Christianity and Politics Are Incompatible
As America is about to select its next president, are there lessons we can learn from the common practices of politicians who seek higher office?
On Nov. 8 the American people will go to the polls to select the 45th president. The rhetoric and tone of this particular election seems to be more nasty and hateful than any in modern history. Going back to the primaries, this election has been marked with name-calling, character attacks and even calls for candidates to be imprisoned. The two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have historically low approval ratings—with large majorities saying both candidates are untrustworthy.
This comes at a time when the United States and the world face some of the most grave and serious challenges since the two world wars and the Cold War of the 20th century. Just when it seems America needs steady leaders of character and judgment the most, many voters feel they have to choose a candidate solely on the basis of how much worse his or her opponent is.
Yes, American politics is filled with what the Bible calls carnality. The carnal mind is described as “enmity against God” and “not subject to the law of God” (Romans 8:7). Essentially, carnality is living and conducting oneself outside of God’s influence. Most would probably agree that biblical principles have not been widely displayed during this election season.
So is there anything we can learn by analyzing the practices of our politicians? In fact, there is. One of the interesting things about the Bible is that it often teaches spiritual principles through the bad examples of individuals.
I believe there are some important lessons we can learn by examining the practices of politicians and striving to live the opposite. This list should also make us pause and consider whether or not we should even participate in the political process at all.
Two ways to get elected president
1. Find and expose the flaws of your opponent.
In the world of politics, it seems a person cannot get elected by focusing only on his or her positive ideas and vision for the country. Though candidates often claim they are going to run a positive campaign, the reality is that nearly every candidate engages in attacks on his or her opponents—sometimes directly and sometimes through surrogates. In the present election cycle, we have seen both candidates try to discredit each other by attacking and exposing alleged abuses and character flaws.
Though candidates often claim they are going to run a positive campaign, the reality is that nearly every candidate engages in attacks on his or her opponentsBut this behavior is 100 percent contrary to how God expects His followers to live. Instead of “attacking” our enemies, Jesus taught a revolutionary concept: “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27). He even showed how serious He was by giving the extreme example of showing kindness to an enemy who strikes or steals from you (verse 29). Unfortunately, in politics, character attacks are often reciprocal. When one candidate attacks, the other candidate will answer with another attack.
In Galatians 5:19-21 the apostle Paul listed traits he labeled as “the works of the flesh”—essentially 17 examples of carnality found in human beings. Consider how some of them perfectly relate to our politics today:
- Hatred: Do we see good will and congeniality in our politics, or do political opponents often express hatred for each other?
- Contentions: Do politicians engage in contention through attack and slander?
- Dissensions: Is not politics about organizing against those who think differently?
- Envy: Do not politicians envy political power so much they are willing to destroy their opposition’s reputation in any way they can?
So what is the lesson for me and you?
If there is a person we disagree with or consider to be our opponent (or enemy), we should “not [return] evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). The apostle Paul wrote: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification [building up]” (Ephesians 4:29).
Researching an opponent’s past mistakes and attacking those mistakes to discredit the opponent is hardly “necessary edification.” The proper Christian approach is: “He who covers a transgression [of another] seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9).
Unfortunately, politicians would likely claim the above cannot realistically be applied in modern politics—and they’re probably right. That is why Christians should seriously consider whether they can, in good conscience, participate in any part of the political process.
2. Ignore your weaknesses and rarely admit you’re wrong.
If you have ever watched a presidential debate, you can see very clearly how political candidates respond to attacks on their character and record. It is very simple:
- Do not acknowledge or address the issue that was raised.
- Counter with an even greater flaw of your opponent.
In one of this year’s debates, this scenario was played out when a candidate was confronted about explicit comments he had made about women years earlier. In his answer, he diminished the seriousness of his past comments and then brought up the past sexual infidelities of his opponent’s spouse. It is a classic human reaction when confronted with our own wrongs—ignore and deflect.
This approach goes all the way back to the first human beings. When God confronted Adam about eating the forbidden fruit, his first response was to ignore his sin and deflect responsibility by focusing on the greater guilt of his wife, Eve (Genesis 3:12). Eve, likewise, tried to deflect fault by blaming the serpent (verse 13).
So what is the lesson for me and you?
When we are confronted with genuine wrongdoings on our part, instead of attempting to deflect attention by countering with another person’s mistakes, we should be introspective and carefully consider if there is truth to the accusation. If, in fact, there is, we should admit our wrongdoing and genuinely commit to true repentance and change: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
The alternative to politics
A sad reality of our society is that in order to attain elected office, it seems one must engage in unchristian behavior. We have just shown two examples—but many more bad behaviors could be cited, such as outright lying, showing favoritism to those who support you or making promises you know you will not (and cannot) keep. The reality is that modern politics and Christianity are incompatible. This is one reason why Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
Not only should we commit ourselves to not behaving this way in our personal lives, we should also consider that God’s Word warns us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11). That is why Life, Hope & Truth avoids politics and instead proclaims the message about the Kingdom Jesus said is “not from here”—a message about a new, righteous government that will be established at the return of Jesus Christ. For more insight on how Jesus views modern politics, read “Who Would Jesus Vote For?”