Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri.
This podcast hopes to begin and sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.
Today I want to talk about politics. It’s an uncomfortable subject for many Christians, which is why so many of us avoid it. Some of us don’t avoid it and tend to over-emphasize it. These are my thoughts on politics, specifically on how we can strike a balance in the big picture.
Many Christians today say that we shouldn’t be tied to or bound by any political ideology, and certainly not a political party. They’ll say we need to rise above political ideology and stay above the fray.
When it comes to voting, they don’t often give an alternative to ideology, except maybe to say something like, “I don’t care about the ideology of Joe Candidate, I just care about what kind of person he or she is” and that they “get things done”.
In other words, that we need to consider the character or personality or competence of a candidate or leader. Which is understandable and important. Character matters very much in our elected officials, and bears close attention.
Personality, not so much. So many times in world history, a dynamic personality has fooled people into putting someone in power, with disastrous results.
Competence is a tricky one. On the one hand, we would like our elected leaders to get things done, yet on the other, it matters very much WHAT they’re getting done. History is also full of very competent leaders who were competent in all the wrong things, with again, disastrous results.
Which is why, when it comes to politics, I’d like to make a case FOR ideology, and specifically for Christians to yes, indeed be tied to an ideology.
The first reason to tie oneself to ideology is that ideologies keep the fight non-personal, or at least they should.
For instance, if I have an ideology that’s different from yours, I can still say that I think you’re a good person. You’re political ideas are mis-guided, but you’re a good Christian and I like you and we can have fellowship.
But, if I tie or relate my political opinions and stances to personality or character, then all of a sudden your opposition to me could mean that you have a flaw in your personality or character. Then I might think “What’s wrong with them? How could a good person – or even a Christian – think like that?” Which of course is what happens all the time in today’s climate.
What Ideology does is reflect values. A value system, if you will. And for Christians it is vital that we know our foundational values come from what’s known as the Judeo-Christian value system, or worldview. This is an ideology, a set of values, founded in the adherence to Biblical truths of the Old and New Testaments. This would be in contrast to something like a Post-Modern worldview, a view that rejects the idea of any kind of absolute truth or objective morality.
And in case you haven’t guessed, this is the value system to which I would like us all to be tied.
So this is all very interesting, I’m sure – comparing worldviews, but what does that have to do with us today as Christians. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “…render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s”.
Yes he did. Specifically with regard to taxes, but the principle still applies.
There’s an important distinction in this verse, and one very important implication. First of all, the distinction is obviously between God and Caesar. Some things are Caesar’s, some are God’s. We shouldn’t try give Caesar’s stuff to God, but more importantly, we must NOT allow Caesar to have what we know is God’s.
And this is where the big problem lies. It is Caesar’s nature to take what is God’s, and what God has entrusted to US: marriage, the care and training of children, helping the sick and needy, work, money, the list goes on.
To paraphrase a famous quote, ”you may not be interested in Caesar, but Caesar is definitely interested in you”.
And secondly, the implication in Jesus‘ words is one of personal responsibility to God, and to society. And for us as American Christians, we need to realize that we don’t have a Caesar.
The early Christians under Rome had no voice as to whether or not their taxes were too high, or any other aspect of their political life.
We DO have such a voice. We have government of the people, by the people and for the people, and it’s incumbent on us to subject and limit government’s – or Caesar’s – role to the things that God has entrusted to it, and to make sure that the laws and burdens put on all citizens are just and fair.
And most importantly, we must not shirk our own responsibility to do good in this world by claiming that it’s Caesar’s (or the governments) role, not ours. God will hold YOU and ME accountable for the fruit our good deeds have produced in this world, not those of our government.
And THAT, my friends, is an ideological statement, one that comes from a Judeo Christian value system. It’s a statement that says government should be limited, and that citizens are free to do good as their consciences, before God, demand, to be judged by their Creator, not their government.
In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapters 11-12 in your Bible).
And keeping with our subject, today’s witness is a politician, believe it or not. Before you tune out, let me just say he’s not your typical politician. This guy broke the mold and radically changed the world. I’ll try to do his story justice. He we go;
In the late 1700s, English slave traders raided the African coast on the Gulf of Guinea, capturing between 35,000 and 50,000 Africans a year, shipping them across the Atlantic, and selling them into slavery. It was a profitable business that many powerful people had become dependent upon. The economics of slavery were so entrenched that only a handful of people thought anything could be done about it.
That handful included William Wilberforce, a Christian member of the British Parliament.
His first years in parliament didn’t amount to much, by his own admission. He was mainly there to fulfill his own ambitions.
But he soon became disenchanted with the status quo of political life, and began to take his Christian faith seriously.
Under the influence of Christian abolitionists, he came to fully embrace the cause of abolishing the slave trade. “So enormous, so dreadful did the trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” he said
Poor health plagued him his entire life, but when healthy, he was a persistent and effective politician, partly due to his natural charm and partly to his eloquence. After decades of struggle and defeat, his anti-slavery efforts finally bore fruit. In 1807 Parliament abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. He then worked to ensure the slave trade laws were enforced and, finally, that slavery itself was abolished.
Wilberforce’s health prevented him from leading the last charge, though he heard three days before he died that the final passage of the emancipation bill was ensured in committee, and slavery was abolished.
Though some historians argue that others were just as important in the antislavery fight, Wilberforce played THE key role in one of the most important turning points in the world history.
One final quote from Wilberforce to wrap up on the subject of politics. It’s a little flowery, but bear with it:
“Let true Christians then, with becoming earnestness, strive in all things to recommend their profession, and to put to silence the vain scoffs of ignorant objectors. Let them boldly assert the cause of Christ in an age when so many, who bear the name of Christians, are ashamed of Him: and let them consider as devolved on Them the important duty of suspending for a while the fall of their country, and, perhaps, of performing a still more extensive service to society at large; not by busy interference in politics, in which it cannot but be confessed there is much uncertainty; but rather by that sure and radical benefit of restoring the influence of Religion, and of raising the standard of morality.”
So that folks, is William Wilberforce, a faithful man in an unfaithful profession – politics – who knew, in The Big Picture, the importance of where God had placed him, and how to use his influence for The Kingdom. He is hereby nominated for the great cloud of witnesses, of whom the world is not worthy.
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at gobigpicture.net and also check out our other podcasts and points of view on the E-Squared Media network at e2medianetwork.com. Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tell your friends about us. See you next time on the Big Picture podcast.