Here’s what’s wrong with politics in the United States.
Joe Wilson does something outrageous, and it pays off politically. And it isn’t just Joe Wilson. Left and right, politicians know they can make points and score cash off of playing to the extremes.
Why be civil, and have actual give-and-take dialogue, when the real action is on the edges? Rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred streetfighting gets news, gets money, gets votes. It just doesn’t get things done.
Where are Christians in all of this? Why are we not, first of all, holding politicians to account for reckless, disrespectful speech? Why are we not calling them out on lies and half-truths? Why are we not guarding our own words and emotions in the debate? Why are we playing this game?
One of the most powerful ways Christians can affect the culture is one of the least-observed: Through gentleness and meekness as we confront sin (as in, “real sin,” not just opposing viewpoints). In order to do that, we need to follow a few simple steps:
Agree on what real sin is. It’s not socialism, or nationalized healthcare (though I think neither is a good idea). Those things are politics. Sin, as the New Testament defines it, includes hatred and anger and pride along with things like adultery, homosexuality, theft, lying, witchcraft.... We need a full and honest definition of sin.
Confess and repent of “over-the-top” rhetoric. God will judge what we say as well as what we do. We can’t cop out with the excuse that our angry words were in the heat of the moment, for the cause.
Make repentance both personal and public. It is personal when it is face-to-face, and New Testament reconciliation is always face-to-face. It isn’t a statement issued to the press, or my people giving a message to your people. It is me coming to you and confessing that I have sinned against you. How would politics change if one politician went to another and said: “I sinned against you in the way I criticized you”? And it is public when the sin is confessed before the nation as sin. If the whole world knows you did it, then the whole world should know that you see you were wrong.
Humbly hold all sides to account for this standard. I believe that if Christians did this one thing especially, we’d change the way politics is done in the nation. We could change the debate from what scores points to what is right and reasonable and effective. The world would see that we are willing to forego partisanship for Christlike conduct. And if we show this, those who hear us will take us seriously even when they disagree.
Pray for all politicians, even when we think their politics is wrong. This is a Biblical must; it’s up there with “Do not lie, do not steal.” Paul ordered churches to put it into practice even for rulers who arrested and beggared the people he told to do it. If Roman Christians could pray for Nero, we can surely pray for our president, whatever his/her political party. And we have to.