Tomorrow I will be sharing a sneak peek from Ch. 9 – It Just So Happened To Be An Election Year. If you are new or just haven’t been paying close attention to this blog, I wrote a book about my first year being a pastor. I also happen to be a millennial. To top all that off, my first year as a pastor coincided with that election year we are all still talking about. Yes, I was learning how to be a pastor while Trump and Hillary were laying the verbal smackdown on one another. Oh politics… let me tell you, it was super fun to navigate as a rookie pastor.
That last sentence was sarcasm, so forgive me…
If you know me, you may have noticed that I don’t love talking politics. There are a select few close friends and family members I discuss them with. For me, I find it mildly inappropriate for pastors to seek to influence a person’s politics. This is something that is a personal conviction as I know that many pastors do anything but recuse themselves from the civil discourse that is politics. Civil may be too polite a word for it. They are few things that cause people to act as uncivilized as politics do.
Especially this last election cycle. Never had I seen such divisive language, such verbal assaulting as I had seen in this, the first year being the lead pastor. It made me sad. It caused me to do a lot of soul-searching, to see how much longer I could live convicted, and remove myself from political speech. I reflected back on all the times I had heard spiritual leaders say things about a candidate being “God’s Candidate” or making blanket statements about how an entire political party is godless. I remembered the hurt, the angst, the disenfranchising that came about as a result. When spiritual leaders such as pastors make statements of this nature, they put God in a box. They also undermine the church’s credibility by allowing it to be defined by manmade labels. When they support a candidate, they are attaching not only their names, but also the name of Jesus to a candidate who is not worthy of such an honor.
Inevitably candidates fail, they let us down. Some candidates become elected officials and somewhere in their term, they do things that go against Jesus’ teachings. This not only lets down the supporters who did so out of political and spiritual convictions (supposedly) but also smears the image of Jesus for the rest of the world.
I would argue that you cannot hold political office at the federal level and also follow Jesus with your everything. Maybe that’s rude to say, but this is why I say that:
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
When the church gets political, when Christians get political, they tarnish the image of Jesus. When they have voting centers in church foyers, and church secretaries say “you know who you are supposed to vote for, right?” it places an obstacle in front of a brother or sister who might not agree. Believe it or not, Christians voted for both Hillary and Trump. Others didn’t vote at all, or maybe they voted for a third party candidate. God does not lower Himself to our level and become as petty as we are. Oh, and by the way, that brief snippet of a story really happened. The church secretary really told a pastor she worked with that they had better vote for the right candidate.
Here is why this bothers me:
Unfortunately, CS Lewis never wrote this in the Screwtape letters (Click the link in the sidebar and read it for yourself). This is fabricated. Honestly though, I don’t care that he didn’t write it. Someone did and someone was absolutely right. Now maybe you don’t know about the Screwtape letters, so here is a quick overview. Wormwood is a demon in training. Screwtape is his uncle and mentor who is teaching him the best way to prevent the progression of the church. Their ultimate goal is to make the church ineffective by doing things similar to what is written above. Here is an actual snippet from the book on the topic of politics:
“To treat Christianity as a means to their own advancement…” Now, why does that sound so familiar?
“Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game”… Now that sounds like politics to me…
If a thing is labeled “political,” it invites everyone in earshot to express their opinion. It invites disagreements to flourish, judgments to be passed and prejudices to be built. So I have a simple suggestion.
Do the things you do without labeling them. Just live out your convictions. Don’t put them on other people, but if someone asks why you do a thing tell them. Do so without being presumptuous. Also, the church needs to remind itself regularly that it is far more significant if a person follows Jesus than whether they voted for Trump or Hillary. Otherwise, we run the risk of claiming to know the mind of God, to assume we know who is in and who is out, to pretend we can guess who God likes and who He dislikes.
Stop that nonsense…
1 Corinthians 2:2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
My first year taught me one simple truth in regards to politics: this world needs a lot more Jesus and a lot less promises made by politicians. Stay tuned for a teaser of the chapter tomorrow and stick around for another guest post from Moose Friday.
Until next time…