God and Politics

It’s been said there are two things never to talk about with someone if you want to stay friends: Religion and politics. We decided to kill two birds with one stone in this presentation and talk about both of them at once — but we still want to be friends!

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The political scene today is different than in the past. There have always been liberals and conservatives, differing approaches, opposing points of view. There has always been debate and sometimes anger. There has always been maneuvering, manipulation and self-service. Democrats – ever since I can remember – have always been for big government and despised big business. Republicans have always been for big business and hated big government. But I’ve seen, in my adult lifetime, something new appear. There is now a more pronounced polarization taking place. The battle lines are being drawn up and people are aligning on both sides more dogmatically than I can ever remember.

For example, I can remember, as a young adult, that newspapers and TV networks used to attempt, at least, to present themselves as politically neutral – just presenting the facts. Reporters were respected for their unbiased reporting. It’s now becoming obvious that those reporting the news use their positions to control outcomes. In their minds, their role has changed from one of reporter to change agent. And I’m talking about this on both sides of the national debate.

Let’s consider two examples. Ron Paul, a conservative independent, who ran for President twice. Early on in the campaign, he got some coverage from FOX News – you know, fair and balanced. But as his popularity grew, it became clear that he could take votes away from whichever Republican came forward. All of a sudden, he was nowhere to be found on FOX News. They were trying to influence the outcome of the election.

Now let’s talk about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The liberal side of the media is now starting to push her forward as a great person – a patriot, etc. – she’s even up for some kind of award – while they’re downplaying her role in the deaths of four of our diplomats in Benghazi, using their access to the public to influence public opinion and control political outcomes.

Regarding this polarization, more and more are getting pulled into it – even Christian people, who have never been political in their lives, are starting to get more involved. Why is this polarization taking place? Well, I think it’s caused by fear. Huge changes are taking place in our nation right now. They’ve been in process for a long time, but now they’re becoming apparent to everyone.

What changes? Well, the biggest change can be seen most obviously in the national debt. For the first time in our history we have a debt we will not be able to pay off in the foreseeable future. Republicans talk about this all the time. Democrats never mention it. But this is a new phenomenon.

What’s bad about that? Eventually, we will have to devalue our currency. That means it will cost a lot more to buy goods from other nations. Like what kind of goods? Well, like cars, food and clothing, for example – things that everybody has to buy. Inflation will ravage us because of the cost of those things going up. And that’s the worst thing for the poor and the elderly. People on fixed incomes have nowhere to go when inflation devalues their money. We’re going to become poor, as a nation, because of this debt. Other nations won’t be willing to lend us money as readily, because our dollar will be worth less money and, if we owe them a lot, we’re going to pay back what we owe them with cheap dollars. We’ll not be able to spend much on military. We won’t have it to spend and there will be no one to borrow the money from. We’re going to be in greater danger. At the same time, large numbers of people are starting to realize something else. Who they vote for determines how much free money they can get from the government.

There’s a new building on the UNM campus near us. It’s called The Domenici Center, after our former Republican senator from New Mexico, Pete Domenici. What was good about him? Well, when he was in office, we kept hearing that Senator Domenici fought for New Mexico. He brought jobs to New Mexico. He kept the air bases here. Well, what does that mean? Well, I imagine it’s similar to a pack of hyenas devouring a downed wildebeest. Once you get the wildebeest down, you have to get yours before it’s all gone. So they put out these laws – huge number of pages with all kinds of pork attached to them – and Senator Domenici was successful at getting more federal money spent on New Mexicans. So he was popular here.

The more effective politicians are able to get more than their fair share. And that’s how they get reelected, because their constituents like all the perks that come into their state as a result of their elected officials’ efforts. And that’s always the way it’s been. And it worked fairly well until recently. So what’s new that’s changing that?

Well, that money that Senator Domenici was fighting for was there to fight for because most of the people in the United States worked and produced, providing lots of tax money. It was there for the taking. Now, more and more people want tax money without producing anything. It used to be an embarrassment to be on welfare. And now people seek it out shamelessly.

Republicans say we have a national debt because of federal policy. It’s probably more accurate to say that federal policy exists because more people want federal money. The national debt, that threatens our way of life in our nation, exists because of an attitude in the hearts of millions of Americans. And for that there is no legislative fix.

Thomas Jefferson, I believe, said that our form of republican government only works when the majority of people are responsible people. If we don’t start behaving responsibly about our spending, terrible consequences will follow.

