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Political Illusions

Unlike political power, the most profound power in the universe is one that operates not from the outside but from within.
Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker.
Updated Nov 06, 2012
Political Illusions

The political atmosphere is heated. Great fissures have opened between the two parties vying for power in our country. Passions are white hot with both sides looking for opportunities to trounce the opposition. The slightest misstep is eagerly pounced on and endlessly discussed. No one seems intent on searching for truth because the game is not about truth but only about winning. Watching the news seems like an exercise in frustration because the media is all about spin.

Unfortunately, many Christians have allowed fissures to develop in their relationships with other Christians because they do not see eye to eye on politics. Tragically, politics has sometimes trumped love in the Christian community.

A symptom of this shows up in the way we speak about political issues. For some, political commentary has devolved into a form of hate speech. We cast political parties and politicians as evil, self-serving, and uncaring. Everyone who opposes our political viewpoint gets tossed into the same basket, and we look for opportunities to vilify them. Instead of letting God’s Spirit shape our hearts and attitudes, we model our speech on political pundits who are only interested in scoring points against the opposition.

 Why do we resort to such tactics, sometimes becoming addicted to feelings of righteous indignation and rage when it comes to the political discourse? Perhaps because we don’t know how to deal with the disappointment we feel concerning the direction things are heading. Rage can hide our disappointment, empowering us when we might otherwise feel vulnerable, unable to control the events that impact our world. But this kind of anger alienates us from others, even those who might otherwise share our views.

For several years I have been meeting with a small group of women who are like sisters to me. We’ve come together to share prayer concerns as well as the details of our own struggles to live for God. Though we love and respect each other, we don’t always see eye to eye on important political issues. During this election year, to protect our relationships, we’ve agreed not to talk about politics in the group. We already know what each of us thinks so what’s the point of conducting an endless debate?

By admitting this, I’m not advocating that Christians refrain from talking to each other about the important issues of the day. But if we can’t talk about them without disparaging those who disagree with us, perhaps we need to be quiet until we can learn how to conduct a more civil discourse.

Also, politics is pretty much an outside-in game--a power play by people certain they know what’s best for everyone. And though Christians should be involved in all aspects of the political process, we can’t afford to buy into the political illusions that characterize our culture.

The first illusion is that there is a political solution to every single problem we face. And the second is that the most transformative power in the world is primarily political in nature.

As Christians, we must realize that political power is both seductive and inadequate. It makes promises it cannot keep. Though it can do some things, it can’t do everything. Quite often it cannot even begin to resolve our most difficult problems.

Unlike political power, the most profound power in the universe is one that operates not from the outside but from within. It is a power that can shape destinies and influence history. The power I am talking about is spiritual. It originates in God and not in society.

Think about the way you exercise power in your own life, particularly over yourself. How effective have you been in improving yourself simply by exerting your willpower?  You may have met with some limited success, breaking a bad habit or two, but without the transformative power of the Holy Spirit you will never become the person you want to be and you will never do the things God is calling you to do. If you can’t change yourself, who can you change?

Today let us ask God to fill us with his Holy Spirit, a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and might so that we and those around us can become the kind of people who can build a society in which justice, truth, mercy, and goodness will prevail. Let us not abdicate our political responsibilities but let us exercise them responsibly, serving in the power God gives.

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker. Her best-selling books include Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, Women of the Bible (coauthored with Jean Syswerda) and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (coauthored with Lois Tverberg). Her fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. Together, her books have sold nearly 3 million copies. For the chance to win a free copy of one of Ann's books visit her website at: annspangler.com