Have you ever watched a heated political debate and felt a sense of discomfort? Perhaps it’s the way politicians fiercely argue, the sharp words they throw at each other, or the promises that seem more like distant dreams than soon-to-be realities. It’s a world that feels so distant from the quiet, reflective spaces we might seek in our churches or in our moments of prayer and contemplation.
I remember sitting down one evening, turning on the TV, and being immediately struck by the stark difference between the world of politics and the world of my faith. On the screen, there was a debate raging, voices raised, fingers pointed. It was all about who was right, who had the power, and who could outsmart the other. In that moment, I couldn’t help but think about the teachings of Jesus – the call for humility, for loving our neighbours, for speaking truth, and for living a life of service.
It seems, doesn’t it, that the realm of politics often embodies behaviours and values that stand in sharp contrast to what many of us strive for in our Christian walk. It’s not just about the policies or the decisions made, but about how the game of politics is played. It’s a world where winning often takes precedence over truth, where power is pursued at the expense of humility, and where division can be a tool rather than a tragedy to avoid.
In this article, we’re going to explore this contrast. Why is it that politics and the behaviour of politicians often reflect everything a Christian isn’t? Let’s delve into this intriguing juxtaposition, understanding both the nature of politics and the core of our Christian beliefs.
The Nature of Politics
Politics, at its core, is the art of governance and decision-making within a community, nation, or even on a global scale. It’s a complex dance of power, influence, and authority, where the stakes are often high, and the outcomes affect millions. Politics, by its very nature, is competitive. It’s about winning elections, gaining support, and implementing policies. This competitive streak isn’t inherently negative; it can drive progress and innovation. However, it’s the way this competition often plays out that can be concerning.
In the political arena, the pursuit of power can become the overriding goal. Power is a seductive force; it promises control, influence, and the ability to bring about change. But there’s a catch – gaining and maintaining power can sometimes lead to compromising values and ethics. It’s not uncommon to witness politicians who, in their quest for power, bend the truth, manipulate facts, or prioritize their own interests over the public good.
Take, for instance, election campaigns. They can sometimes feel like a race where the fastest and the loudest get the most attention, not necessarily the most honest or the most considerate. In such environments, promises are made with more regard for their appeal than their feasibility or ethical implications. The pressure to ‘win’ at all costs can lead to strategies that are far removed from the ideals of fairness, honesty, and integrity.
Moreover, in striving to stay in power or to undermine opponents, some politicians may resort to tactics that widen divisions within society. Instead of fostering unity and understanding, politics can become a battleground of ‘us vs. them’, where the goal is to defeat the other side rather than to find common ground or work towards the collective good.
This nature of politics – where the pursuit of power can overshadow the pursuit of what is right and just – stands in stark contrast to the Christian call for humility, truthfulness, and loving our neighbours. In the next section, we’ll explore these Christian virtues in more detail and see how they can offer a different perspective on power and influence.
Christian Teachings and Values
When we turn our attention to Christian teachings, we enter a world vastly different from the power-driven realms of politics. At the heart of Christianity lie core virtues like love, compassion, humility, and forgiveness. These are not just ideals; they are the bedrock of how we are called to live and interact with others.
Love, the most central of these virtues, is beautifully encapsulated in the commandment, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This isn’t a passive, easy love. It’s an active, selfless love that puts others’ needs on par with our own, a stark contrast to the self-serving nature often seen in politics.
Compassion, another key virtue, involves empathizing with others, especially those who are suffering or in need. Jesus exemplifies this in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where help is offered to a stranger in need without any expectation of reward or recognition – a clear divergence from the transactional relationships we sometimes see in political contexts.
Humility, perhaps the most countercultural of Christian virtues in today’s world, calls for a modest view of one’s own importance. In Philippians 2:3, Paul urges us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” This is in direct contrast to the pursuit of power and status that is often glorified in the political sphere.
Finally, forgiveness – the act of letting go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness is powerful and challenging. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him. Jesus replies, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This radical call to forgiveness stands in stark contrast to the political culture where grudges and retaliations are often the norm.
