Keller’s Signs of Political Idolatry

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You can find idols in the most peculiar places — even in your politics!

I found this quote by Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. I think he articulates the thoughts I’ve been having about the way Christians approach their politics — the wrongfully place hope that a president, specifically the president of your choice, will calm your worries and make things all well. Enjoy reading this and make sure to leave a comment!

“One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end! There’s no hope!’

This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way. When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart. They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement. The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created.

Another sign of idolatry in our politics is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken but to be evil. After the last presidential election, my eighty-four-year-old mother observed, ‘It used to be that whoever was elected as your president, even if he wasn’t the one you voted for, he was still your president. That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.’ After each election, there is now a significant number of people who see the incoming president lacking moral legitimacy. The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion. How does idolatry produce fear and demonization?

Dutch-Canadian philosopher Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace. The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy. That demonizes something that is not completely bad, and makes an idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.

…In political idolatry, we make a god out of having power.”

Interested in reading more by Keller? Check out Keller Quotes — The Words of Dr. Timothy Keller

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Don’t be a “Hatriot” if you call yourself a Christian

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Bricks through the windows of the office of politicians. Screaming “You lie!” at the President in a joint session of Congress. Death threats against members of Congress. Screaming “baby killer” or something thereof while an opposing member of congress has the floor. Using the term “teabaggers” when referring to members of the Tea Party movement. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

All this and more has been happening for the better part of the last year and has picked up steam since last Tuesday’s signing of the health care reform bill.

The problem with all this . . . many of those participating and leading the charge label themselves as Christians.

This is where the difference between a label and actually obeying Christ comes into play.

I think many who go by the name of Christ have crossed the line in their speech and perhaps in their actions. I hear really angry rhetoric all the time when it comes to our president or various leaders of our government and this anger spills over to hateful, really uncivil comments that even the ungodly recoil at when they hear it.

What place does this type of speech have among us? What does this type of speech reveal about the hearts of those who speak it? Christ said that what proceeds from the mouth reveals our hearts. How can we say we love Mr. Obama when we speak so harshly about him?

Would these people ever say any of this stuff to Mr. Obama’s face if given the chance? I doubt it. There in reveals the false bravado of the WWW and the duplicity that lies in our hearts. Again, Christ calls us to speak truth IN LOVE to those needing to hear it before (if ever?) taking such comments publicly.

Am I saying I agree with all the policies, laws and opinions? No, I don’t agree with it all. But I don’t think my differing opinion gives me the right to assassinate the character of others or to make statements like, “I’m coming disarmed . . . this time.” (did ya see the pic?) How do comments like that help progress civil dialog and hopefully lead to a hearing for the Gospel?

Or is that point? That our political opinion has taken precedent over the opportunity for the Gospel?

If your political opinion has become more important than the Good News you may call yourself a Christian but you are not a follower of Christ.

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