Why are Christians So Angry About Politics?
Big, warm, healing, bear hugs! No churchy side-pats here.
Full disclosure. I am not a member of any political party, nor do I secretly sympathize with any political party. I follow and study national and international politics closely, for several diverse reasons. I vote. I am an American citizen; I was born in Albany, New York and raised in Auburn, Alabama. My parents are American citizens; my father is a retired professor-emeritus of Auburn University and my mother works for the United States Air Force. My ancestry is European (Holland) and South American (Brazil).
I have no political agenda in this article or in my ministry. I have an aggressive spiritual agenda, though, that which the risen Christ gave all kingdom leaders in Ephesians 4:11-13.
Why are Christians So Angry About Politics?
Politics has an almost cinematic way of shapeshifting people from delightful butterflies into seething wounded animals. My gosh, why? Because politics is one of the easiest forms of displacement. The APA Dictionary defines displacement as "the transfer of feelings or behavior from their original object to another person or thing...a defense mechanism in which the individual discharges tensions associated with, for example, hostility and fear by taking them out on a less threatening target."
In my article, Ten Defense Mechanisms: The Soul & Why We Guard It, I define displacement as "releasing emotions or impulses in unrelated contexts, instead of dealing with them directly in their original, actual context." Same idea. Instead of dealing directly with the true context of our distress or aspiration, the person who is uncourageous or unconscious of their subsystem finds an easier place to detonate all that internal weapons-grade uranium. That "easier place" is politics.
King Saul displaced constantly. In one especially conspicuous episode, he went off on Jonathan for supporting David, and yet, oddly, he suddenly interjects and curses Jonathan's mother twice (1Sam 20:30). She was not even in the conversation, nor was it even about her! Who is Saul really furious at? Jonathan and David (the immediate situation), or Jonathan's mother (the deeper historical issue)?
Born-again citizens of New Jerusalem, we of all people should not be displacing our deeper issues or highest aspirations into a political container. Politics in America has become a feces-stained, urine-smelling porta potty because it seems almost everyone is displacing, the highest politicians of both parties to mid-level surrogates to bloggers to housewives to Christians with a peculiar amount of emotional investment in political issues (but not even close to the same amount of investment in overcoming their personal sin habits, immaturities, or lack of fruit for God in multiple areas). The non-displacers seem to be in the smallest minority.
As an Ephesians 4:11 leader my zeal is for Ephesians 4:12,13, the house of the Lord, what we are and what we are becoming. It is within this kingdom priority that I explain and admonish the following truths. Regardless of your elective affinities, if you are in the household of God I charge you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to obey and grow into this. At the bottom is a brief addendum for those with a genuine calling from the Lord to politics.
The United States is not the kingdom of God, neither is your country.
Every Bible-believing Christian I have ever known affirms the above statement, however, God's evaluative criterion is the innermost heart, not language (Mt 15:8, Isa 29:13, 1Sam 16:7). The way some Christians become curmudgeons-in-cathexis over political issues betrays their innermost heart: they are hoping their country will be what God said only His kingdom will be. And so we project onto our beloved country a quasi-theocracy of sorts, a Christian utopia, an American Kingdom of God. In this mindspace, depending on one's political cravings, Barak Obama is the Antichrist and Donald Trump is the neo-Cyrus, or vice versa, Barak Obama is the new racially-reconciled Christian America and Donald Trump is the pimp that owns evangelicals. Amazingly and amusingly, numerous Christians across the political spectrum have made these assertions over the last twelve years. Such extravagant, intemperate proclamations betray an unspoken feeling that one's earthly country is, or should be, the de facto kingdom of God. And if one's country is the de facto kingdom of God, then of course there must (always) be a human archenemy within that country.
When all is said and done, and our extravagant displacement-inspired claims prove to be mostly inaccurate and uneventful, once again we look idiotically silly, even mentally unstable, to our observant unsaved neighbors.
