For many Americans, politics has never been more important and is itself turning into the opium of the masses.
We can barely scroll on Facebook, flip on TV, or watch sports without hearing complaints about such-and-such politicians, pontifications, virtue signaling, or some other form of communication meant to sway the conscience. Instead of courtesy, reason, and reasonableness characterizing political discourse, anger, hatred, and even violence rule the day, creating headlines that only fuel more rage.
Let’s look at a root cause of all our political strife: idolatry. We’ve given politics and government a role they were never meant to play: solver of all our problems, provider of security, happiness, equity, and meaning. In other words, god. How do you know if you’ve made politics your god? Here are signs:
- Your hope in life is inextricably tied to a politician or your political party ‘winning.’
- You look to a politician or party as a perfect savior who can’t do or say anything wrong.
- You think a utopia is possible in this world if your side would only get their way.
- You side with your party on every issue by reflex without thinking through a biblical perspective.
- On issues Scripture doesn’t speak directly to, you claim God’s tacit approval for your party.
- Your speech and tone in political discourse lean more toward harsh and angry than kindness and honorable (1 Peter 2:12; Titus 3:1–2).
- You forget that your political opponents are eternal souls destined for hell without the saving grace of Christ.
- You let politics steal your joy.
- You would rather sacrifice truth and integrity than be out of step with what your side believes.
- You think God trembles and His hands are tied when politicians impose anti-Christian policies. (He actually laughs; cf. Psalm 2.)
- You are tempted toward violence to get your point across.
- You never seek to understand how your political opponent thinks. (Why do that when you can call them a bigot?)
- You blame all societal ills on your political opponent.
- You can’t admit when the other party does something right.
- You fail to acknowledge the false idols of your political party.
- You look to politics to heal your deepest wounds.
- You find your meaning for life in politics.
- You hate the sin of the other political party but excuse it for those you support (or even in your own life).
- You justify evil in the name of what works.
- You think every one of your opponents is as bad as their party’s worst example.
And this list just starts the conversation.
Andy Crouch’s words from Playing God help us see the devastating effects of idolizing politics:
All idols begin by offering great things for a very small price. All idols then fail, more and more consistently, to deliver on their original promises, while ratcheting up their demands… In the end they fail completely, even as they make categorical demands. In the memorable phrase of the psychiatrist Jeffrey Satinover, idols ask for more and more, while giving less and less, until eventually they demand everything and give nothing.
We need to detox before this idol robs us of the most important things in life. Here are a few ideas on how to do that:
1. Cut down on cable news (or turn it off). As Albert Mohler recently shared on The Briefing, “The profit [in] cable news is not made in explaining carefully. The profit is made in generalizations and accusations, it is made in criticism and condemnation, it is made in division, not in understanding.” This is true for many online political platforms as well. The more political news you take in, the more you will be tempted toward idolatry.
2. Steep yourself in Scripture. God’s life-giving Word will strengthen your weary heart. Make Psalm 119:28 your prayer, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!”
3. Recalibrate your theology of politics and true worship by reading this article or the book How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman.
4. Turn your eyes on Jesus, the King of the universe and only political figure worthy of our worship. All earthly rulers are set up by Him (Romans 13:1–2; Daniel 2:21) and “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3). Set your eyes and heart on His kingdom and you’ll have all you need (Matthew 6:33).