My Problem with Politics

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POLITICS = activities, actions, and policies that are used to gain and hold power…

- Miriam-Webster

Today, presidential hopeful Donald Trump spoke at my alma mater, Liberty University.  I think Trump is a gifted entertainer and I would certainly vote for him…as the next Rush Limbaugh.  Even when you disagree with Trump, you have to admit that he brings up issues that people should probably be talking about.  At the very least, he causes more people to care.  Trump has built an enormous personal fortune by using our greatest weaknesses for his gain.  Just like he used our greed to build his casinos, he’s spinning our fears into political gold.  Even when Trump says something wrong, he says it loud.  A lot of people call that strength. 

The Atlantic ran this story with the headline, “The Religious Right’s Donald Trump Dilema. Here is the part that caught my attention.

“Nonetheless, Trump is currently leading among white evangelical voters, many of whom are willing to forgive his theological lapses in favor of other appealing qualities. “Spirituality is a big issue, but we need somebody who’s strong,” a Kentuckian named Charles E. Henderson told the New York Times. “Lots of times the preachers and everything, they have a tendency to be just a little bit weak.” 

Our world is a hostile and dangerous place.  CNN would like us to believe this is a recent development, but the truth is, the world has been savage for sometime.  War, disease, genocide, hunger…   Perhaps it does take a bruising type of strength to tackle any of this without divine intervention.  In that context, I guess love, compassion, and sacrifice really do look weak.  Or maybe, its a different kind of strength.

JESUS VS POLITICAL EXPECTATIONS

Top-down management is what people wanted from Jesus.  When they called him Messiah, they expected a strong and bruising ruler to lead them in a rebellion against their Roman overlords.  That’s not what they got.  Jesus ignored politics, and pointed toward an eternal kingdom.  The people wanted to be wealthy, and Jesus taught them generosity and simplicity.  The people wanted security, and Jesus challenged them to risk it all for their faith.  The people wanted permission to be selfish, and Jesus wouldn’t give it.  Instead, he modeled sacrifice.  His defiance of society’s expectations ignited a rousing rebellion against cultural norms, transforming the world as we know it.  Jesus knew that at our core, we longed for something more.  But not everyone.  It turns out that the people who made a living off of the political exploitation of those they claimed to serve were pretty threatened by Jesus.  They sighed with relief as they watched his brutal murder.  

The execution of Jesus is a stunning lesson in irony.  If the death of Christ gave the political system a three day victory, His resurrection provided a two-millennium defeat.  He taught us that the people in power can mess with your money, take away your freedom, and even kill you.  But that’s it.  Because of the hope we have in Jesus, even death has lost its sting. 

SO…WHO DO I VOTE FOR?

What does all of this mean for me in terms of the upcoming election?  What should I think about immigration policy, education reform, poverty, abortion, and gun control?  Should I consider these things?  Of course.  I just don’t want to find myself thinking that politics will have any long-term impact on these issues.  I believe the world can change.  My hope is hinged to a theology of restoration.  I think that because of the Gospel, broken things can be fixed and dead things can be made new.  However, I don’t think that healthy systems fix broken people.  I think that healthy people strive for better systems (and policies, and laws, and government). 

For me, here is the biggest difference.  Politics make me focus on types of people.  Faith makes me focus on actual people.  I want to see change.  I want to see Christ’s kingdom come.  I’m going to vote and pay attention to what’s going on around me - with 10% of my energy.  What about the rest of my time?  I’m going to live and breathe to see His kingdom come by doing everything I can to get more of the Gospel into my everyday life.  I want to see individuals filled with hope, and joy, and life.  I want to see hearts, bodies, communities, and nations raised to new life.  I’ve heard of historic moves of God.  Now, I want to be a part of one.  It’s not because I’m a pastor, a missionary, or a church planter.  It’s because I’m a Christian.  Most days, I’m pretty bad at it.  That’s the cool thing about Jesus.  Even when I am weak, He is strong.

Aaron is the pastor of Spring of Life, a new church in Portland, Oregon. He's the owner of Amplify Creative.