A Deep Dive into the Unholy Union Between Faith & Politics

Hi, friends. Today’s post discusses my whole-hearted rejection of the unholy union between politics and Christianity. Buckle up for a long and bumpy post, ladies and gents. 😉 As usual, skim the bold sentences if you’re pressed for time.

The original title to this post read, “Letting Scripture Inform Our Views vs. Bringing Our Views to Scripture.” But the post went in a slightly different direction as I typed. Also, I just watched a God Is Grey YouTube video about climate change in which, at one point, she discusses how the issue became partisan and how the Moral Majority factors into that. [FYI, I watch videos from Christians of various flavors so I can understand different positions and interpretations.]

BTW, for those unfamiliar with American politics, there are basically two “sides”–the socially and economically liberal, Democrats (legal abortions, more welfare, free and/or inexpensive college and healthcare, that sort of thing) vs. the socially and economically conservative, Republicans (against abortion, advocates tax cuts and less welfare, supports a free market with less regulations and bureaucracy, that sort of thing). Most people express a shade of grey between those black-and-white options, and there are other weird factors to consider (like the conservative party giving tax breaks to the rich yet relying on poor, white votes or liberal extremists wanting to overthrow capitalism/the American way of life or the fact that every politician on both sides is bought and paid for), but that is pretty much the gist.

Scripture Can Be Manipulated to Support Anything

It’s almost amusing how differently people can interpret scripture; you’d think we’re using multiple versions of the gospel.

Taken from thebalancecareers.com

Just grasping at an issue off the top of my head: I bet there are people who can argue for a minimum wage raise with scriptural support, while others could find scriptural backing for NOT doing so. The first group could point out how God and Jesus both emphasize care for the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10, Matthew 25:40-45) and how are told NOT to build our treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19-21). The second group might point to verses about working hard, developing the argument that those who want a minimum wage increase encourage mediocrity/idleness (2 Thesalossians 3:6-13, Proverbs 13:4, Ecclesiastes 5:18). There are more verses with more points to be drawn out here–Jesus saying we will always have the poor with us, verses that condemn wealth vs. verses that tell rich people how they can live faithfully–but you get the idea.

If a person (me) can debate either side without having vested stake in the issue, imagine how zealously one could argue one or the other side if they were extremely passionate about it.

God Never Anointed a Political Party

When members of the same faith completely disagree about political (and any other) issues, the question becomes, who is right? The answer, like scriptural interpretations, seems to vary by person. Some simply insist, “I have discernment from the Spirit; therefore, I’m right.” I advocate holistic readings of scripture that consider the Bible as a whole (looking at the whole forest to determine individual trees’ meaning) and accounting for the spirit of the law. But I don’t want to go too far down rabbit trails, so back to the point…Which political party reflects God’s will?

Neither. Neither “side” is right because God, Jesus, and the Bible are not means to an end–especially not a political end. The creator of the world, the savior of the world, and their holy words cannot be filtered into worldly ideologies with arbitrary divisions (more on that under “Some Final Musings”).

Examples of Faith Taking Politics Too Far

I get frustrated that people marry their politics with their faith. I’ll be honest–living in a rural area of the South, I see it more often with conservatives. The day before writing this post, I saw this quote making the social media rounds–“A true Christian cannot vote for a party that kills children.” (a conservative referencing abortion and the liberal party)

I avoid confrontation nowadays, but I thought to myself, “Can a true Christian vote for a party that cuts funding to healthcare for the poor and elderly?” I’m not even “a liberal;” I just felt like throwing in another perspective because it is unwise to view these things in a black-and-white way…”A TRUE Christian is unquestionably loyal to this leader or group outside of Christianity”…Umm, excuse me?

However, I’ll be fair and dole out some rebuking towards the other side of the aisle. The United Methodist Church is liberal overall, which I appreciate with instances like empowering women clergy, but sometimes it goes too far. United Methodist Women gets too involved in politics, in my opinion…participating in protests and marches, even giving us letters to send to our Congress members. Thank the Lord that is just a small part of the mission organization, but it goes to show that people of all political flavors are guilty of equating following Jesus to supporting a particular party/leader.