These virtues – love, compassion, humility, and forgiveness – are not just ideals; they are practical guides for living. They call us to a different way of being, one that challenges the status quo and invites us to reflect on the true meaning of power and leadership. As we continue, we’ll explore how these virtues contrast with the behaviours often exhibited in politics.
The Contrast Between Politics and Christian Values
1. Power vs. Humility
The stark contrast between the political pursuit of power and the Christian ideal of humility is perhaps most evident. In politics, power is often seen as the ultimate goal – a means to influence, control, and enact policies. It’s about being at the top, being in charge, and often, being right. This pursuit can sometimes lead to a self-aggrandizing mentality, where the focus is more on personal advancement than on serving others.
Contrast this with the Christian call to humility, beautifully expressed in Philippians 2:3. Humility in Christianity isn’t about self-deprecation; it’s about recognizing our own limitations and valuing others. It’s a quiet strength that chooses service over dominance, and collective well-being over personal glory. In a world where power is often sought after at any cost, the Christian virtue of humility stands apart, reminding us of the power in serving and uplifting others.
2. Manipulation vs. Truth
Another area of contrast is between political rhetoric, which can involve manipulation, and the Christian emphasis on truth. In politics, words are often used as tools to persuade, to win over, or sometimes, to mislead. The focus can be more on what will ‘sell’ or what will win votes rather than what is necessarily true or beneficial for the community.
In contrast, Christianity places a high value on truth, as exemplified in Jesus’ words in John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Truth in Christianity is not just about factual accuracy but about being authentic and genuine in our dealings with others. It’s about living a life that is transparent and free from deceit – a stark difference from the often manipulative nature of political discourse.
3. Division vs. Love
Lastly, the contrast between how politics can sow division and Christianity’s teaching of love, even for enemies, is profound. Political arenas are often battlegrounds of differing ideologies, where the aim is to defeat the opposition rather than understand or work with them. This environment can breed division and hostility, reinforcing an ‘us versus them’ mentality.
In stark contrast, Christianity teaches love for all, including enemies. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” challenges us to break down barriers of division. This isn’t a passive or weak love; it’s a radical, active love that seeks reconciliation and understanding, even in the face of opposition.
These contrasts – power versus humility, manipulation versus truth, and division versus love – highlight the fundamental differences between the nature of politics and Christian values. They challenge us to rethink our approach to leadership, influence, and how we engage with those around us. As we move forward, let’s reflect on how we can embody these Christian virtues in our own lives, even in the complex and often challenging world of politics.
Politicians’ Behaviour vs. Christian Behaviour
1. Examples of Politicians’ Behaviour
The world of politics often displays behaviours that starkly contrast with Christian virtues. One such behaviour is the smearing of opponents with baseless claims. This tactic is used to undermine rivals, often without regard for the truth or the damage it does to individuals and the community. For example, during election campaigns, it’s not uncommon to see advertisements or hear speeches where politicians accuse their opponents of various misdeeds, sometimes with little to no evidence. These accusations are designed to instil doubt and fear, steering public opinion by portraying the other as untrustworthy or even dangerous.
Another concerning behaviour is the hypocritical nature of some political accusations. Politicians may accuse their opponents of actions or traits that they themselves exhibit. This diversionary tactic is used to deflect attention from their own shortcomings by highlighting or fabricating those of others. It’s a way of saying, “Don’t look at what I’m doing wrong; look at what they’re doing wrong.” This creates a distorted narrative where the accuser tries to appear as the ‘good guy’, despite possibly engaging in similar or worse behaviours.
These actions are at odds with Christian values like honesty, integrity, and love for our neighbours. In Christianity, the emphasis is on truth, self-examination, and treating others with respect and kindness, regardless of differences. The practice of baseless accusations and hypocritical behaviour goes against the core Christian principle of “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).
2. The Christian Response
How, then, should Christians respond to such behaviour in the political realm? A key concept here is being ‘in the world, but not of the world’ (John 17:16). This means engaging with the world, including its political aspects, but not adopting its values and practices that are contrary to Christian teachings.
