I remember an instance when I was an associate minister. I was in my pastor’s study when a deacons came to talk to him. Over time the conversation drifted to politics and the deacon commented that there were no Republicans in the congregation. I found that odd, but considering where we were and due to the fact that I was young and inexperienced at the time I assumed the comment was probably true. After all, we were in Detroit. It was 2006 and Detroit had not elected a Republican mayor since the mid-60s, in fact, in my lifetime I could not remember a Republican running for mayor. None of the people who I knew from Detroit claimed to be Republicans. I found out later that the deacon was very wrong. We had several members of our congregation who were Republicans. When I became a pastor I had a conversation that was eerily similar to the conversation I witnessed in my pastor’s study, the only difference was that the parties were flipped, this time the person was saying that there were no Democrats in the congregation. I knew that this was not true because I had been the supervising judge for the election. I knew the party affiliation of everyone who had voted because it was a primary election. I had seen members of the church take a Democrat ballot so I knew that there were Democrats in our congregation. What I find most is disturbing about these conversations is the facts that there were two individuals in leadership within the church that I honestly believe that no one would have different political opinions from them. I wish I could say that these were isolated events, but will all know that they are not. We live in an environment today where many people have elevated their politics to the level of their faith, and thus they are engaging in idolatry.
To say someone is taking part in idolatry is a very strong statement, it is also a true statement. If one elevates one’s political beliefs to the level of one’s faith, that is Idolatry. As a pastor, I have an opportunity to have conversations with large numbers of people who are Christians, and I have to say that it is quite disturbing to see how many Christians have a difficult time having a dialogue with people who have different political beliefs. Some people even question the salvation of people who vote for the opposite party. We cannot separate from our brothers and sisters in Christ because one votes democrat and the other votes Republican, one is a libertarian and another is the green party. Have we truly gotten so wrapped up in our political ideologies that we truly do believe that God wraps himself in the blue robes of the Democrat party or the red robe of the Republican Party? We all have issues that are important to us, I understand that. More politically conservative Christians see things such as the issue of life, protecting Christian culture and religious freedom to be issues that are extremely important and must be addressed in our society today. They are right to want to address these issues. More politically liberal Christians want to focus on issues of fairness, openness, and caring for those that are perceived to be on the margins. These are incredibly important lofty issues that we must deal with. The thing that Christians of all political backgrounds must remember is that even though we are separated by political beliefs, we are united in Christ. Christ is central to our faith, without him there is no Christianity. Christ is much more concerned about how we live our lives in unity with each other and how we work together to love one another and work together to show the love of Christ to a lost world, then he is concerned about what political party we are a member of. We have good Christian sisters and brothers that are Democrats. We have good Christian sisters and brothers who are Republicans. We have sisters and brothers who are members of alternative parties, and yes we even have good Christian sisters and brothers who choose not to get politically engaged at all. The important thing for us is to remember is that regardless of our political affiliation, our most important relationship is our relationship with Christ. We cannot have a good relationship with Christ if we do not strive to have a good relationship with our Christian brothers and sisters. The bottom line is if a person cannot separate their political beliefs from their faith that is idolatry. The person is worshiping in the church of political party, and they are putting their faith in the god of political ideology. It is my hope that as followers of Christ we can look beyond political differences and go about doing the work of God, and when those disagreements do show up, I hope we can discuss them as brothers and sisters. In cases where we cannot find agreement I hope we can agree to disagree and get back to doing the work, God has called us to do.