Our Faith Should Affect Our Politics, But…

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that politics and religion should be compartmentalized separately in a person’s mind/heart. In fact, our faith should influence our politics because our beliefs should branch out into every area of our lives.

BUT

We should honestly ask ourselves, am I loyal to God first and foremost, and do I have a healthy understanding of the fact that no political party really meets the definition of God-honoring? Or do my real loyalties lie with a political or other kind of group?

Some Final Musings

For those who are new around here, I was VERY conservative a couple years ago. As I pursue God and read scripture diligently, and as the Spirit has softened my heart, I have gotten to the point where a political label can’t define me. I see good and bad in both sides. [Read more about it here]

Earlier, I called the differences in (American) political parties arbitrary, and I’ll tell you why I said that. Especially in America, we tend to have a limited view about how others in the world think and do things differently. I recently watched an older documentary about health care where the filmmaker interviewed a Canadian man. Canada has universal healthcare, and while the man being interviewed supported this, he said he is active in their conservative political party.

In America, universal healthcare is practically viewed as communist, and opposition to that is fundamental to identifying as conservative. Yet, in Canada, universal healthcare is a nonpartisan issue, so conservatives and liberals alike can support it. Seeing that exchange opened my eyes to how flimsy and flexible political designations like “conservative” and “liberal” are, which makes the marriage of politics and faith even more untenable. For instance, if God has somehow anointed the conservative party, does He oppose universal healthcare in America but support it in Canada? The argument just disintegrates.


What about you? Do you bring your views to scripture, or does scripture inform your views? What are your political views? What is the political situation in your country? Let me know in the comments.

BTW, please provide some insight into the healthcare issue if you are Canadian (or if your country also has universal healthcare). What is the general attitude towards it? Is it viewed as nonpartisan? You know I’d love to be better informed.

Thanks for reading!

32 comments

  1. I’m always surprised by Christians that cling so tightly to one party or the other, as if either one will save us from our troubles. Granted, conservatives do seem to adhere more closely to the moral standards most Christians identify with, however, they are still only human. To fight and argue over political issues is pointless. Most Christians either forget or act as if they don’t know that God is sovereign. He raises up leaders and he puts them down. He does this for His own purposes, not for our comfort. This world is not our final destination, but many live as if it is. Great post, Lily.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like how you said that many Christians seem to forget that God is sovereign. Good point! Why get so worked up when God has the ultimate power and, as you said, neither party will save us from troubles? Thanks for your comment, Dee!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a Christian, I am dismayed that neither of the two major parties reflects my values. Yes I am pro-life, but I am pro-life from conception to old age. Scripture definitely teaches life begins at conception, but it also teaches about care for orphans, widows, the elderly etc. It also speaks to how we treat those who are not from our country with verse like in Deuteronomy 10- And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

    So I am at an impasse as to who I would support because neither side adequately addresses care for people conception to old age

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I get you comment! I’m the same. I’m an independent voter that does not necessarily support either party. This will be my first year voting! But I will vote based off who I feel the Lord is leading me to vote for. Go off that and be led. Your vote does not necessarily have to say if you support one group of the other 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Good thoughts; I think there is a great danger in becoming partisaned at all with ANY earthly human system. Christians ought to follow Christ personally, and attaching to any group in a partisan way will affect our ability to be unbiased toward Him; it creates divided loyalties.
    That said, I think some of the issues you mention (thoughtfully) are not as centrally political anyways, either side will try to present it that way, or religiously, or however they need to in order to get people to agree with them. For instance, on welfare issues often the left will pull out the ol’ ‘Those who don’t want to support welfare obviously don’t care for the poor!’ But that really is not the case, it could be that conservatives don’t trust the government to the task of caring for the poor, and would rather give to local charities that they feel do more good that to a beurocratic system which increases the size of government and does not necessarily help the poor in the most effective way. But now they feel bad because someone interpretted that as not caring for the poor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I see what you are saying and understand the viewpoint, especially given that I’ve always leaned conservative. I agree that bureaucracy wastes time and money, and charities can better help people and spend less money doing so than the government can. I do wonder, though, if we conservatives take things too far sometimes, wanting to cut funds and programs that legitimately help communities in the name of economic efficiency…while some of the wealthiest people in the country pay less taxes than middle-class families. I just think we need to be more sensible with some of our decisions and priorities.