What Scripture Says
It grieves our King, and my heart too, that sometimes we do not believe very simple statements Jesus made about His kingdom in the post-incarnation age. In John 18:36 He said (NKJV), My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight...but now My kingdom is not from here. And again in Luke 17:20,21 (NKJV) He said, The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you. Paul added in Romans 14:17 (NIV): For the kingdom of God is...in the Holy Spirit.
American church, discern. We have gone from "my kingdom is not of this world...now my kingdom is not from here...the kingdom of God is within you...the kingdom of God is in the Holy Spirit" to all of a sudden the kingdom of God is so fragile and insecure and dependent on this candidate being elected and this law being passed? You who are emotionally objective non-displacers, and fair-minded Bereans, see through the parochial and emotional nature of this. Our beloved country will never be what only the kingdom of God is promised to be. For now that kingdom is spiritual; in the Millennium it will finally be political.
Religiopolitik: The Witches' Brew for Christians
Have we not learned from history? Have we not learned from the religiopolitical monstrosity of medieval Europe and the Holy Roman Empire? If we repent and right our heart, the Presence will induce vomiting of the witches' brew we have been drinking. He will cleanse your spiritual system once again. Religiopolitik has always been the witches' brew prepared for the church.
Understand the exertion of God's sovereignty in macropolitics and heads of state.
Grumpy, politically-distracted Christians would have sweet peace about politics, and renewed spiritual anointing, if they understood in mind and heart what the Lord says in His Word about macropolitics and heads of state. Once again, God's Word is easy to understand on this subject. We need only to read and command our easily distracted psyches to stop and anchor.
God's Sovereignty in Macropolitics
God uses His sovereignty selectively. In general, He lets human freewill play out organically because He made them the rulers and managers of the planet (Ps 8:4-6). There is a dimension of earthly life, however, where God maintains and exerts full sovereignty: macropolitics. He is steering the overall ship of human civilization to an intended culmination (Eph 1:10). While He lets freewill play out within the ship, He maintains control of the ship's direction and pace. One application of this is that He Himself chooses heads of state and high-level leaders.
The most extensive and detailed revelation of God's control of macropolitics and high-level leadership is Job 12:17-25, spoken by Job, Scripture's first theological extraordinaire. We cannot understand national and international politics, and their often enigmatic twists and turns, without understanding this earliest of revelations on the subject. To not gobble up space, here is a link to Job 12:17-25. In the New Testament, the most explicit revelation of God's control of macropolitics is Romans 13:1, spoken by Paul, the New Testament's first theological extraordinaire. Young's Literal Translation renders this verse with powerful precision: ...the authorities existing are appointed by God.
Inconsequential Like a Droplet or Dust
Perhaps the most poetic, and one of the most revealing, scriptures on God's control of macropolitics is Isaiah 40:15 (NIV): Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
The message here is, the will and actions of the nations (on a macro, civilizational level) are as consequential as a water droplet or speck of dust. Now extrapolate Isaiah's word into American politics, and regional and international politics. One drop in a bucket. One speck of dust on the scales of God. Individual freewill and the direction of nations are two very different things in God's mind.
Scriptures, God's Direct Steering of Civilization
Job 12:23 (NKJV): He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.
Psalm 47:8,9 (NIV): God reigns over the nations...for the kings of the earth belong to God...
Psalm 66:7 (AMP): Who rules by His might forever, His eyes keep watch on the nations...
Psalm 67:4 (NIV): ...you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.
Psalm 94:10 (NIV): Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Isaiah 40:15 (NIV): Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
Ephesians 1:10 (NIV): ...to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment--to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Scriptures, God's Direct Removal or Setting of Heads of State
Job 12:17-25: He leads rulers away stripped... (Click for link to full passage)
Exodus 9:16 (NIV): But I have raised you up [Pharaoh, Egypt head of state] for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Psalm 47:8,9 (NIV): God reigns over the nations...for the kings of the earth belong to God...
Psalm 75:6,7 (NIV): No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.
Daniel 2:21 (NKJV): And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.
