I've been posting a lot lately about religion and politics, but not together. Yet of course they're very linked. Look at how many things they have in common:
1) People get very emotional about both
2) Both are polarizing issues, creating an "us vs. them" dynamic
3) Both are subjective, creating a system where endless debate can take place with no one ever definitively "winning"
Here in Texas we have a very specialized style of religously political worldviews, where people blend their faith with politics in an amazing way. I think that if Jesus came back tomorrow, many Texans would assume that he:
1) Would be a staunch Republican and would denounce liberals
2) Would get heavily involved in the political system
3) Would be American-centric, naturally, because we are the Christian nation
4) Would bring along George Washington, team up with Chuck Norris, and blast the Muslims into the fires of hell, ushering in a golden age of American rule through the power of God
Okay, so I went a little far with that last one. But it's not far from the kinds of things I hear down here. What I want to address, though, is points 1 through 3.
Jesus lived in a time of political oppression. The Romans weren't the worst rulers in the history of the world but they weren't perfect either. The murder of Jesus, the stoning of Stephen, the jailings of Paul... all of these happened under forms of Roman law. Slavery was legal, as was prostitution -- two things we have outlawed in our country.
Yet Jesus made a fuss of none of that. Rather than appearing staunchly conservative in his political views, he appeared to be utterly apathetic about politics. He focused on the small, the local, the personal, and said the government serves its purposes but it can't fix problems of the heart.
Fast forward to today. I often hear it said, either directly or indirectly, that to call myself a Christian must automatically mean I'm in a certain political party, with certain political views. I struggle to see the basis for this. For example:
-- Benevolence and giving to the needy are good, biblical principles. Yet somehow the very idea of governmental wealth redistribution (a.k.a. tiered taxation, welfare, etc...) is anti-Christian and it just coddles lazy people.
-- Killing and murder are bad things, and human life is highly valued in the bible. Yet somehow if a government official speaks about peace and troop withdrawals, he or she is a weakling and doesn't have the guts to fight evil and kill our enemies, the way a good Christian would.
-- The bible says we should speak in loving truth to one another, yet somehow today it's okay to spread vicious rumors and even outright lies about people if it's for the greater good of getting "our people" elected into office.
I think some of these things can be traced back to our picture of America and its roots. Some people of faith seem to think that we have always been a conservative Protestant country, with the founding fathers almost being a roomful of Baptist ministers, invoking Christianity into the very fabric of our union.
It's just not true. Here are a few tidbits, but my next post will cover our nation's heritage in more detail:
-- "In God We Trust" didn't appear on our currency until 100 years after our country began
-- The pledge of allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist preacher, but even he didn't include the words "Under God" in the pledge. Those words weren't added until 1954.
-- Francis Bellamy was a Socialist.
Several weeks ago at work I received an email describing the many ways we are a Christian nation. I took some time and debunked the entire email, showing point-by-point how it was filled with falsehoods. I will show that email in my next post.
I do not do this purely as a critique or an attack -- my intentions are positive. I ultimately want to focus on some of the things Christians may be able to rally around and support, and how they can be a force of unity in a politically-polarized time. And I want it all to be based on historical truth, not fiction.