the issue. But more than that, for me to truly stay in the know requires me to let other things go. My time is very limited. I have to make choices. And right now I would rather sit down with someone and talk about the difficulties in their marriage or go to my son’s Cub Scout meeting (both things I did last night) than feed my politics jones. Someone might say I could carve out time for politics since it is so important. But right now it doesn’t measure up in importance to the other things in my life.
2. Politics is divisive in the church. Right now I am not sure anything creates a barrier between Christians quite the way politics does. I have seen, in just the past few months, people who call themselves christians say “how can you oppose the ACA and claim to follow Jesus?” and “voting for Obama is the same as voting for Satan.” Apparently, many among us are able to tell who is a true disciple of Christ by simply looking at how someone voted. In an effort to keep the bond of peace, I am leaving this particular barrier aside. We do not seem to be able to believe that someone could be compassionate toward the poor and vote Republican, or care about unborn babies and vote for a Democrat. Until we can develop the trust that our brothers and sisters actually have good motives for where they stand on an issue, I think it is best that I lay the right to vote aside.
3. Politics is about power. Ultimately, politics is about my side being right and making others do what I think is right. I vote for what I think is right. I group up with others to make that vote count. I join a party or interest group to really make that vote count. I win, and enforce my win with power. The power of government. The power of force. Look, I think I am right on a lot of issues. But I am no longer willing to say that I am so right I think everyone should be made to do what I think. I find myself sometimes angry and often frustrated because others don’t see it the way I do, the right way. I need to lay down that anger and frustration by laying down even the possibility of power. Jesus layed down his power to come to earth, and refused the power of ruling every government on earth when tempted by Satan. I need to do the same.
4. Politics is not the Kingdom of God. I don’t mean to go all David Lipscomb on you, but I can now understand much of what he thought. I see many Christians, including myself, putting more and more faith in the possibility that government doing things the right way (whatever way I believe that to be) is the answer. Or even that my following of Christ somehow makes me qualified to say what should be done. But what I need right now is to seek first the Kingdom of God. I want to be a non-violent follower of Jesus. But governments only work by force, and governments go to war. I want to be a man of integrity. Governments are riddled with corruption, wastefulness and greed. I want to love the poor, bring healing to the hurting, and teach others the ways of Jesus. I no longer believe that government truly helps me do that.
Much has been written about Jesus and politics in the last few years. There is much wrangling about the kind of laws or programs or spending he would support. I find these thoughts interesting, but ultimately they leave me wanting. I cannot say for sure how Jesus would vote. Or even if he would. I see Him proclaiming the Kingdom of God which stands against the kingdoms of this world. And for now, I need to chase that kingdom.
Let me reiterate, I am not claiming anyone else should give up politics. This is for me and me alone. The one thing I would ask is this; consider your time and motives. Consider how politics makes you feel about your brothers and sisters in Christ. Look intently into your heart and see where you have placed your faith. Then do what you think is right.