Politics: Our second faith?
We all allow our personal convictions to contaminate our understanding of certain biblical passages. A Reader's Blog contribution by P. Abortivi.
24 SEPTEMBER 2020 · 11:50 CET
Have you ever talked with a brother or a sister in the Lord about ethical or social issues and ended up discussing politics?
Have you ever noticed the change in the tone of the voice, the focus, or the passion that sparks when a conversation moves from theological or theoretical subjects to more down-to-earth, everyday problems?
Christians love to consider themselves ‘spiritual’ and detached from worldly circumstances, but when they start to discuss economics or ethics their attitude often switches to “politics mode” and they can become a very different person. That is evidence of our “second faith”.
When we come to Christ we all bring with us our fleshy baggage of sins that partially disappear immediately after the conversion and partially needs to be addressed by God’s grace with time. For some reason many do not perceive their political views as part of this baggage. Being on one side or the other of the political spectrum is sometimes taken for granted, as is being from a specific country or culture.
We may have been raised in a Christian family where faith and politics were part of the same package, or we may have encountered Jesus at a later stage in our life. Whichever the case, we all tend to incorporate our political views into our faith. Rather than listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing God’s word to filter our beliefs on how this world should function, we allow our personal convictions to contaminate our understanding of certain biblical passages. We unconsciously create blind spots in the way we live our daily faith so that we don’t have to come to terms with ourselves.
I have talked to people who plainly told me that they were Communists because, ‘of course Jesus was an egalitarian who cared for the poor’, and I have talked to semi-Fascists who claim Christianity is all about family, order and respecting rules. We are extremely good at adapting our faith to our ideas or to the ideology that we adopted. “Conversion” means change and we are usually afraid to change our well-established certainties, especially when these were transmitted to us by our parents, by our cultural group, or by the people who introduced us to Christ.
Then, we have politicians. In democracy, they look for one thing: to be in power. They might want it for good or bad reasons, but power is the ultimate goal, and in order to obtain it you need voters. Every good political strategist knows very well the keywords and the right things that need to be said in order to get more Christian votes, and I am sorry to say that most Christians are simple enough to believe them. Even the Bible confirms that believers are more naïve than they think they are: “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Luke 16:8, Let’s face it, we too often consider ourselves smarter that the word of God concedes.
The problem is that all parties and all politicians proclaim some good things. If that were not the case, no one would vote for them. For example left parties and politicians stress social justice and the respect of workers -which is biblical- while right wing parties and politicians are in general more in favor of traditional values, order and morality -which are good concepts as well. Yet, among these good goals there are always other not-so-holy agendas, both hidden or not.
The good Lord gave us all the tools necessary to understand the “enemy’s schemes”: His Word and the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit, but in order for these to work in us, we need to be ready to give up all our convictions, all our certainties, all our cultural and political backgrounds.
As you are reading this article, you might find yourself trying to understand which political side I support. If this is the case, I encourage you to ask yourself, “why do I want to know?”. Would the words of a fellow Christian be more valuable if he were on your political side? Would you consider him an ‘actual Christian’ only if he supported your ideas? If we need to divide the world, or worse, the church, between good ones and bad ones based on opinions, it means that we are giving priority to our personal worldview over our faith. It means that in our minds we divide people not by their father’s name -children of God or children of satan-, but rather by the party or ideology they belong to. Well, that is a sin.
It seems to me that the core issue with Christians and politics has always been that too many believers look at politicians as someone who will ‘save’ them from their problems, from the evil of this world, from the bad guys (the other side) who want to ruin what they value so much. In other words, they look for another Messiah.
Idolatry can take different forms, and the unconditional fidelity to a political side or to a leader can be one of those. Every time we add something to Christ’s sufficient salvation, we devalue its importance in our lives. Every time we follow fallacious men instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus, we betray His call for us.
We do not need a second faith; we must give it up to Him.
Pier Francesco Abortivi lives in Italy and is EU director for ACCI and president of Progetto Archippo.