Romans 13:1 (YLT): ...the authorities existing are appointed by God.
The comforting yet uncomfortable truth in these most important, most revealing verses is that God removes and sets up kings Himself, regardless of visible human activity like violent coups or democratic elections. If that makes us feel like cicadas, crickets, and katydids--noisy, but of no consequence--we are right. Macropolitically, God says the nations are "a drop in the bucket" and "dust on the scales" (Isa 40:15). Can you imagine if He let human freewill, Christians included, truly determine the bucket and the scales? Selah!
He appoints heads of state you love and heads of state you despise; ones you voted for and ones you seethed against; ones with admirable character and ones infested with demons; ones who bring blessing or Pax Americana and ones who bring judgment or enable darkness; ones who enable God's plan in other parts of the world and ones who stop developments that do not fit His plan; and sometimes a paradoxical mindbending mixture of all these. Your political party and king is not in control and will never be in control. That goes for born-again Democrats, born-again Republicans, Demopublicans, Republicrats, and all of you reading this in your own countries.
Behold the trick and trap of legislative goals over spiritual purposes.
It is good to pray for and vote for laws that reflect Biblical concepts, like borders that are secure (Ps 48:12,13) and respected (Pr 22:28 AMP, 23:10 AMP), heterosexual marriage (Ro 1:26,27), and pro-life (Ps 139:13-16). Legislative goals, however, are not the church's philosophic first principles. They are beneath, or inferior to, spiritual purposes. Standing for certain laws, no matter how moral or needed, can never distract us from snatching souls from a very real fire (Jude 1:23) or building the building of God (Eph 2:21,22). Why, then, are some Christians all cathectic over political issues, but shamefully less zealous about the high upward call of God mandated upon us (Php 3:14), especially winning souls and transforming lives? Many American Christians have lost the main plot of the New Testament entirely.
To clarify, the born-again church is not to run and hide in an antipolitical Christian cocoon, entirely sequestered from society's basic processes or staring passively at the abyss from a smug distance. Rather, God designed His church to be suprapolitical (Jn 18:36), transcending politics with Spirit-empowered spiritual efforts that accomplish what politics never can and never will. It is not an all-or-nothing question of either/or, but of zealotry and priority on the main plot.
You Passed a Law, but Did You Save a Soul?
What if Roe v Wade gets overturned? Would it matter--regarding eternal life or a real Gehenna--if you never shared the gospel's transforming love and power with an abortion doctor, with a woman who had/would have an abortion, or with the man who impregnates said woman? We are hypocrites before the Lord if we are pro-life about unborn fetuses but not pro-life eternal about the unsaved going to hell or not pro-life more abundantly about those in great bondage. Oh we agree with this in theory, but we have celebrity-style meltdowns over the abortion issue without breaking our hearts over the salvation and bondage issue like Jesus' anguish over Jerusalem (Lk 19:41).
What if gay marriage were constitutionally banned? Would it matter--eternally speaking--if you never shared the gospel's transforming power with a homosexual? What if a perfect 2,000-mile wall of Jericho was built on our southern border, with a militarized and advanced technological presence, such that illegal migration and smuggling was eliminated? Would it matter at the Bema Seat or Great White Throne Judgment if you never introduced the Judge of those thrones to a Mexican or an El Salvadoran when you had every opportunity?
Good laws and good law enforcement have their God-given theater (Ro 13:1-7), but for the church, that theater is never to be the main plot. The political demon over America has tricked and trapped many of us into a cathexis over politics, using tribal emotions and tribal dynamics to lull us away from eternity-sensitive evangelism, the very last thing Jesus mandated upon us before His ascension (Mt 28:18-20, Mk 16:15, Lk 24:47,48, Ac 1:8).