Okay, that’s one problem – the willingness to get money not earned. There’s another big, scary problem looming on the horizon. We see the politicians, like hyenas fighting over a carcass, seeking money to buy votes. That’s pretty easy to see. But what isn’t so easily seen is that a lot of vote-buying money is supplied by big business.

How does that work? Well, as some businesses gain undue influence, they get bigger and bigger, and they can afford to buy more and more influence. So they become more and more powerful. They have their way more and more. They buy laws that give them undue advantage to sell and control their products.

Monsanto Chemical comes to mind. “No food shall be grown that we don’t own.” It’s illegal now for a farmer to use corn that he has grown for seed in his field. It’s owned by Monsanto Chemical. How did that happen? Well, our elected officials voted for that law. Why? Because Monsanto helps them get re-elected.

Government is supposed to do what we can’t do for ourselves, but they’re not doing a very good job of it. I learned recently that the federal government penalized a grocery store chain for selling milk too inexpensively. The people that we voted for are responsible for that law. How did that law come into effect? Well, because the dairy lobby is very powerful. It gives a lot of money to politicians.

We can’t protect ourselves from big companies in our system. And our government officials aren’t protecting us. Have you seen these ads on TV, where you sue a drug company if you took a certain drug and then got certain negative side effects? How did these drugs get on the market without being fully tested? Someone who favored the drug company was in the position to make that decision. How do you suppose they got there? Do you suppose the President of the United States has ever been bought for what he would do for big business? It’s almost a certainty.

Now I’m going to ask a question. Is the solution to these two problems with the Democrats or with the Republicans? Historically, Republicans have been responsible for allowing big business to have undue influence. And historically, Democrats have been responsible for allowing big government to have undue influence. But now, both parties are allowing both problems. Democrats are as much in bed with big business as Republicans. They just won’t admit it. And Republicans are participating in big government as much as Democrats. They just deny it.

They have a different set of laws for themselves as well – lifetime free health care, lifetime pensions, different tax rules, different rules about how they can use Wall Street and invest. You know, if we did what they are allowed to do, we could be arrested for insider trading. Every last one of them benefits from those unjust laws and none of them talk about it. None of them move to remove those laws. They’re all in the same club.

Teddy Roosevelt said, around 1900, “When roll is called in the Senate and the House, the Congressmen don’t know whether to say ‘present’ or ‘guilty.” And it’s much, much worse now than it was back in his day. These corrupt people couldn’t do what they do if we didn’t elect them, however. Why do we continue to elect them? Because we get the scraps under the table at the club. An increasing number of voters in this country want free money.

So how does God look at all this? Are we looking through the same lens as He is when we look at our political landscape? Is He more of a Republican or a Democrat? Or is He something else altogether?

Some Christians were mortified when some Democrats booed God at the last National Convention. It is undeniable. I saw the video. But does that evil make Republicans good? You know, that’s an example of the polarization I mentioned. Everybody defends their own position and blames the other for the problems. I’m sure that event also mortified some Democrats. But, if you’re a polarized Republican, you don’t want to see that part of it. And polarized Democrats denied what clearly occurred at their own convention. The more insecure and afraid we become, the more we tend to force everything into two categories – good and bad.

We have a historical lesson on this topic, though, in the Old Testament. How would God found a nation and what would be important to Him? Well, when God established the children of Israel as a nation, He installed the smallest possible government. They didn’t really have any national leader, except Him. They had only judges. So, I think it’s safe to say that, from what He did, God is for small government. And He also established periodic land reform, so that no one could get too rich, and then that person could start gobbling up all the smaller people’s property. See, back then, land was the currency. If you had land, you could raise crops on it and become wealthy. So God is against unregulated big business.

Eventually, however, in Israel, people gradually stopped obeying God’s rules and things got all out of whack – somewhat like they are now. And where did God lay the responsibility for this? Well, there were four areas He focused on. The first one was idolatry. An idol is what gets between us and God. Their religion became about child prostitution and child sacrifice. It degraded them. Today, we abort millions of human beings every year. And we have allowed that to degrade us. We’re losing the value of the sanctity of human life. We’ve sacrificed millions on the altar of immoral and irresponsible behavior. And it produces financially weakened single-parent families. Our nation used to be founded on Christian principles. Losing sight of them, as a nation, is what is happening now. For example, in the context of today’s topic, free money is not a godly concept.

Another thing that He focused on was greed and dishonesty. Through the words of the prophets, God excoriated those who were greedy for money and dishonest. He talks a lot, in the scriptures, about “scales that weigh heavy” and cheating others out of their hard-earned money. We have an epidemic of that in every corner of our society – from the politicians who are working under the table to line their own pockets with tax money to those who want other people’s money without working for it – the smaller people that are under the table.

