The first axiom of blogging is to never bring up politics.* Which I just did. Except this year I find myself experiencing two national elections simultaneously—in the US and in the Philippines. And it’s a bit surreal to see just how contextual and cultural our viewpoints on government are. If I had to predict someone’s philosophy or theology about government, I’m pretty sure I would know more about how they think based on their nationality than whether or not they are a Christian. Which is a problem.
I’ve taught in places where the prevailing attitude is “obviously they’re all corrupt; just pick the forms of corruption that are the most manageable and hope for the best.” And I’ve taught in places where people are so confident in their government to solve problems that they’re reluctant to concede that it’s even fundamentally broken. There’s the variant where “we have problems but it’s all ‘X country’s fault.’” Then somewhere in the whole mix there’s the US, with its quadrennial futile quest for a Christian president that will take us back to Ronald Reagan, make America great again and restore Christianity, all in four years. Of course that makes every election “uniquely historical.”
And each of us needs significant correction. I would propose that while national viewpoints will always differ widely, there is a Christian viewpoint on government, and none of the above attitudes is it.
- All government is broken.Ten years ago I remember listening to a G.W. Bush speech, explicitly proposing democracy as the solution for the national woes of Iraq and Afghanistan. While I’m exceedingly fortunate to have been born at the time and place I was, democracy can’t be the de facto answer to everybody’s woes. Even the idea of a constitutional system originally created on “Christian principles” gives the unwitting impression that this two-hundred-year-old ideal was actually the answer if we had just kept it. It’s not and it never was. Because biblically all governments are broken. To put it in terms of Daniel 7, when God looks at the most solvent, competent governments of the world, He sees rabid animals fighting, devouring, and destroying.
- Freedom for the gospel is more important than GDP.Every once in a while Bill Clinton is right. “It’s the economy, stupid” summarizes the basic way most people vote because all humans like having stuff. But it shouldn’t be for Christians. The closest we have to a passage directing us how to vote (1 Tim. 2:1-4) focuses on our ability to “lead a peaceful and quiet life” out of a desire for “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” More than “making America great” we ought to long for Christ’s name to be made great—and do everything we can to see it happen.
- Your Christian identity matters more than your national identity.
There is something deeply international about New Testament Christianity. It doesn’t erase where you were born or where you pay your taxes. In the kingdom of God, Americans are still Americans; Filipinos Filipinos. But it does mean that these differences have been transcended by something far greater—we are children of God. Recognize that you have Filipino, Mexican, Chinese and Russian brothers that likewise pray for the freedom to preach the gospel. They’re people too—more importantly God’s children. The most important fact about both them and you is not the name written on your passports; it’s our standing before God. Because America will surely fade—all nations do. Someone else will rise to prominence… until they fade as well, and so on. But ours is a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28), will never be destroyed (Dan. 7:13) and will endure “forever, forever and ever” (Dan. 7:18). We vote only on the furniture in the temporary abode we are passing through, merely “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).
Like anyone, I have my own political preferences and opinions. Being informed and thoughtful about politics is obviously a completely worthwhile thing. Nor is there any problem whatsoever with political involvement, making the investment to try to make a difference. Placing your hope in it is an entirely different thing. If being aware is good, it is likewise possible to care entirely too much. This election cycle, place your first confidence in the reality that will surely last—the kingdom of God and your salvation through the gospel.
* – Or vaccines, homeschooling, Norwex, essential oils, immigration, courtship, music preferences, parenting styles, and about ten other topics. Feel free to provide your suggestions of other radioactive topics in the comments below.