Some Political Thoughts

Aug 30th 2008

Being on sabbatical, I’ve had the opportunity to watch more election coverage than probably any year since college and seminary! It’s been a fascinating few months. The drama between the Clintons and Obama. An acceptance speech in a stadium from the first African-American to ever be nominated as a presidential candidate, and then a day later, the first woman to be nominated as a vice-presidential candidate by the republican party. One way or another — come November — history will be made.

Setting aside the issues and looking at the people: As a preacher/communicator, I love to listen to Barack Obama. He is a great communicator and he has hit upon a message that people are hungry to hear — there is hope. When it comes to John McCain, his service for his country and his “maverick” status shape a compelling story. Joe Biden is known as a blunt, straightforward politician but he has dealt with and overcome great grief in the loss of his family. Grief shapes us. And then there is Sarah Palin, fresh on the scene, surprise choice for vp. An athlete, leader of her chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school, loves hunting and fishing, a mother of five — including a son with Down Syndrome, there seem to be some very courageous, elements to her story.

It’s going to be a fascinating 60+ days. But here are some of my political thoughts.

1) Jesus was neither democrat nor republican — just read the Sermon on the Mount, that was his platform. I am confident that there are democratic ideals that please Jesus and republican ideals that please Jesus — just as there are both democratic and republican policies that grieve the heart of God.

2) We need to be careful when we mix politics and religion. Don’t hear what I am not saying. We need people with deep faith to be deeply involved in the political process, just like we need people of deep faith to be school teachers, business owners, farmers, engineers, and artists. But we need to be careful when we mix politics and religion. In other words, we should not equate being republican with being Christian, anymore than we should equate being baptist with being Christian.

3) I get a little bit uncomfortable with talk from Christian groups about who God wants to be president. As I’ve been reading through the Bible, it is clear that God sovereignly works among the nations, but who he chooses to use and when he chooses to use them, he does for purposes that go beyond our purposes. Meanwhile he instructs us to pray for those in authority over us — no matter who they are. The more important Christian question seems to be, “Are you praying for your president?” Not, “Who will/did you vote for?”

4) We should ask ourselves what labels we freely accept and which labels do we allow to define ourselves? Republican? Democrat? Independent? American? PSU Alumni? Baptist? Catholic? Lutheran? Post-modern? Mother? Father? Doctor? …..or Jesus-follower? If our primary label is Jesus-follower shouldn’t that shape us more than any other label? And if so, what is the shape of a Jesus-follower? Jesus seemed to indicate that those who follow him would be shaped by things like, courageous compassion, wisdom, humble servanthood and hopeful faith.

So what shape will we be in…come November?