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      1. Perhaps, although that quickly turns into a larger political/economic thought. The entire motion of which is in the direction of larger government, which will begin to encroach on people’s rights (this may seem an odd direction to take the thought, but here’s what I mean:)

        The basis comes down to what the government is for: is it for governing, or for humanitarian aide? Humanitarian aide is (in my opinion) best left to the private sector – when it becomes the role of the government the private goals intrinsic to the aide must be removed, and the aide becomes both secularized, and standardized (I could give greater clarity on that, but I’ll move on). One of the things that happened when FDR introduced a number of social programs was that the private organizations for humanitarian aide were put out of busines. Or, more recently, when the government began funding Planned Parenthood (and that’s not even government run) is that oganizations like IChoice took a hard hit financially and were barely able to survive (or closed entirely). Now the government has the capital on aide in that area.

        But hen bringing taxes into the mix: we don’t have a say in how the government uses our taxes (sure there’s certain things we get to vote on whether funding should go to it or not), but our taxes go to pay government employee salaries, so the larger the government is the more taxes we pay, but those taxes aren’t determinately assisting in humanitarian purposes. One fundamental perspective that is leading us to socialism is along these lines – we point to the rich and say they should pay more taxes as though that would help the poor and they’re being greedy if they don’t want to give more to the government. In actuality, wealthy people typically help the economy… because they’re wealthy, they are employing people, funding business ventures, etc. Should they pay taxes? Of course! But taking money from the rich and giving it to he government isn’t really the same thing as helping the poor (though to listen to socialists, you would think that’s exactly the case).

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  4. We have universal healthcare in Canada and I must say for me it works great – I use it often due to chronic illnesses and in the USA I would be not get the treatment I get here because I would not have the income or benefit package needed to cover me. On the other hand, I cannot, no matter who much I can afford, get faster healthcare. This is often the comparison to the USA system that is made. You can wait for considerable time for some tests and procedures because they are deemed needed but not required to save your life. For example, I was able to get an MRI to check for MS in 2-3 weeks, if they had suspected a brain tumor or bleed it most likely would have been same day. I took 2-3 months to get an MRI of my foot because the injury was an older one and any action taken based on the MRI would not make a difference if it was done right away or a year later. We also have areas of medicine that are over run like hip and knee replacements and other joint surgeries because of the aging population. You are better to break it or you will have to wait in my area 1-2 years to see a doctor. in fairness this is because we are living longer so this area of medicine is needed more than when I was younger and could get an appointment in a month or so.

    There are times that our emergency rooms are full and the wait very long however life and death situations do not wait. there are plenty of problems with our system but they are often due to poor management; government can be bad at running things in any country. On the plus side I don’t have an HMO choosing my doctor or limiting my treatment so most everything is covered and available from the doctor of my choosing.

    The problem is at what cost are you willing to run such a system? our biggest government budget lines are usually healthcare and education and therefore they require tax money and lots of it. Also remember this system means that the person who does not work gets the same treatment as the millionaire although the millionaire in my country can leave for your country and pay. It seems the main talking point in the USA is that you are a communist or at least a socialist for letting everyone be treated the same. I think when it comes to education (pre university) and healthcare I don’t mind being a socialist but I am a conservative when it comes to voting because, although the political parties may disagree on the specifics of coverage, universal healthcare and basic education are things they are all in favour of.

    Not sure this is a Christian issue unless we as Christian get back to serving those with health issues. The Bible talks about the actions of a Christian but I am not sure that it is meant to extend to government. I think as a compassionate person that the government should educate and look after the health issues of others. I believe as a Christian the church should be willing to do these things regardless of the government. I like my healthcare system in Canada but I know my call as a follower of Christ – Matthew 25:35-40

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave, thank you x 100 for taking the time to write that out; your comment has helped me to understand healthcare in Canada much better (which is very helpful since Americans make assertions about Canadian healthcare that may or may not be true and are only said to support one or the other American agenda).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lily-I just want to say that it has really been awesome reading about how you’ve grappled with how faith and politics should be connected to each other. To be honest, I’ve struggled with this topic as well, to reach my current conclusion, which is that there’s probably a fair bit from both major parties that would give God a good deal of grief. Some things that we know, like greed, and maybe some things some of us might not know or understand. Hope I’m making sense!

