The Signs of Political Idolatry



The last week has been both a relief and burden for me.  I am relieved that we have finally progressed past the campaign/election season in America.  But I am burdened by the manner in which we engaged one another and the reactions to the election results.  Part of the U.S. population is elated at the results while the rest of the population is dismayed.  Some states are even campaigning for secession from the Union.  In Denver, my city, there were two Christian leaders who hosted wake ceremonies to memorialize the death of the country!  This is most disconcerting!  If we believe that all men are made in the image of God, then how can we do such a poor job of engaging one another?  If we sincerely believe that God is our sovereign king, then how do we declare despair so readily?

It seems to me that three invariably linked issues drive much of the acrimony:
1)    We think too highly of our ideas!
2)    We undervalue the ideas of others!
3)    We do not sincerely believe that God is sovereign!

In a nutshell, we are guilty of idolizing our own political agendas.  Invariably, this results in the maligning of views that do not correspond to our own.  And the greatest of all atrocities is found in the fact that God’s role as King (an office with no term limits) gets lost in the process.  If He is the Sovereign Lord the day before the election then how does one sincerely host a funeral the day after the election?

The whole experience has revealed an unbridled idolatry that is rampant among us.  It needs to be called out and addressed.  Idolatry is the act of preferring anything over the fame of our King.  It is the act of drinking filthy water and choosing it over the refreshing spring that is our God (Jeremiah 2:11-13).  During election season our political views were as filthy water and God was relegated to being one of the many voices in the debate.  With all due respect to our esteemed political pundits, it does not work that way!  God did not come to take sides; He came to take over!  (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:15-18)

Tim Keller visited this issue and I wholeheartedly affirm his assessment.  I have posted it below.  Give it a read and let us prepare our hearts for repentance.

Brandon Washington
The Embassy Church
…making God famous throughout the world.


The Signs of Political Idolatry
-By Tim Keller

“One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life.  When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it.  If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic.  We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end!  There’s no hope!’

This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way.  When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country.  They become agitated and fearful for the future.  They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once were reserved for God and the work of the gospel.   When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death.  They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart.  They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement.  The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created.

Another sign of idolatry in our politics is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken, but to be all together evil.  After the last presidential election, my eighty-four-year-old mother observed, ‘It used to be that whoever was elected as your president, even if he wasn’t the one you voted for, he was still your president.  That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.’  After each election, there are now a significant number of people who see the incoming president lacking moral legitimacy.

The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion.  How does idolatry produce fear and demonization?  Dutch-Canadian philosopher – Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace.  The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy.  That demonizes something that is not completely bad, and makes and idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  (Romans 13:1 ESV)

Put your hope in God and the work of His gospel.  One part of the gospel people forget is the end game, the cross-made a way for God to reconcile broken people like you and me here and now.  It also made a way for God to fully reconcile this broken planet in the not to distant future.  The gospel is at work in our lives, in our nation and in the nations.  The gospel is not dependent, nor determined on mans government.  It is a completely different kingdom, one that is eternal not temporal.  Until such a time – pray, proclaim and play in the light of His good news.”

Tim Keller is an American Christian apologist, author, speaker, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York.

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