Politics is the new secular religion. You want to change the world? Engage the political process. You want to find meaning for your life? Join a political cause. You want to gather with people of like mind? Join a political party and go to rallies. You want to know your identity? Look no further than identity politics. Yep, it’s here…politics is the new religion. Christianity has been replaced with secular politicization making this shift in our culture correlated with the rise of the “nones” – the non-religiously affiliated people.
Something has to fill the gap. Voids like to be filled. Where the church has stepped out of the life of the community and busied herself with the mundane, politics has filled the vacuum. Where the church has neglected her responsibilities, politicians have used the left over needs as leverage for their own advantage. There is no such thing as “pure politics” but there is such a thing as “pure religion.” There can be no pure politics because politics by their very nature inevitably end up twisting everything around because it gravitates toward selfishness (perpetuating power for those in charge). Religion has the possibility of being pure because the ideals of the Christian faith are selfless rather than selfish. Pure religion is possible because we have it modeled in Jesus and instructed in James where he tells us it is looking after the least of these (widows and orphans – James 1:27). Jesus wasn’t interested in being president. Instead he gave his life as a ransom for many. When was the last time you saw a politician do that?
As political liturgy drowns out Christian liturgy people have changed their definition of piety. Piety is now about being on the right team, the virtuous team. You can only be virtuous if you are on my side of the political aisle. Which team is the virtuous one? The one you are already on. To be on the other side is automatically immoral. So we virtue signal and guard our comments in order to make sure we have the appearance of being acceptable not only in what we say but in who people think we are. The worst forms of demonization in society used to come out of religious groups. Now it comes out of political groups. The most fervor I have seen among people in the last few years has been political fervor. It far outweighs people’s fervor for God. It used to be that people thought Christians demonized people who weren’t like them but I can say with some level of confidence that I see that far more today in the realm of politics than I have ever seen among Christians.
We are living in interesting times. Here is the key – know your allegiances. Identify them. Evaluate them. Don’t go creating allegiances blindly because anything other than an allegiance to Christ can and will steal your soul. It will co-opt your energy, your heart and passion and re-purpose them to agendas that ultimately aren’t godly…leveraging you for purposes that run counter to Christ. That is true no matter which political “side” you think you are on. Pay attention. Have your eyes wide open. Be aware that someone is constantly trying to play you, leverage you, and take whatever power and energy you have and use it for themselves rather than for whatever cause you think you signed up for.
People want to do something and fight for a cause and see results e.g. get a law passed/repealed, Habitat for Humanity house, etc. The church too often now just wants to sit there and not let people do or celebrate anything. Give them something to do, a call to action and the opportunity to do it. Put it in the sermon instead of a philosophical talk. Jesus acted then called people to action, not warring and fighting but going to their neighbors, the unloved, and outcasts. Isaiah in 1:17 gave some suggestions which James was aware of.
This is a real problem both within the church and a challenge in sharing the gospel with others in the community. Truly it has become a religion of bitterness for some. There will be many that will experience burnout over time.