Politics in twenty-first century America is a lot like any other spectator sport in our great land. And, especially in the last few years, it seems that more than a few of the fans have been availing themselves of those seven dollar beers. Like other professional sports, politics has become a coliseum game for the masses. We have our favored teams and favorite gladiators, to whom we have a fierce loyalty whose passion is perhaps only rivaled by our knee-jerk hatred of the other team. The players in government (particularly national) are often just that: Entertainers putting on a show for the proletariate in hopes of wooing them and achieving greater glory for themselves, or at least more points for their team. Politics in America today bears a striking resemblance to reality TV. We vote for our favorite characters who will then, they promise, champion our pet “issues”. It’s almost as much fun as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.
Contemporary politics also has a religious aspect. I mean this literally, not as a rhetorical point. Politics, law, legislation, are our national savior. The government is our Christ and our Ten (thousand) Commandments. Congress dictates morality, justice, and the details of our daily lives, and the Supreme Court looks and declares it “very good”. This worship of politics and government is not just the sin of the evil “Left”, but is also every bit as much a sin of the “Right” (the term “religious right” is nicely ironic). The Right as well as the Left believe that politics will save us, and lobby accordingly.
Now, as it happens, I didn’t vote for our last president: I don’t mean I didn’t vote for Bush (though I wouldn’t have anyway), but I mean I didn’t vote at all. This was not because of any anarchic ideal, but rather because I simply had a lot to do on Tuesday and didn’t make it to the polls. Nothing more nor less than that. And while this was perhaps somewhat remiss of me, I was a little surprised at the vehemence of some of my friend’s reactions when they learned of my grievous sin. The response of many Americans, Christian or otherwise, to someone not “getting involved” is nothing short of a righteous indignation. Not to vote is a moral outrage. This is, I think, rather revealing.
Christians must stop acting as if the game of politics has any lasting importance, as if it has any affect upon the kingdom of God advancing, as if who we vote for and what legislation they pass will have any bearing on whether or when every knee in America will bow to the King of Kings. This is not to say that we should ignore our civil government altogether (as if we could) but rather a reminder that this is not where the battle is. Voting for a Republican (or a right wing independent, or a decently moral household pet) with the belief that such a person, given political power, will be able to, for example, end the Holocaust of Choice is a fool’s hope, and that’s not because there are not enough members of “our team” in power. Government has no power to save. That said, we should vote, we should take an active part in our political system, just as we ought to brush our teeth (though in my opinion which of those two takes precedence is debatable).
In this country, in this time, who wields civil power is a matter of relative comfort. We should do our job as citizens in order to maintain relative peace and stability and freedom so that we may continue to have the privilege of doing freely and openly what will eventually, with God’s blessing, undermine the entire political system and make manifest the rule of Christ: Worshiping on the Lord’s day and breaking bread with our brothers.
I don’t want to come off as an antinomian or anarchist: We do have, as people living in community, civil responsibilities just as we have familial responsibilities and so forth. And it’s just fine to be more involved in politics than the average Joe, just as some folks actually care what happens in professional baseball and know all the stats of all the players (or play the sport for a living). However, remember its relative importance. Do not become filled with “righteous” indignation if someone else doesn’t take it as seriously as you do. This sort of reaction is similar in many ways to berating a brother for not watching the World Series. Instead of worshipping in the temple of American Civil Religion, we should instead focus our energies toward taking advantage of our relative freedom to worship Jesus Christ openly, with everything we have, praying fervently with joyful faith that His will be done, in North America as it is in heaven.