Like many of you, I too have been troubled by the recent political scene. It took me some time to get my thoughts together and to truly ask how should a Christian respond to all the turmoil we see around us today. First of all, it helps to know this boiling kettle of political division has been brewing for a long time. I recall my Mother; a staunch Democrat who I would have lively debates with, when Ronald Reagan ran for president saying, "There he goes again. He just waves the flag, talks about God and country and people eat it up!" She was frustrated that the symbols he used at rallies and speeches overlooked the greater problems we had as a nation. You may recall that he was one of the first candidates to actively court the "Religious Right" under the leadership of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
He loosely promised them that his administration would overturn Roe Vs. Wade if he was elected. He was elected and it did not happen and a disillusioned Falwell was reluctant to throw his faith and support behind a candidate for some time thereafter. Ever since, the Republican party has continued to go after the votes and support of evangelical Christians , even as our nation has slide into increasing immorality.
We have come to a time when a far less moral person that Reagan has achieved the highest office in our land, despite his past of womanizing, his crude and rude speech and far flung insults from his lips and his often obnoxious twitter account. Despite all of that, the Christian Coalition, Rev. Franklin Graham, and Jerry Falwell , Jr. see him as the champion of Christian virtues in the political realm.
On the other side of the political aisle, I find myself equally upset with the Democratic party, who neither seem to embrace nor wish to acknowledge any semblance of decency or Christ-like virtues. At least one party claims to value the things of God. A movement, started by an equally rude, loud and outspoken Maxine Waters, has prompted protesters to ban Republicans from public restaurants and to even promote death threats against Judge Kavanaugh, his family and those who support him.
I find myself not being comfortable with either party any longer as far as which one is representing my rather conservative and traditional values. For many of us, it has become a choice of the lesser of two evils and America can do better. But as I comb through Scripture, I find that perhaps I am not to feel at home under either a "blue" or "red" tent.
Our Lord says very little about political systems and, of course, more about eternal matters. He urges us to pay taxes when they are due in Matthew 22:21, and in Romans 13:1 he wants us to pray for all those in authority over us that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives. An older Paul teaches a younger Timothy in I Timothy 2:2 to pray for all those in authority. One wonders how much more peace we could be enjoying if protesters and political zealots prayed for each other instead! Aside from a very few Scriptures nowhere do you find Jesus addressing that one political system is suppose to be better than another or defended so forcefully as we have recently seen.
I believe we are seeing the fallout of ideological extremism in our nation today. This brand of what some call "Christian Nationalism" and others describe as tribalism divides rather than unites us. Last month we saw the passing of Senator John McCain but even that somber event was a political football as many Republicans thought it was good that a RHINO, (republican in name only), had died.
His own daughter eulogized him in a way that took more than one sucker punch against President Trump. In the current political climate, it seems that winning at all costs is what matters most, even if it means destroying someone's good name in the process. I don't see anything at all resembling Christlikeness in that philosophy.
Ultimately it is we the people who lose the most, no matter which party wins at the ballot box or is ahead in the polls. We lose our moral fiber, our sense of fair play, our cooperative nature, and our sense of decency. We are dangerously close to losing the soul, the heart of all that makes America good when we elevate party above such bigger ideals.
Jesus taught the way to change the world is to first renew our minds and not to conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed , Romans 12:1-2. It is far too easy and narrow-minded to paint all Republicans as godly and all Democrats as purely evil. What Jesus requires of us is to know our neighbor and love them like we love ourselves. When we allow the gospel to be tied to a man-made system, we have put our hopes and faith in this flawed world instead of the perfect world to come. We'd all do better to take a deep breath, turn off the news, go a day or two without social media, and engage those around us for the sake of Jesus and truly live like our hope is in heaven, instead of trying to make a utopia on earth.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and the Holy Spirit , teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Jesus knew, better than we, that the way to make a godly people was never to elect them alone, but to introduce them to Himself. Only as people know Jesus can we ever hope to have peace in this life and the world to come.
Jim Pence is the pastor at Pleasant Grove Christian Church. The church is located at 5232 Preston Road, Martinsville.