For the last two presidential political seasons I’ve wondered to myself, “What is the purpose of voting?” My faith leads me to ask the question whether relying on politics to “fix” things is the right course for a Christian.
Some Christians would say that because we live in a different way than the world, then engaging in politics should not be a focus. Some may ask on question like “Shouldn’t our focus be on how the church can be better in caring for the well-being of our cities, towns, nations, and neighborhoods? Shouldn’t it be the church who acts to care for the poor, the marginalized, the sick? Shouldn’t it be the church at the forefront of change in the world?”
Does that mean we avoid politics or the political in church – as Christians?
My thoughts about this were solidified after listening to a podcast on race in America. The Liturgists – a faith, arts, and science collective – released a podcast titled Black and White: Racism in America. In their interview they spoke with spoken word/rap artist Propaganda and gospel singer William Matthews. Their conversation was candid, heated, and truth revealing. Both Propaganda and William are black men living in white America and both shared their reality with Michael Gungor and Mike Mchargue – both white men.
At the very beginning of their conversation Michael asks where they should start and half-jokingly mentions Donal Trump and politics…turns out this was exactly the place to start and exactly what solidified my view on Christians being engaged in politics and political conversations. Propaganda jumped right on the question saying that the ability to avoid political talk or keeping politics out of the church or staying politically neutral is a clear benefit of privilege – specifically white privilege. When you are a person of color in America, you can’t avoid the political. The political is a part of reality. When policies have affected your life on a deep, long-lasting, systemic level, you’re everyday life is deeply influenced by laws passed and policies formed. It’s a reality that, to my own knowledge, I have never felt.
Never had to worry about fear of a police officer walking down the road.
Never had to take heat from the masses for receiving government assistance.
Never had to worry that my skin color would make me more likely to be sentenced to death row.
Never had to worry about dropping out of school because lack of funding and resources has created a culture of educational poverty in my neighborhood.
I’ve never had to work against a system that makes me fight for respect and dignity – and I probably never will.
So do I have the privilege to avoid politics or political conversation as a white christian male? Yes. But if the one I have been drawn to is the poor jewish man who identified with “the least” in society and welcomed the marginalized and dined with (as well as challenged) powerful people. If I truly take not only Jesus death and resurrection, but his life and teachings seriously as well, how can I avoid the political? Once Jesus became Lord, there was no turning back. Jesus is Lord. Cesar is not. Yea…he got it political.
Maybe I can avoid politics and still be a Christian. But I imagine it would be a faith more susceptible to burn away like chaff rather than like wheat that is transformed into something life-giving not only for myself but for all. For the common good.
I did vote this year. I pray I will be voting the rest of my life. My vote isn’t just about me. The affects of politicians, policies and laws may not phase my life. I may not really ever notice them. But there are people who cannot untangle their personal lives or faith from the political. People who’s lives can be and have been altered by policies. People against whom the system works.
And because of that, as a follower of Jesus, it matters to me.