Politics has become the religion of a growing segment of the population.
The most rapidly growing demographic in America’s religious landscape are the Nones; people who identify as holding no religious faith. While they may not self-identify as such, they are spread across several other labels; atheist, agnostic, secular, and materialist. Generally, they regard traditional religious faith as incompatible with science. They believe there is no reality beyond that bound by space, matter, and time.
But a rejection of traditional religious faith doesn’t terminate the very-human inclination to believe in something larger than the self. There is a persistent need to attach meaning and purpose to existence. A person may eschew religious faith while simultaneously embracing an ideology that credits them with significance.
For many today, politics is that ideology. It has become a substitute for religion. They hold to their political beliefs with religious zeal, developing an “us versus them” mentality that vilifies those with whom they disagree.
When traditional religion held pre-eminence in people’s worldview, political discourse had the potential of being more polite because such interactions were shaped by a higher set of values and priorities. But when it is politics itself that sets those values, discourse degenerates into sloganeering and intolerant rhetoric. Dialog flattens to loud monolog.
Jesus-Followers must be careful to not allow the elevation of “politics-as-religion” to shape the way they behave. Our political views ought to be a carefully reasoned application of the Biblical Worldview to the public square. Engaging in political discourse in a society hostile to The Gospel requires a healthy dose of grace and the Holy Spirit.
What Christians need to be careful of is to mark the distinction between the priorities of God’s Kingdom and the realm of political discourse. There will be an overlap when it comes to issues of morality. But it seems many Christians find it difficult keeping the main thing (The Gospel) the main thing.
An example may help …
As I compose this, the political realm is polarized into two camps over Transgenderism. The Left is very much pro-LGBTQIA+ while the Right opposes exposing children to Drag Queens. Ben is a politically left-learning non-Christian who supports the LBGTQIA+ agenda. His friend Ted is a Christian who has been praying for Ben to come to faith in Christ. How can Ted best share The Gospel with Ben? Would it be wise for him to go after Ben’s support of the LGBTQIA+ cause or for him to share the simple truths of The Gospel? Is Ben’s path into faith better forged by changing his political ideas or his ideas about God and himself?
In other words, does Ben need to agree with Ted on transgenderism as condition of coming to faith in Christ, or will coming to a saving-faith in Christ see Ben align with a Biblical Worldview on a wide range of subjects, including transgenderism?
Because secularism has hollowed out the culture, politics has become the de-facto religion of many. Christians must be careful to not capitulate to the mentality that politics IS The Gospel.
It’s been said that “politics is downstream of culture.” What that means is that what happens in the wider culture affects what happens in politics. Culture first, THEN politics. History makes clear that when The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives (it always does), the culture changes, and THEN politics change.
Let’s recommit to sharing The Gospel in both word and deed. As we do that, the political ship will turn.
Lance is the founding and lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Oxnard where he has served since 1982. Lance & David Guzik co-pastored the church for six years before David planted a church in a nearby community.
Lance & his wife Lynn were married in 1980 and have three adult children and five grandchildren. Lance loves teaching the Bible, History, and Leadership. He holds Masters-of-Arts in Biblical Studies and Ministry.
Lance serves as a chaplain for both the Oxnard and Port Hueneme Police Departments and enjoys backpacking, wood-working, working out, gardening, home improvement projects, reading, and graphic design.
The popular Communio Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church podcast can be found in both audio and video at the Into His Image website along with a growing inventory of Lances teaching.