Firstly, Christians can respond by being discerning consumers of political information. This involves critically evaluating political claims, seeking truth, and being wary of manipulation and false narratives. It’s about not automatically accepting every accusation or promise but looking for evidence and considering the broader context.
Secondly, Christians are called to respond with the love and humility that Jesus exemplified. This doesn’t mean passivity or acceptance of wrongdoing. Rather, it means engaging in political discussions and actions with a spirit of respect, seeking understanding and common ground. It involves standing up for truth and justice, but doing so in a way that reflects Christ’s love and grace, even towards those with whom we disagree.
Lastly, Christians can be a positive influence in the political sphere by embodying the virtues they uphold. This could mean getting involved in politics themselves, supporting ethical leaders, or working within their communities to promote policies and actions that reflect Christian values of compassion, justice, and love for all.
In conclusion, while the behaviour of some politicians may often be at odds with Christian virtues, the Christian response is not to withdraw or to mirror these behaviours. Instead, it’s to engage with discernment, act with integrity, and respond with love and humility, embodying the values of Christ in every aspect of life, including the political.
Navigating Politics as a Christian
Navigating the complex and often contentious world of politics as a Christian can be a challenging endeavour. It requires balancing the call to be an active and informed member of society with the need to uphold Christian values and ethics.
1. Engagement with Politics
One of the primary challenges Christians face in engaging with politics is maintaining their values in an environment that often prioritizes power and success over truth and integrity. The political landscape can be rife with compromise, and for Christians, this poses a dilemma: how to participate in a system that sometimes seems at odds with their faith.
The key is to approach politics not as a means to impose a set of beliefs, but as a platform to demonstrate Christian values like compassion, justice, and love for one’s neighbour. This involves making choices that might not always align with a political party’s complete agenda but are consistent with Christian teachings. It’s about being a voice for the voiceless, standing up for justice and truth, and showing love and respect even to those with differing views.
2. Positive Examples
Fortunately, there are examples of politicians and political actions that have aligned with Christian values, serving as beacons of hope in the political sphere. These individuals and actions remind us that it is possible to merge faith and politics in a positive way.
For instance, some politicians have made strides in championing social justice issues, such as fighting poverty, advocating for the rights of the marginalized, and promoting peace and reconciliation. Others have shown integrity and humility in their leadership, prioritizing the common good over personal gain.
Moreover, there have been instances where political decisions have reflected Christian values, such as policies aimed at protecting the environment (stewardship of creation), supporting families and communities, and fostering peace and international cooperation.
These examples serve as a reminder that while the world of politics can be challenging for Christians, it also presents opportunities to make a positive impact. By engaging with politics thoughtfully and intentionally, Christians can be a force for good, bringing the light of their faith into the public sphere. It’s about being informed, active, and prayerful, seeking to reflect Christ in all aspects of life, including the political.
In this exploration, we’ve seen the fundamental contrasts between the often tumultuous world of politics and the serene, principled path laid out by Christian teachings. Politics, with its inherent pursuit of power and sometimes questionable ethics, can sharply diverge from the Christian virtues of humility, truth, love, and compassion. While there are instances where political actions align with these values, the challenge for a Christian lies in navigating this landscape without compromising their core beliefs.
Given these contrasts and challenges, it may seem safer, and perhaps wiser, for Christians to stay out of politics. The risks of entanglement in practices that contradict their faith can be significant. However, complete disengagement is not the only nor the most effective response. Christians are called to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), which includes influencing society positively.
The call to action, then, is one of careful reflection and discernment. Christians should critically evaluate their engagement in politics, ensuring that their actions and choices reflect their values and faith. It’s about being informed, prayerful, and intentional in how one interacts with the political world. The goal is not to conquer or dominate in the political arena but to serve as witnesses to the love, truth, and grace that define Christianity. By doing so, Christians can navigate the complex world of politics while staying true to their faith and making a positive impact in their communities.