Idolatry in Our Politics

In the recent issue of The City, a fine little (free!) journal published by Houston Baptist University, Joe Knippenberg gives us “Faith in the Age of Obama” (fall 2010).

Where for President Obama, love leads to government action, for President Bush, government has to leave room for love. The former emphasizes his hope for the efficacy of government action, the latter his respect for its limits.

In concluding, he writes,

For me, it is both a matter of fact and an article of faith that government cannot do all that some of us expect of it. But it is also a matter of fact that finite, fallen, and fallible human beings will continue to worship idols.

David Innes has his own thoughts on political idolatry at as we approach the midterm elections (“Victory and Idolatry,” October 20, 2010).

Politics is good because God gave us government for our good. But He did not give it for our sufficient good, or to provide for every good. Christians, more than anyone else, should tailor their hopes accordingly.

Excessive and misplaced hope takes two forms in times like these. One is almost millenarian in what it expects to enjoy on the other side of Election Day. … But there is also a kind of despair in politics that is the same excessive and misplaced hope, only jilted and embittered. I see it among Republicans who are migrating toward third parties. They have good reason to be down. …

When people allow themselves to get carried away by millenarian political fantasies, it is easy to become discouraged. Now we will recover our republican constitution! Now we will be a land of social justice! Now America will be free! American will be fair! But in a world of sages and fools and a relatively confused massive middle, politics is about incremental improvements and setbacks.

In politics, it is hard to do good without giving wicked people a platform for their wickedness, or without falling into wickedness oneself. But political life is not optional, and neither is doing good.

P.S., subscribe to The City, free of charge.


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