Monday, July 2, 2012

Truth & Politics: A Plea to Christians

As the party machinery of the Democrats and Republicans shift into high gear this election season the rhetoric is heating up. There have already been ads from both sides that contain important distortions of the facts. (See examples Here & Here) The political propagandists are masters at presenting information with altered contexts so that even the truthful information they convey is somewhat misleading. None of this is new. In fact, if you study American history you will find that the situation was worse in some of the past elections. Still, it remains an unfortunate element of political discourse that nothing is quite as simple as it seems.

My concern on this site is never primarily political. My focus is on the Word of God and its implications for our lives. This includes politics, but not as an end in itself, but rather as an expression of our priorities and worldview which should be informed by the Bible. With that in mind I would like to offer one suggestion to all my Christian brothers and sisters this election season. Do not get caught up in the propaganda. We are Children of Truth and as such we should seek to honor the truth.

It is easy when we agree with a particular position or candidate to cut them too much slack when it comes to their “spin”. We tend to believe the things we want to believe and so we often accept arguments and justification from those whom we support without really evaluating it. We carefully scrutinize the statements of those whom we disagree and are outraged by their stretching the truth while we swallow whole the same kinds of tactics from those on “our side”. The tragedy is that even while doing this we envision ourselves as the informed guardians of truth and goodness.

You will not often hear me quoting Thomas Merton with approval but he was exactly right when he observed that “Propaganda makes up our minds for us, but in such a way that it leaves us the sense of pride and satisfaction of men who have made up their own minds. And in the last analysis, propaganda achieves this effect because we want it to. This is one of the few real pleasures left to modern man: this illusion that he is thinking for himself when, in fact, someone else is doing his thinking for him.”

My prayer for us this election season is that we as Christians would be careful to make reasonable efforts to evaluate each candidate’s claims. I pray that we would not either knowingly or unknowingly repeat deceptive or inflammatory rhetoric simply because it supports our candidate. I pray we would not get caught up in the worldly nature of the process. Even as we seek to do what is best for the country we must not be motivated by any other goal than to glorify God and to show forth Christ, who is the Truth. We may argue passionately but as Christians we are to do our best to convince one another with the truth rather than cunning arguments or “spin”.

Even among believers there will always be differences of opinion about which policies and political approaches would be best for the country. We should not expect that as Christians we will have complete unity on these kinds of secondary issues but we should be united in our approach to debating the merits of such things. For believers the ends do not justify the means. The world has its own way of doing things and we cannot expect that to change but we can demand that the conversation within our own fellowship exhibits love and integrity.

There is no doubt that elections are very important but as Christians they can never be of utmost importance. Our hope is not in public policy but rather in the power of the Gospel. Our confidence is not in princes but in God who is the sovereign king of the universe and the author of our salvation. We may have strong feelings about what is best for our country politically but the only platform to which we should have unquestioned loyalty is the Gospel. As Paul says, “therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Eph. 4:25).

1 comment:

  1. Well this is something I need to be working on. As you suggested, the best thing to do is make an effort to get at the facts. Thanks for the article.