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, and they are politics and religion. The passion with which people disagree in these two areas should not be a surprise to anyone because the basics that undergird them can be found in just about every controversy. These two topics mark the intersection of truth and reality more so than perhaps any other subject. Most will contend that there should be a wall that separates these two. Those who say such things are being foolish and naive. They are asking for others to do something that they themselves can’t and won’t do. They are, in fact, asking for the impossible.
So, to help you navigate these rough and tumultuous waters, I’ll give you three basics to consider when you are thinking about one of them, which is 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 and Biblical truth about Man that ought to color your lens as you observe his activities is this: Man is not basically good. This is as true a statement for those elected to a government as it is for anyone else. Knowing this will put you a long way ahead of your countrymen when it comes to politics.
You can be sure that our founders understood the foul condition of Man, and as such they gave us a government with divided powers. But that was an age still steeped in Biblical thinking. 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 regarding Man’s innate depravity.
There are three realities that should not surprise you when it comes to politics: One is that most are willing to believe that there are a select few who are benevolent and righteous enough to rule over us. Second, they’ll be willing to make them into little gods believing that they’ll be able to usher in a Utopian paradise. Third, all who disagree with this folly will be blamed when a Utopia fails to materialize.
But reality is stubbornly persistent. Merely believing a thing does not make that thing true. What is true is true, what is not is not, and no amount of denial, propaganda, blame-shifting, or appeals to Man’s mental powers will change this. 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 in or from your elected leaders. That a society who has rejected God might elect men who can eke out a few decent laws is at best unlikely, and at worst a pipe-dream.
Never forget, however, that God is in control. He was in control during the horrors of the Third Reich, and He is in control now even as the blood of millions of innocent unborn babies cries out to the ears of God.
Politics is downstream of culture
Never forget that if a tsunami washed ashore in Washington and killed every elected politician and judge there, the society that put them there would simply replace them with the same sort of people. Societies who gladly fund and legalize the murder of the innocent should not be expected to elect righteous politicians.
If you desire to change your 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 (1 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 reins of power ought to be viewed with a healthy dose of suspicion. He will also know that no man, regardless of how righteous he might be, will be able to change the culture by forcing external behaviors. The heart must be changed and only the Gospel can do that.
Second, you must think inter-generationally. 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 with my own eyes a better land for you. My hope is that you, if you do the hard work of teaching your own children and 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, and children’s children, would be the same.
Politicians are political
This, of course, goes without saying. But wisdom dictates that we keep in mind that, for a man to win an election he needs only to convince about 20 percent of the people to vote for him. “20 percent?” you ask. Well yes, something like that, because only about 40 percent of your fellow countrymen actually vote, and the politician only needs one man over half of those to win. A good politician will know this, even if his constituency does not. So when you hear a politician say something that you find to be outrageous, just remember, he is not speaking to everyone, he’s speaking to a relatively small group, and he is telling them what they want to hear.
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 the 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. But never forget, politicians are human too, and so they are motivated by something. They realize that no matter what their agenda is—good or bad, selfish or altruistic—they must win elections to make it happen. So they are necessarily motivated to please enough people to assure their success in the next election.
It will help to remember this: Politics is people and people are political. Where two or more are gathered there you will find politics. One person will emerge as the leader, even if there are only two in a group. That does not mean that the leader always gets his way, but only that he will be the one driving every decision the two make together as one. Add ten people and it gets more complicated. Add a thousand and little factions begin to emerge who assert their smaller, collective will onto the whole. 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 our 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, my dear children, 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. Liberty, even though it is all you know, is an anomaly in the context of the entirety of Man’s existence. Still, either way, whether slave to lords or free, fix your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith and run the race laid out before you with perseverance. Preach the Gospel to your children and disciple them even as you live it out before them. Pray that God would instill it into their hearts, your children’s children’s hearts, and your children’s children’s children’s hearts.