discipleship and politics

The conventions of the two primary political parties are now behind us and the race to the general election in November is heating up. As I pondered the nation’s political climate, I began to reflect on it through the lens of discipleship. It may seem that discipleship and politics are completely unrelated, however, I believe they often affect one another greatly.

First, a disclaimer. This is not going to be a “political” blog post condemning one party and exalting another. My goal is to show that discipleship can affect politics and politics can affect discipleship.

It doesn’t take a rock scientist to come to the conclusion that something is broken in the American Church. Mega-churches dot the landscape and regular church attendance in the U.S. is still higher than most other Western industrialized nations. Yet, the Church in America has a lessening influence on our culture. And by “influence on our culture” I don’t necessarily mean legislated morality or the election of more evangelical Christian politicians. What I do mean is that the American Church has focused more on attracting crowds than discipling people to become like Christ in character and competency.

I believe the Church’s lack of discipleship has caused a breakdown in producing people with the character and values of Jesus. Regardless of which political party one considers himself, both are seriously lacking. There are the more obvious issues of abortion and definition of marriage, but there are also more subjective issues like economics and welfare that need to be aligned with the character and values of Jesus.

Let’s take economics. America’s free enterprise and capitalistic nature has been undermined by greed where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The answer? It is NOT socialism that taxes from the “haves” and gives it to the “have nots”. The answer is discipling people to have the character and values of Jesus that teach us to have compassion on and share with those who are in need. If this kind of discipleship were occurring in the Church today, welfare and government assistance could be greatly reduced. Socialism is a poor substitute for biblical generosity. Forcing someone with plenty to give to someone in need (tax/welfare programs) creates resentment in the one with plenty and entitlement in the one in need. Biblical generosity brings a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness to both those in plenty and those in need.

I do not believe that all the talk of hope and change can be found with either political party. The party platform of the Democrats has some serious discrepancies with the values of Jesus when it comes to abortion and defining (or redefining) marriage. In a well-publicized gaffe on national TV at the DNC in Charlotte, there was much protest among its constituents when the spiritual issues of God and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were added to the Democratic party platform. But, they are often the party that people run to if their hot button issue is caring for the poor. Albeit, the only solution government can offer to provide for the poor is varying degrees of socialism. While it may be more conservative on moral issues, the Republican party has too often promoted a capitalistic system that has been corrupted by greed, because devoid of the values of Jesus, capitalism breeds greed and a lack of compassion among individuals to help the poor.

Obviously, if one has the character and competency of Jesus, it should impact who one votes for. However, our lack of discipleship and the corrupt political climate of both parties today is a direct result of the lack of character and competency of Jesus among Americans–more specifically, those who call themselves Christians.

Ultimately, a political party or candidate is not the hope of our country. Our hope can only be found in people discovering new life in Jesus Christ and becoming more like Him in character and competence. Earthly governments will always be flawed because they have been devised by flawed humans. Only when Jesus physically rules this world will there be true hope and real change you can believe in!