Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Politics & Religion

Yup Dad, I'm talking about things you've told me not to--again.

My Bible study group had its weekly meeting last night, and the scripture from Romans (13:1-14) that our study covered perfectly suited the occasion of Election Day. Politics and religion have both been topics that I've thought a lot about over the years, but it's only been over the course of the last six months or so that I've been examining my political views, which formed long before I became a Christian, in light of my faith.

Fortunately the scripture and discussion didn't lend itself to the typical hot topic issues like abortion and stem cell research, but instead it addressed our relationship to the state and to the world. Until I read this passage, I hadn't thought about my obligation as a Christian to our government beyond obeying the laws. The scripture states that God put all governments into power and seems to suggest that civil governments are the institution of God and therefore deserve respect and submission. (And yes, there are all sorts of logical questions that flow from this--the first one that came to my mind was Hitler, but I'm glossing over the nuances for now.)

Over the last six years, I've failed to show any respect to our president.

The morning after the election in 2000, I was so disappointed in my fellow Americans. Almost half of American voters voted for him, and it made me sad. The debacle with the Supreme Court didn't help, and during his tenure, President Bush has provided plenty of fodder for me to make fun of him with and help me mentally justify my general lack of respect. I've never prayed for God to guide him in his decision-making or to give him wisdom. Instead I've mocked what I've perceived as his many flaws and concentrated solely on the negative. I'd never heard the verses about God sending the authorities to help me (Romans 13:4) or thought about Bush's presidency being part of God's providential control. Now that I have, I am re-thinking my attitude and trying to have an open mind and heart.

Christian or not, I think we seem much more credible when we focus more on facts and less on ridicule. Think about Venezulean President Hugo Chavez's comments about President Bush being "the devil" and smelling of sulfur. I'm also reminded of another lesson I've learned: it's better to present the facts and let people draw their own conclusions than to just call someone an idiot or stupid (or the devil). So I need to remember that it's not by happenstance that President Bush is our president, and I should recognize that, offering him my respect regardless of my disagreement with him and his policies.

p.s. Should I switch to beta blogger?


Anonymous said...

I like that scripture. It's humbling. But everything has rank. Such as if the local government institutes a law the national government can work to overturn it. So it's similar when you talk about someone like Hitler. A leader deserves respect in authority as long as his rules do not go outside of what is inside the Bible. Because that outranks him. So to speak.

The same is true of authority within the church. If your pastor says something that doesn't quite line up with the Word. He should be called out on it. In a nice and respectful way, of course.

Again, this also applies to work. It's hard. Especially when your boss is an idiot. Respectfully so.

Ally said...

The annotation of one of my friend's Bible summed it up nicely: If the government [or perhaps your boss] requires what God prohibits or prohibits what God requires, then absolute submission is not required.

Adding to your list of those who have authority--our parents. This has been hard for me as I've realized how I speak to my parents is sometimes disrespectful and something that God wants me to be mindful of; and it is hard.

spam_price said...

That was a humble yet poignant post. No matter what happens on Election Day when we wake up the day after you are still living in America and God is still in control. Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

I tried leaving this earlier and it didn't work...but I thought that this as a pretty eloquent description of reasonable dissent.

Anonymous said...

Yes, switch to beta blogger. I did..

(sometimes it's REALLY hard to respect Bush)

Anonymous said...

The Republicans surely dug themselves into a whole during this election. But remember how post-Clinton years the Republicans came out on top. It's just the ebb and flow of politics.

I've switched the beta blogger. It takes some time getting used to. I use another gmail account for personal e-mails so it's a pain to have to log in and out all the time.

cdp said...

This is a great post, Ally. It reminds me of the old adage about how speaking harshly and negatively lessens our credibility (I can't remember the saying, but I know there is one.) Basically, it seems to me that when we have a solid, reasonable, and credible argument, it is best to make that argument and let it stand on its own. Like you said, present the facts and let people draw their own conclusions. When we resort to ridicule and ad hominem attacks, we only leave ourselves open to questions about the veracity and reason behind whatever it is we're saying.

I've been thinking a lot about my political views lately, too. While I (and all of us, clearly) can see the obvious flaws in the president, I guess what's been stirring in my mind lately is that the way we've been doing things (criticizing Bush and polarizing all the issues down party or moral lines, pointing fingers about right and wrong) is just not getting us anywhere. What you said about praying for the president and for God to guide his decision making really spoke to me. He is certainly flawed, as are we all (meaning Bush, not God!), but I for one wouldn't want his job. I can't imagine the enormity of the pressure and the responsbility a president must feel every day with every decision he makes. If there's anyone who needs our prayers, I'm sure it's our president. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

spam_price said...

Christians who are democrats have been overly critical of President Bush, and unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt. Christians who are republicans have been more than willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt, and perhaps have not been critical enough. At the end of the day every Christian, no matter the party affiliation, has the obligation to submit to the authorities as Paul exhorts in Romans and Ally pointed out here. Also we each need to remember that President Bush is a brother in Christ and one that is deserving of our prayers, exhortation, respect and admonition along biblical principles. May we all remember that our brothers and sisters in Christ are sinful just like us and deserving of our love and His grace.

Ally said...

Jeff: I was just in the break room saying exactly what you just wrote in your comment; we are all sinners, yet in our public officials we seem to expect absolute perfection. Any little flaw is illuminated and pounced upon--not for the greater good but simply for political capital.

Cindy: Your practical argument rings true too; the way we are doing things right now isn't accomplishing much other than the creation of a huge political divide. It seems like a respectful discourse among different party members is less possible than it once was as we're so focused on our differences that we can't get past them to talk about our shared values and goals. Side note: I know that when a Republican tells me that he is to pray for me (in all seriousness) because I often vote for Democrats that we're going to have a hard time having any kind of reasonable discussion.

Ella: There's definitely an ebb and flow. I'm anxious to see if things are going to change.

Jordan: I agree that it's sometimes very hard to respect President Bush, but I'm hoping that my new perspective will help. God has helped me do lots of other tough things, so I'm positive this will be no exception.

AM: Well I'm glad I seem reasonable:) I think our nation will go a lot further if everyone attempts to be reasonable (especially during election times).