MS-13 Meets God
At the soccer field here in Destin, Florida, I met an MS-13 gang member. He had a temper on the field and got into scuffles, which made my heart love him even more and want to share Jesus with him. I always said a friendly hi to him, and maybe something funny or playful. The God-moment came when I arrived at the field early one day. We started chatting. He told me he was from El Salvador, came here illegally several years ago, and interestingly, his evangelical family kicked him out of the house for being in MS-13. They told him "el diablo" was in him and to not come back.
My eyes welled up with tears. A manifestation of the good news fell upon me. In probably the kindest male voice he ever heard, with water in my eyes, I told him, "God loves you Manny, and He still has a plan for your life. Ask Him to forgive your sins and take charge of your life."
I do not know what became of Manny; I eventually starting playing soccer at a different place. Yes, we need to secure our southern border in a plurality of ways, but as Christ's ambassadors, that cannot be the main plot. The illegal's eternal destiny and right-now spiritual condition has to be. The apostle Paul did not stop being violent because of any civil or legal action that Rome finally passed, but because his very nature was changed by a relationship with Jesus (1Ti 1:13 NIV).
This is the main storyline church! Learn the meaning of 2Corinthians 5:18-20 (NIV): ...gave us the ministry of reconciliation...he has committed to us the message of reconciliation...We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us...
Her Aborted Baby in Heaven
During worship at a Sunday church service, she had a vision of her aborted baby in heaven. Instantly years of guilt evaporated. She became born-again, and eventually, co-pastor of a church with her husband. Yes, we should pray for and vote for the life of the unborn, but as Christ's ambassadors, that cannot be our first impulse and main plot. The eternal future and right-now spiritual condition of abortion-associated individuals have to be. A thousand anti-abortion laws and closing down every Planned Parenthood will never do what the presence of God did for my friend in less than five seconds.
Homosexuality is Not Concrete
In 2016, after several months of Biblical transformation initiatives, a Christian brother with the homosexual struggle sent me this email: Junior, I will be forever grateful for the time and counseling you gave me during your visit to our church. Today I saw a pretty woman jogging and for the first time in my life I felt sexual attraction for her! I never thought it was possible. It was so new and strange.
For those of us who have never had that struggle, that email may be hard to relate to. Heck, we're trying not to salivate at the cutie jogging. For our brother, though, this was an exhilarating landmark, a defining breakthrough, back to God's sexual design. His note arrested me with a simple truth: a piece of legislation, no matter how right, could never do what only a transformational walk with Jesus can do. Through the law we become conscious of sin (Ro 3:20), but that law cannot do a single thing to remedy that sin (8:3). Where, then, should our greatest and strongest efforts be? Legal goals or spiritual purposes?
Now Judge for Yourself
Kingdom ambassadors of the Ultimate Solution, now judge for yourself: should the leitmotif of our life be getting a law passed and a candidate elected, or saving souls from a literal Gehenna and changing their heart and earthly future from the inside-out? Should we be consumed with zeal for the White House, the bicameral house, and the courthouse, or like the Temple-Cleanser from Nazareth, consumed with zeal for God's house? Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature (1Co 14:20 NKJV).
The Calling to Politics
A few years ago I spoke at the Dream Center in a city in New Mexico. Afterwards, I prayed for and prophesied to individuals. One of those was a couple. The moment I stepped in front of them, laid my hands on their shoulders, the word from the Spirit gushed through me like a river: The Lord has a call and project for you in which you will need significant money. He says to start a new and separate savings now for this. At the right time you will awaken to what that money is for.
Almost two years later I got a phone call from the wife. The money was to run for political office. She did...and won.
This article pertains to the overwhelming majority of Christians. A few among us, however, will have a God-given calling to the political world. They will, therefore, have a stronger passion and investment in why God put them there. If this is you, I have three admonitions. One, do not neglect your First Love and meeting with Him daily, or you will join the thirty-car pileup that is now American politics. Two, do not lose the kingdom of God's main plot, even in the midst of the political assignments you have been given. Three, show your spiritual and emotional maturity by loving your opponents and loving your siblings in Christ in the opposite camp. You can spar and dispute with your opponents without being an angry baboon throwing feces.