Monday, November 15, 2010

Politics is the new Religion

(My husband wanted me to post this, after a short conversation this morning.)

Sometimes I think we confuse faith and politics. 

Faith is about ultimate concerns, and high ideals.  It is about holding fast and not compromising.  Faith is a matter of life and death (although it also gets us through the day).  Faith is "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

Politics is practical, down-to-earth.  It's not about perfection, but it is about improvement, in one way or another.  In politics, there has to be compromise, making deals, getting hands dirty. 

Lately it seems that faith has become practical and politics more ideological.  I'll bet if you go back a century or so, you won't find many sermons that are "practical, and relate to our daily life," as is common now.  Back in the 18th Century, the sermons were called, "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God," (for example) not "8 Ways to have a Happy Marriage."   

Now politics is about ultimate concerns, a matter of life and death.  I'm right and you're wrong.  We can't work together.  No compromising.  In some cases, our political commitments have become our religion. 

I have a friend who proselytizes for the free market.  If he were as zealous for Jesus, I think the whole world would be Christian (or at least his neighborhood.)  He is Very Suspicious of the Social Justice Christians, who, to be fair, are probably Very Suspicious of him.

Practical, down-to-earth, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-things-down.  That's politics.  It's down to earth, humble, sometimes-your-hands-get-dirty work.

A lot of people have observed that Americans hate politics.  There may be a lot of reasons for this, but I suspect this is one of them:  that politics has become the new religion, where people draw lines in the sand and declare those who disagree not only Wrong, but Unrighteous.  Those who disagree are The Enemy.  If you are Liberal, conservatives are commmonly called "Idiots."  Or is it the other way around?  If you are Conservative, liberals are commonly called "idiots."  Or, Hitler.

Don't get me wrong, I think politics is important, and is part of making the world a better place.  A better place, but not a perfect place.  But politicians are not Messiahs, whether the politician is Barack Obama talking about "Hope" or Sarah Palin's with her "Mama Grizzlies" or even Ronald Reagan's "It's morning in America."    If you doubt, imagine even one politician, even the most honorable ,respectable, politician you like best, saying something like "Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you."   Especially in an election year.

So I pray for all of us, politicians, pastors, people who hate politics, to roll up their sleeves and get things done, to make the world better, if not perfect.  And then I pray that the vision of God's reign of love keeps burning in my heart.


Terri said...

Politics is really about governance - about creating laws and practices that ensure that human beings act in a civil manner to other human beings, and in some cases to the created world/environment -politics in a democratic environment express varying ideas of how we are to be civilized.

Unfortunately human beings are competative and prone to being uncivil...ergo the need for laws...its a vicious cycle.

Religion is about our relationship to God. Most religions (probably all religions) consider it crucial that we live in relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves. Religion offers us ways to "practice" or live in those relationships. For some religions these relationship are also about salvation and our everlasting souls. For some its about what we do in the here and now. For some its both.

Religion, because of who and how human beings are, also developes laws and rules for living that faith.

Faith is something else. Faith is not tangible. It's not a law written down. But it is often about a practice: of prayer, of living in hope, of compassion for the other, of kindness, and of forgiveness.

the world we live in today is a world of fear, not hope, fear not compassion, fear not kindness, fear not forgiveness. Fear because the old is passing away and a new life is rising's coming whether we like it or not. A new wildly diverse life.

And if the church does not embrace this wild diversity the church will die.

But so long as we have civilized societies we will still have politics.

Then again, so long as we still have human beings there will be faith and a yearning for God.

But there may not be the Church....

yikes...sorry to go on and really provoked me here, thanks!

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

your thoughts echo where mine are for this sunday...