Three Things You Need To Know About Politics*
You will find in your life that there are only two things about which people can be trusted to passionately disagree: politics and religion. That’s because the individual mindsets that undergird these kissing cousins are rightly the root of every controversy because they mark the intersection of life, truth, and reality. Most will contend that there should be a wall that separates the two. Those who say such things are being foolish and naive. They are asking for others to do something that they themselves can’t pull off. They are, in fact, asking for the impossible.
So in this letter I would like to give you three basics to consider when you are thinking about politics.
By “politics” I mean the process of sinners choosing sinners to govern sinners
Man is fallen, and just because any man (or woman) has convinced over half of a group of people to vote for him, that doesn’t suddenly remove his sinful nature. On the contrary, power has a way of leeching our sinful nature to the surface. The first basic is this: man is not basically good. This is as true a statement for those elected to government as it is in anyone, and perhaps even especially for those elected to government. Knowing this will put you a long way ahead of your countrymen when it comes to politics.
Our founders understood this basic truth about man and so gave us a government with divided powers. But that was an age still steeped in a Biblical worldview. The government was therefore formed by a people who had an understanding of human nature that reflected reality.
This is not so today. Even most people who attend a Church somewhere reject this basic truth concerning man’s depraved condition. So there are two realities that should not surprise you: One, that many will be willing to believe that there are a select few who are benevolent and righteous, and two, they’ll be willing to make them into little gods in hopes that they’ll usher in a Utopian paradise. But merely believing a thing does not make it true. What is true is true, and no amount of denial will make truth or its effects go away. So unlike those around you, who see gods and devils in government, it would be wise for you to not expect very much in the way of righteousness from your elected leaders. That they might eke out a few decent laws is at best unlikely, and at worst a pipe-dream.
Politics is downstream of culture
Never forget that if a tsunami washed in and killed every elected politician and judges in Washington DC, the 20 percent of the society that votes would simply vote other people with the same “religion” back into office. Reprobates do not elect righteous politicians. So if you want to change government you will want to do two things. First, start by spreading the Gospel and discipleship. The Bible says that when we are born again that we are new creatures in Christ and have gained the mind of Christ (1st Cor 2:14-16). It also says that the new disciple will see things differently, that he will have a different perspective on life and therefore will have a different perspective on what kind of laws should be governing the land. He will know that elected sinners are not the final arbiters of good and evil, that taking wealth from one sinner and giving it to another is not compassion, charity, or loving, and that all men who have been given the reigns of power ought to be viewed with a healthy dose of suspicion. He will also know that no man, no matter how righteous, is going to change the culture by forcing external behaviors. The heart must be changed and only the Gospel is can do that.
Second, you must think intergenerationally. You must look beyond your own life and into the future. Societies are not won due to the work of one generation, nor the outcome of one election. I, your father, hold no hope in seeing a better land for you with my own eyes. My hope is that you, if you do the hard work of first teaching your own children, and second, of spreading the Gospel, might see a glimmer. Scripture tells us that children are like arrows shot into the future. You are my arrows, and I pray that you will be sharp and true, and not only that, but that your children would be the same.
Politicians are political
Always remember, for the man to win an election he must convince only about 20, percent of the people to vote for him. 20 percent you ask? Well yes, something like that, because as best I can determine, only about 40 percent of your fellow countrymen actually vote, and the politician will only need only one over half of those to win. A good politician, that is, will know this, even if his constituency doesn’t. So when you hear a politician say something that you find to be outrageous, just remember he is not speaking for the benefit of all, but to only a relatively small group of people.
Also, it’s important to realize that every human does what he does because of a motivation. Voters and politicians are no different. Voters may well want free handouts from government and thus are motivated to vote likewise. Others want to keep what they earn rather than have it confiscated, and so they also will vote likewise. All want righteous laws, but all define “righteousness” differently, and so they vote accordingly.
Politicians are motivated also. This is natural and normal, unless the politician actually does think he’s a little god. They realize that no matter what they want, good or bad, selfish or altruistic, they must win elections to make it happen. So they are necessarily motivated to please enough people to bring that about.
Politics is people and people are political. Where two or more are gathered, there you will find politics. One person will emerge the leader, even if there are only two. That does not mean that the leader always gets his way, but only that he will be the one driving every decision the two–or more–make together as one. Add ten people and it gets more complicated. Add a thousand and little factions begin to emerge. Add a million and then there are even more factions which begin to coalesce into parties. The individuals exert themselves in the factions, the factions exert themselves in the parties and the parties exert themselves on the whole. This is how things are. It is reality. No one in a group ever gets what they want; no one. The final outcome will reflect the collective morality of the people, but not necessarily their collective will.
So I pray, as your father, that you would gain wisdom from the scriptures and vote accordingly. Remember that the natural state of man in his six thousand years or so of history is to be enslaved and not liberty. Either way, fix your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith and run the race laid out before you with perseverance. Preach to and disciple your children in the Gospel, even as you live it out before them. Pray that God would instill it into the hearts of your children, your children’s children, and your children’s children’s children.