    As for health care, I’m not Canadian, but I did spend some time in the United Kingdom, which, like Canada, has universal and government-run health care. It has tended to be a pretty popular system, and dips in the approval rating for their health care system tend to be because of service cuts that lengthen wait times and whatnot, not because of a hatred of the idea of the NHS (the British system). It’s also not a coincidence that the Prime Minister who helped start the NHS, Clement Atlee, is generally viewed as one of the best ever British Prime Ministers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true, Brendan, that there is a good deal in each party which would give God grief–things that are known along with so much corruption we aren’t aware of. And thanks for sharing some about your experience with NHS! It’s informative to hear about these things from people who have actually lived with it. If you don’t mind, I’d love to hear anything you might have to say about universal healthcare vs. American healthcare (would also make for an interesting blog post).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah sure!

        I think of health care as a right, not a privilege. Not only that, but it’s a public health issue. If enough people refuse to get, say, a contagious flu treated because they are unable to afford health insurance and are therefore unable to avoid a doctor’s visit and prescriptions, then it’s a public health crisis caused by not treating health care as a right. I personally am in favor of universal health care.

        But, one thing to be mindful of with universal health care is that there are many different ways that countries make health care universal. Some countries have what is called single-payer health care (when health care is provided through a single public source) while some countries have what is called multi-payer health care (multiple public and/or private sources for health care). So, what I’m trying to say is that not all universal health care is the same. In fact, you’re seeing that with the Democratic debates if you’ve been following with them–Sanders/Warren propose a more single-payer system with Medicare for All while some of the others propose a multi-payer system with a public option but also an opportunity for private options.

        Now that I’ve written my essay, there are really two questions here. First, whether to keep the status quo or make significant changes to the system. Second, if you make changes towards some form of treating health care as a right instead of a privilege, how you get there.

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  6. Great article. I would add one clarifying component – there is a difference between political and partisan. Jesus was political. The Trinity is political by it’s very nature. Political is a group deciding something. But Jesus was not partisan – choosing between the two parties that had power: the Romans and the Temple authorities. He rejected their authority and offered a different way. But Jesus cared deeply for the poor and the outcast – to the point of doing things publicly and speaking publicly in their favor. He didn’t just talk about it, or just focus on individual piety. He was promoting a different way of living as a community/society together. He changed their lives and their station in life. He changed communities. He condemned the oppressors and exploiters. He was very political. It was how he lived out what he talked about. But he was not loyal to either power structure. He was loyal to the kingdom of God. Loyalty to a political party is not living out Jesus’ politics. I’ve been saying for some time now that it makes no sense to have loyalty to something that will fade out of existence at some point in the future. Political parties fall into that category.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for drawing that distinction, brother; I hadn’t thought about things that way, and I sort of used “political” in place of the word “partisan,” but you’re right that Jesus is not partisan but still very political. I alluded to how we should live as Christians–faith influencing every part of our lives vs. a compartmentalized personal piety–but I could have tarried on the point more. Appreciate your comment and hope others read it when they read the post because I totally agree that, like Jesus, we should be active and bold and radical (in love, generosity, etc.).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Read a pretty cool phrase which went something like this:
    Remember, my son, the Right Wing and the Left Wing are on the same bird.

    As for caring for the needy, my biggest issue with any type of governmental assistance is that so many seem to be ‘scamming’ the system which is taking aid away from those who truly need it. I know of guy who draws a disability check every month, yet he can walk a mile each way to the store 2 or 3 times per day. He is intelligent and articulate, why shouldn’t he be working? And don ‘t get me started on those who get beaucoup food stamps, which they sell rather than buy groceries for their kids. Sorry, i could go on for days about this topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice quote! It’s a good reminder that, though we often forget, we all have more in common than we differences. I agree that it is frustrating when people scam the welfare system, and I know you are privy to seeing a lot of it with your job. I just wonder if there are some other things we should be frustrated about a lot of other things, like the price of medicines.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good topic, Lily. Without getting into the weeds on this, I want to comment on one of the most divisive issues. Democrats — even liberal Democrats — are not “in favor” of abortion, as is commonly repeated; they feel it is a decision (not made lightly) between a woman and her doctor. May I even suggest that if this is indeed a sin, they will receive their punishment in the afterlife — so why should humans be presumptuous and decide, rather than leaving it to God?

