I grew up hearing the old saw “never talk about politics and religion at the dinner table” with the idea that the topics were too incendiary for polite company. Being a preacher’s kid kind of put the kibosh on the religion aspect—at least at our house.
I have good memories of rich theological discussion and debate. In fact, my memories are so vivid that I have blamed my father for our differences in theological understanding. Both of my parents encouraged us to think, reason, and study for ourselves. My Dad is in his late seventies now and we still thoroughly enjoy discussing and learning from each other.
But politics? Those don’t play a big role in my memories. I remember political moments for sure. I can easily recall the tension of their support for the Civil Rights movement. I remember the drama and concern while watching the draft numbers from the Vietnam War era being called out on the evening news.
The only overtly political legislation that evoked difficulty or concern that I remember was the proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Other than that, I have no memories of political arguments—no upset dialogue, no legislative anxiety.
Eventually that would change during my high school years. Jimmy Carter was president and I began to pay attention half-heartedly to the political rumblings during his term. My senior year would see me fully engage with the political process for two important reasons. First, the Iranian Hostage Crisis was front page every day—you couldn’t escape the outrage. And second, I took a senior US. Civics class where we could earn an “A” test grade if we registered to vote. If you ever looked at my high school transcript, you’d know I needed every “A” possible!
And by registering toward the end of my senior year (1980), I was able to cast my first ballot in a presidential election—for the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, with that first vote, I was hooked. I studied/ researched issues, involved myself in some low-level activism, and before I even knew what had happened to me, I was a full-fledged political animal. By the time of the twenty-four hour a day cable news networks, politics began having an inordinate sway in my life—a sway that took years to break—a sway that has threatened to overtake my life on several occasions.
So yes, I became one of those gloom and doom folks who sweated out elections, who fussed and fumed over policies deemed detrimental to my way of life. I particularly became unglued/ unbalanced over losing our health insurance and doctors. Frankly, those were some unhappy years. Those were times in which I made the people closest to me miserable–including myself. I wish I could say that in the midst of my angst I always acted with a Christ-like spirit, but that would be self-delusional at best.
If I could be totally honest, as much as I despise the term jerk, that’s exactly what I became. So, what do I want you to know about the Christian and politics? I thought you’d never ask.
We could talk about Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:21, “Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21 CSB17) Honestly? That’s a much-needed reminder.
We could talk about Paul’s words in Romans 12—about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice—about not being conformed to this world. Hey, that’s something I need to consider on a regular basic, politics or not.
But in an effort to make you think about where your priorities should lie, take a look at the story of The Rich Young Ruler as told by Jesus in Mark 10:17-22…
And then in Jesus’ explanation in verses 23-31, we find these words:
“Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astonished at his words. Again Jesus said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” (CSB17)
As you read these verses, try out this little exercise: substitute wealth and riches with political concerns or political capital…
And worse than that, it is scary to realize how out of whack I can let my priorities be!
As a child of God, I need to remember that His Kingdom is eternal while the politics of this world will one day pass away.
I leave you with the words to an old hymn…
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen Howarth Lemmel)
Blessings and Peace!
Les Ferguson, Jr.
Madison/ Oxford, MS