The Gospel and Partisan Politics

I want to shout at somebody. I want to go to one of those health care town hall meetings and scream until the blood vessels in my forehead pop out, just like all those other nice folks are doing.

Now those of you who know me even moderately well will likely be able to guess at whom I want to shout, and about what. In short, without even asking me you probably know the side of the debate with which my sympathies will lie. And that’s the problem.

It’s a problem because I call myself a Christian–which means that, when it comes to making the world a better place, the dictates of the gospel should be what’s setting my priorities. But when my position on any given issue (especially the big ones like this) mirrors the platform of a particular political party, then pretty clearly it’s that party, and not the gospel, that’s calling the shots.

Why is that? Because much as they like to pretend otherwise, neither political party has a monopoly on the will of God (you already knew that). But let’s take things a bit further: neither political party is motivated primarily by its vision of the common good. Both parties have a vision of the common good; but that vision is always secondary to their first priority, which is gaining and consolidating power. Thus, every question of the common good (again, especially the big ones) becomes entangled with the quest for political aggrandizement. I recognize that this is the best that flawed and fallen human beings can do in what Augustine called the Earthly City. But it means that the agendas of the political parties is no place to take our cues for what the gospel response to these questions should be.

The moral of the story is simply this: Too often our  Christian convictions on matters of public policy and the common good follow too closely the dictates of the political party with which we sympathize. We ought to find ourselves frequently standing up and saying to our Democratic and Republican colleagues (respectively), “hey, as a Christian I can’t agree with that position.” I will be the first to say that I do that entirely too rarely.

Maybe the person I ought to be shouting at is me.

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