    It’s also a bit misleading to suggest that Democrats are in favor of higher taxes, while Republicans aren’t. If things were that simple, wouldn’t everyone want lower taxes?! The issue is more about who should pay for all the infrastructure and other needs that we have in this country, because those costs have to be paid by someone. Which is why Democrats want millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, not wriggle out of tax obligations.

    Along these lines… who pays the expense when an uninsured person shows up at the emergency room? Not the patient, not the hospital, not the bureaucrats… nope, it’s every last one of us who has those costs passed along in the form of higher insurance, more expensive prescriptions, etc. General healthcare would offer two tiers: basic coverage for everyone, with an option to pay for higher-level services for those who want them.

    My own politics fall right in the middle, as do most folks I know: I want government that is fiscally conservative, but has a moral conscience.

    I could go on…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this statement–“I want government that is fiscally conservative, but has a moral conscience.”–because that pretty much describes me too these days. I agree that the super wealthy should pay their share of taxes. Another commenter pointed out that the wealthy are not the bad guys, as they create jobs and move the economy along, which I completely agree with, but I don’t think they should be able to exploit a bunch of loopholes. I’m capitalism all the way when it benefits society (free market-competition-selection and fair prices for the consumer) but not when it crosses a line where people are suffering from the greed of others, which I feel is happening. You also make a good point about insurance. Thank you for sharing your perspective, Alisa! 🙂

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  9. Great post and topic Lily! Before I forget, have you heard of or read the book ‘reading revelation responsibly’ by Michael O’Gormon? (I think thats his name — I’m not sure the author’s name right now; but I know the author is Methodist). It’s been a while since I read it so I hope I’m not getting this wrong: but he addresses this modern mixture of the church with politics, and calls it Civil Religion and makes the claim that revelation is all about the worship of God above any form of civil religion. And that in the end times it will be marked by this mixture of politics with religion and a falling away from God worship. It was an interesting read! Gave new meaning to the ‘come out of her my people’ verse in revelation, and helped me untangle my own tendency to mix up my religion and worship of God with politics.
    As for me, I still recall how I once wrapped up my faith into my political favorites. I have so much more freedom, and peace, now that I stopped doing that. I know Jesus is going to be King someday, regardless of who is in the White House, and knowing that all earthly kingdoms will fall and all earthly kings will need to bow before Christ someday keeps it in perspective to me.
    But when I hadn’t yet woken up, I could have encountered someone ‘like I am now’ and heard all they said, and agreed with it even; without it even denting my passion to pass along those conservative religious memes, or to feel good if I went to vote to try and end abortion. Somehow I believed I was acting on God’s behalf by passing along a meme.
    Furthermore: as an abuse survivor who is pretty far out of the ‘fog’, I spot manipulation pretty readily. And a whole lot of those political memes are just that. Manipulation! AKA Propaganda. Propaganda works because it is seductive, and manipulative by intention, playing on our fears and our emotions.

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  10. Politics aside just for a moment, I think that there is a tension between the morality, value and ethics of Christianity on the one hand and business on the other. Obviously, not everyone in business believes cheating, lying, and foul play are all fine if you can get away with it. But many do — especially top executives of multi-nationals. It’s essentially incompatible with the basic values of Christianity (and any other religion I am familiar with). And that’s the appeal of Trumpism. It explicitly says anything goes. Furthermore, while it seems crazy to me that any actual Christian would support Trump, it’s fine for Trumpists to pretend to be Christian. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, lying is a sin. But for Trumpists, it’s just fine to lie — including calling oneself a Christian. https://petersironwood.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/trumpism-is-a-new-religion/

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