I expected to have it all figured out.
I felt like maturity in God, meant I was going to be more sure about more things. But often the process of maturity is pruning not just growing.
As with many things in the pilgrimage of life, the certainty of my political understanding has not increased; it has lessened. However, if we have learned anything in the last couple of years, there are some really loud and quite certain voices that land on both sides of the political aisle.
I am consistently shocked at the level of absolute belief some people have that their party’s enemy is maniacally laughing and making cocktails with Satan, yet find their own party innocent and a champion of all that is good.
In light of these things, as a person who can’t be convinced the absolute evil or good of either side, I thought it would be appropriate to look at approaching politics through the path of contemplative prayer…that is prayerfully reflecting on what God might be saying…and how I might be wrong and others might be right.
The first key thing to mention is that I come from a perspective where I do believe that politics play a role of some importance and value for believers, but not near as much as we make it out to be. In the scriptures, Jesus often makes some politically subversive statements but is also a bit aloof toward politics. He proclaims and establishes a kingdom that is not of this world.
Our mission is not primarily to make the systems of this world more like Christ. Our hope is to see people become more like Christ, and in doing so, our systems and culture will follow.
That doesn’t mean, however, that systems and culture don’t matter. It just means that our hope for change and better human experience doesn’t come primarily through political systems. The political makeup of society is more of a reflection or fruit of the status of people than it is an actual driver of culture and human experience.
In this posture, Christians in countries around the world or in oppressive times of history could still live out their call to Jesus with the assurance of a better hope promised to them…a hope that transcends laws in their favor. We should be less worried and more prayerful, focused on a pure call of Jesus to abide in Him and reflect His love to those around us. Saying all that, we should still care.
The second key thing for me is context. Context is of utmost importance in discussing politics. My approach to politics is that I do not personally believe any particular ideology is transcendently correct. When we talk about the truth of the resurrection of Christ or the deity of the Trinity, we are talking about absolutes. When we talk about what flavor of political ideology we adopt, most of the issues are not transcendently good or evil in an absolute way. So, we try to examine things through the lens of context…ie. what is the right thing for this group of people at this time?
For me, contemplative prayer is the way God puts all things in life into context. This is why I wrote 3 contemplative questions to ask God in prayer as you consider your vote.
- How will my vote value human life? This question is not just important as it relates to abortion, which is a very important issue. For me, valuing human life in our political views means that we also examine other issues where lives are lost, like the death penalty and unjust war. It means we ask questions like, is our prison system actually rehabilitating people for life? It means that we examine how we appropriately treat those who are trying to come to this country in search of life. I am not telling you how to approach these things particularly, but rather I am encouraging you to ask the questions of how would Jesus, the giver of life and lover of enemies, examine these issues?
- How will my vote value liberty and freedom of the human soul? Liberty is at the core of how I vote because I recognize the general posture of humanity to use power and systems to its own end. The more freedom everyone has, the more all of us get to carve out the lives we feel called to live, based on our convictions. In light of this and as a pastor, I am not concerned with the government legislating everyone’s moral compass. The moral laws that are put in place should be ones that aid only toward the liberty of people, not the moral formation of society. Living out a Christian life has always been a choice that God doesn’t impose upon us anyway.
- How will my vote help the helpless? We must examine as a society what is the appropriate help that we offer to those who need help. In the prophetic language of the scriptures that are geared toward addressing nations, a very repetitive issue that God has with those nations is a lack of justice for the poor. Now, once again, I am not telling you what to believe about this…I am just highlighting that God is interested in not just how the church handles justice, but how nations handle their justice for the poor. We need to recognize there are many people that need help. There always will be. This is an interesting point that Jesus makes in Mark 14:7 when he says the “poor will always be with you.” I know that the context of this verse is addressing an entirely different issue, yet I still believe the statement to be true. Every society from the dawn of time has included those who need help. People on both sides of the aisle sometimes forget this. We will never completely solve poverty with any political ideology. For that very reason, we must figure out how we bring justice and help to the poor, because even our best ideas aren’t going to end human need and suffering. The priority is for us to see people in need as people to be loved and helped. We don’t get to choose not to help just because people don’t help themselves. We also have to know when our helping is hurting.
For me, much of my journey in God has been shaped by reflecting and asking questions. Regardless of your political views, I encourage you to ask these questions in prayer. I believe the approach of contemplation can change the way we approach everything in life.
Featured photo by Parker Johnson