Politics as Unusual

Politicians have always gotten a bad rap (and not without good cause, I might add). They are often called liars, for example. This accusation is, often, not without due merit. I can remember hearing one of our past presidents say one thing one day and proclaim the exact opposite the next. Not only did this happen, it happened often. He was not alone in this, of course. What’s worse, the more these things happen, the less we seem to pay attention to what’s going on.

For the most part, I try to steer clear of political subjects. Unfortunately, it’s not totally avoidable. When politics intersect with matters of faith and spirituality, even a guy like me (who shies away from such mire) should say something. It’s also unfortunate that it’s become a good way to make an enemy or two.

Religion and Politics

It’s no coincidence that I grew up hearing the following advice. “You should never talk about religion or politics.” That got drilled into my head over and over again. Today, however, two of the most important and frequently visited topics are precisely those—religion and politics. What’s a mother to do?

I’ve heard people say that we should use Jesus as an example. They point to him and remark that he avoided politics altogether. To back up their assertion, they quote Jesus’ wisdom about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17). This sounds good and reasonable.

Then, however, we turn around and hear others remark that Jesus was extremely political. In fact, their view is that his preaching about the Kingdom of God put him on a collision course with the politicians of his day—particularly since he seemed to be saying that he was the King. Others add that his personal pacifism was about as political as one could get.

Peace or Division?

And so it is. When we talk about religion AND politics, we even line up on differing sides of Jesus. Again—unavoidable… After all, he did say that he came to bring division. In fact, he was answering his own question when he did so. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Luke 12:51). This is not the Jesus we like to think about, is it?

But that’s the thing about Jesus. He never seemed to hold back. If the discussion was headed toward controversial subjects, he plowed right ahead. Often he used tact and a lot of wisdom to diffuse the situation. Other times he was like a bull in a china shop—like when he called the Pharisees a bunch of snakes (Matthew 12:34). Jesus is wildly unpredictable and yet unashamedly consistent. If we could only be like him…

That, of course, is the big trick—how to become more like Jesus. With outrageously different interpretations of his nuances, becoming more like him seems like a rough road to travel. I guess that’s why we’re admonished to “live by the Spirit.”

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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