Has Politics Run Its “Coarse”?

I asked a question at one of the meetings on our recent State Legislative Issues Briefing tour and the answer I got was not so much surprising as it was really hard to hear.  And I had to wonder if America’s political process and form of government have run their “coarse.”

My question to those present was whether any of them had ever participated in a political campaign in any way other than vote or just send money.  I don’t remember anyone saying they had volunteered for a campaign, but when I asked if anyone had ever put out a yard sign, one person said, “No, because I’m afraid to.”  More than a few heads seem to nod in acknowledgement of that concern.

Later, I learned the person’s concern was that others supporting a different candidate might  vandalize her home or otherwise tangibly “punish” her for supporting the ”wrong” candidate.  When Americans get so coarse in their political behavior toward one another that people are afraid to publicly support a candidate, then our form of government may have run its course.  The barbarians will have won.

Those who do the kinds of things about which this person was concerned think that it is a good political strategy – winning by intimidating other voters into silence.  It’s an effective strategy, particularly if you don’t think the other side will do the same thing to you.  And, in fact, Christians engaging in the same kind of behavior toward their fellow citizens who don’t support “their” candidate is not something we should do.

But later I got to thinking: that doesn’t mean that intimidation has to win.  That doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to turn the tide.  But if the tide is to turn, I realized it does mean that we’re going to have to become more like our Founding Fathers who were willing to pay a great price to gain the form of government we’re now letting slip away.  We are the land of the free because we have been the home of the brave.  But I confess that I don’t like the thought of suffering for something as seemingly mundane as my political views about particular candidates.

As I considered the matter further, I realized that there is something more fundamental I have to address as a Christian.  As a Christian in a world increasing hostile to religiously informed values (several examples of which are in today’s Five Minutes for Families), I’m going to have to become more comfortable with the consequences of standing up for those candidates who support my values.  And it could even mean more than mere discomfort.  It could mean loss of relationships, monetary losses, damage to property, and anything else that can be dished out.

It’s easy for me to want to rationalize staying quiet because making people mad at me will surely turn people off to Christianity.  Maybe so, at least with respect to their understanding of what Americanized Christianity, in general, has become with its media campaigns, flashy concert-style services, and self-help-don’t-talk-about-sin programs with a God-flavored twist.

But you know, the early church didn’t grow exponentially because of the techniques we now use to promote our services and programs.  It grew mostly because of its witness – the witness of the early Christians’ love for one another and their willingness to accept the suffering their Savior said would be theirs.

So that led me to think: is it not also possible today that our willingness to suffer scorn, ridicule, and other types of loss might just cause some to ask, “Who is this God that is worth losing whatever in this life the majority calls valuable?”  It could just point them to Him and the possibility of a vital relationship with Him rather than to just an organization with buildings and programs.  It could just point to a freedom from a world in bondage to the need for approval from other people on everything from the label on our jeans to the car we drive.  But, after all, isn’t that what Christians should be doing anyway?