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Politics and Pink Flamingos

As the political season enters high gear, I have one recommendation—pray for the rapture.

During an election year it is easy to weary of political analysts on television, political commercials, and lawn sings promoting candidates and causes. Personally, I’d rather have a plastic pink flamingo in my front yard than one of those candidate lawn signs.

Of course there are serious issues for God’s people to consider in preparation of voting in the upcoming election. Naturally, the economy is on the minds of most voters. Should we have an economy of confiscatory redistribution of wealth or one where ostensibly all boats rise on a rising sea of prosperity? Powerful political and economic forces vie for our votes in the hope of getting the type of economy that benefits their interests. What’s a Christian to do?

One problem is that we the people have a tendency to cast our votes based on a tremendous variety of self-interests or superficial evaluations of the candidates. Ideally, conscientious voters weigh the issues and policy positions of the various candidates and cast their votes using the wits they have, keeping in mind the best interests of the entire nation. As admirable as this approach might seem, it isn’t the end all for Christian voters. Why? For the answer let’s look at Hosea 8: 4. In this Scripture the prophet Hosea is listing things that the nation of Israel was doing that displeased God. Here is one item on that list:

“They set up kings without my consent;
they choose princes without my approval. . . .”

Fast forward to today. Do we even bother to ask the Lord who we should vote for, or do we simply choose based on our own understanding, experiences, and worldview? When I pray about voting I don’t expect God to speak through the rolling thunder the name of Romney or Obama. Nevertheless, God clearly takes an interest in the selection of leaders. He rightly expects to be included in the process.

Let’s also look at 1 Timothy 2: 1-3:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, . . .”

Did you catch that? It says to pray for “all those in authority.” That’s a tough imperative to follow. It rubs me the wrong way to pray for leaders I did not vote for, leaders who I find distasteful or who’s policies I loathe. But the Bible demands that I pray for them. It’s hard to do. But here’s the thing: God can use leaders who don’t come from my preferred political party, even leaders from a political philosophy at odds with Christian principles. Perhaps the church in America doesn’t pray sufficiently across the aisle for ALL leaders. This might explain the current loathsome state of affairs in American politics. So before you walk into the voting booth in a few days, take a moment to pray for God’s guidance and his blessing on our leaders.

I’ve known Christians who have no interests in politics whatsoever. While this approach is understandable, the verses above demonstrate that God expects us to take an active interest in the selection of the leaders who govern the nation where we live.

So how should we vote? Many Christian leaders encourage believers to vote for candidates with policies that most closely align with Biblical principles. This is good advice though it incorrectly assumes that most believers have studied the entire Bible with their hearts in a teachable disposition. Granted, the Bible is the best guide to a proper worldview, though it is most effective when we read it many times over the course of a lifetime. We must remember that it is also crucial to extend the reverent courtesy of asking for God’s direction with our vote. Sincerity is essential in our supplication to God for guidance. Don’t let television and radio ads sway you. Read about politics in newspapers and magazines on the right and the left. Don’t just read novels and popular fiction; read an occasional book in the genre of politics and current events from the perspective of the right and the left. Be informed but don’t worry too much about politics; ultimately it is God’s vote that prevails. He lifts up one leader and brings another down and he’s been doing it a long time. See you at the polls.

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Lions and Tigers and Politicians, Oh My

For those of you who don’t follow politics, I’d like to offer a crash course you might find helpful as we enter the political season. For those of you who don’t care about politics, you will because politics will impact your life, and not always in a positive way. In the interest of full-disclosure, I used to be a Republican zealot. I am currently registered as “decline to state,” which is sort of like living without a Facebook page; it’s a non-identity identity.

Basically there are two dominant political ideologies in America: conservatism and liberalism. Conservatism says the most people benefit in society when free-markets are allowed to flourish with limited government interference. Conservatives often believe our government is the source of a society’s woes through excessive regulation and taxation.

The weakness of conservatism is the tendency of human beings to slip from ambitious, hardworking, innovative and visionary to avarice. Eventually avarice gets out of control as people become more willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means gaming the system, breaking the law or exploiting others.

Now let’s look at liberalism (or “progressives” if you prefer the current politically correct euphemism). Liberalism believes a civilized and more equitable society is achieved through centralized government. It believes the government is the necessary, if not primary, redistributor of wealth, usually through taxation and government services. It believes the government is the go-to entity to ensure fairness. Liberals often believe the society’s woes are the fault of greedy corporations and the wealthy who take advantage of the little guy.

The weakness of liberalism is the tendency of people to become sloth and rely more on the government, thus overburdening taxpayers. With good intentions, it tends to give dangerous amounts of power to the government.

I now understand that too many leaders (generally speaking) at the top these two political ideologies are in bed together (figuratively, I hope), and both sides are plundering the government and exploiting their access to financial markets. For instance, Newt Gingrich, a staunch conservative and decrier of big government, was recently discovered to have received generous fees from Freddie Mac (a quasi-governmental mortgage lender) for consulting services. Nancy Pelosi, a liberal decrier of greedy corporations, recently came under fire for allegedly taking advantage of an insider trading exemption available to members of Congress so that she could use information gleaned on the job to increase her investment earnings. In other words, both of these “ideologue’s” have been accused of using elements of the system they loath for personal gain. These two incidents of double standards were not the sole reason for my epiphany that our political and economic woes can’t be solved by a political ideology alone. I came to that conclusion gradually and as a result of reading books and articles about contemporary politics in America. Every American, despite his or her political ideology, needs to understand things like patronage, no-bid contracts, cronyism, pay for play, malfeasance, special favors and the like. And every American needs to be willing to confront these evil things even when it is someone in your preferred political party engaging in these unsavory practices. We can no longer allow myside bias to blind us.

I still believe some form of capitalism holds the greatest potential to benefit the most people in our society. But our problems, currently, cannot be solved by the policies of a political ideology alone. Here is why:

Proverbs 28:2 (NLT) says, “When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.”

Before you nod in agreement I’d like you to consider the possibility that this passage might not be focusing just on the moral rot we usually think of, such as: hyper and debase expressions of sexuality, divorce, illegal drugs, f-bombs in discourse, vulgar movies and substance abuse. These are bad and hurt our humanity, yes. But when I read through the book of Proverbs, I see quite a few passages like this:

Proverbs 20:23 (NLT) says, “The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased by dishonest scales.”

Dishonest scales are a symbol of the way we do business with others. It might also include simple friendships where one person constantly gets more than he or she gives. The moral rot will continue to worsen in America until people have the epiphany that our fiscal health is not related to political policies as much as it is related to our morality.

For more information on the subject of “myside bias” read “I Was Wrong, and So Are You” at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/i-was-wrong-and-so-are-you/8713/