In the midst of a contentious election season, I just wanted to pass on two helpful quotes. It is my hope that we as Christians don’t fall into these traps.
Tim Keller on Political Idolatry
“One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end! There’s no hope!’
This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way. When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart. They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement. The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created.
Another sign of idolatry in our politics is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken but to be evil. After the last presidential election, my eighty-four-year-old mother observed, ‘It used to be that whoever was elected as your president, even if he wasn’t the one you voted for, he was still your president. That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.’ After each election, there is now a significant number of people who see the incoming president lacking moral legitimacy. The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion. How does idolatry produce fear and demonization?
Dutch-Canadian philosopher Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace. The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy. That demonizes something that is not completely bad, and makes and idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.
…In political idolatry, we make a god out of having power.” –
– Tim Keller
Philosopher Angus Menuge on Political Reductionism
“Here’s what I think: political reductionism is a disaster. What do I mean by “political reductionism”? Reducing a person to their political commitments. Always, always, first recognize the full humanity of the other person. Second, when you address their views, just address their views, not them, the individuals who hold them. Explain, if you disagree, why. Do not say that, because you disagree, the other person is worthless or sub-par—stupid, wicked, or insane. If we don’t put the real humanity of other individuals first, we have embraced a form of gnosticism, that puts impersonal ideology before human beings. We follow the path of Mark Studdock, in C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, who thought that statistics about agricultural laborers were more real than any actual plough boy. This is why Jesus said, “Love your neighbor,” that is, the particular person placed in front of you, and not “Love humanity,” a comfortably abstract cause.” -Used with permission from facebook quote.