Another thing God talks about is taking advantage of the weak. God talks about the crooked priests and rulers. And He talks about the rejection of laws that would have protected the widows, the fatherless – the powerless in society, including the unborn. He blasts them because they used undue influence to line their pockets with money that they didn’t earn.

Let’s read Jeremiah 5:30 and 31.

Jeremiah 5:30-31 – An astonishing horrible thing has been committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests rule by their own power. And My people love to have it so. Very important. He does blast all the rulers and the leadership, but He lays the true responsibility at the feet of the people who supported it.

Who is responsible for these four sins in our nation today? Well, I’m reminded of a comic strip that used to run in the papers. It’s called Pogo. Pogo was an opossum who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp. The world of the Okefenokee, in the comic strip, mirrored our society. One day Pogo and some cohorts went on a mission in a flat-bottomed boat out into the swamp. And when they returned, Pogo pronounced, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Our leaders tells us an astronomical national debt is not a problem. And we love to have it so, because we would rather take other people’s money than work for our own.

So what can we conclude, then, about a Christian outlook on politics in the United States? Well, we can see clearly that both political parties are a reflection of the real problem – the heart of people who have strayed from God. Because we have become idolatrous, immoral, greedy and hard-hearted toward the weak, we are vulnerable to the consequences of idolatry, immorality, greed and hard-heartedness. And these consequences will come to us surely.

But what should we do? Should we vote or give up on voting? Well, let’s look at a scripture. It’s in Romans 13, verse 3. Paul tells us:

Romans 13:3-7 – For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval – you know, if you don’t want a speeding ticket, don’t speed – for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. You know, I’m really glad we have police to protect us from the psychopaths, and rapists, and drunk drivers and all that’s going on in our world today. They’re God’s instruments – God’s servants. Therefore – he says, in verse 5 – one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this, you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed them – taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

God sets up governments to serve the people. He gave us what we deserve in our government and in our leadership. We elected them, so we deserve what we get. But, in a democracy, the people are also a part of the government. And it follows, then, as God’s servants of the people, in our role as citizens, we ought to do our part in selecting them. Our part is to vote our conscience, not our party.

It’s difficult to decide how to do that. It’s so obvious that so many of them are completely corrupt, but can we go with the person who is the least ungodly? I think that’s probably the best route for us. And then we can leave the rest to God. We can trust that God will take care of us. We can never tell what God is going to do.

There’s a story in Genesis 18, beginning in verse 20, where two angels came down to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were with Abraham.

Genesis 18:20 – And then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to Me, and if not, I will know.” So the men turned from there – that’s the angels – and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before LORD. And then Abraham drew near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will You then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing – to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked!”

V-26 – And the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous in that city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Even if a few people are willing to obey God still, then maybe our efforts might be significant – not because of what we can do, but because of what God can do.

What else should we do? Should we get depressed about how bad it is? There was a time when Elijah ran from the king’s wife, Jezebel. She wanted to kill him. He hid in a cave and he got depressed – all by himself. He was discouraged about the state of the nation. And he deluded himself. He thought that he was the only one left. He was out of balance. If we become consumed with all this, and take our eyes off God, we will get depressed, too.

In Jeremiah, God tells us what He wants us to do. At that time, Judah had become so corrupt that they became weak and they were taken by the Babylonians and enslaved – hauled off to Babylon. And here is what God told the captives to do. It’s in Jeremiah 29, starting in verse 4.

Jeremiah 29:4 – “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters. Takes wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage that they may bear sons and daughters. Multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.” That’s still true here, as well. Being productive is always a good thing to do.

Let’s read another scripture in Matthew 24:46. Jesus said, in the parable about the coming Kingdom of God:

Matthew 24:46 – Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.

We can’t control what’s going on in our country, but we can pray for it. And we can pray for the leaders that God has set up. And we can control our own anxiety and focus on living to please God and being productive. And we cannot allow our anxiety to polarize us into one of two false systems. And we can go about our business, trusting God to take care of us. We can live a good example for others.

It’s true that God sometimes allows Christians to suffer along with everyone else when the nation brings upon itself the consequences of going away from God. But He always promises to watch over His people in that, as well. He won’t bring on us all the plagues of Egypt, if we don’t act like Egyptians.

Let’s read one more scripture – something Jesus tells us. And let’s fasten our attention on it in the days to come. It’s in John 14:27.

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”