What’s the main problem with the world? Think carefully.
If you insinuate that something other than sin is the main problem with the world, you’ll end up falsely suggesting that something which is not inherently bad is purely evil. Likewise, if you insinuate that something other than Jesus is the answer to the world’s problem, you’ll end up foolishly “idolizing” something that is not inherently good.
For many people, this is the case when it comes to political ideology.
Remember that our working definition of an “idol” is a good thing that becomes the ultimate thing in our lives which we believe can answer all the problems and right all the wrongs of life.
When it comes to politics, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how a good thing like patriotism, if pushed to be the ultimate thing in life, can turn into racism and imperialism.
It really wasn’t that long ago that the Western world had fairly high hopes for what was then called “scientific socialism.” However, a quick glance at the Fascist, Nazi, and major communist movements of the 20th century will show you how corrupt such a system can become. Upon the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, seeing the symbolic collapse of socialism, the world mostly came to a collective conclusion that free market capitalism was the solution – perhaps the thing that can end hunger and poverty in the world.
Notice, however, that something other than sin was perceived as the primary problem and something other than Jesus was seen as the solution. Reviewing a little church history though will tell you that the early Christian Church in the Roman Empire participated in communal living (i.e. need-based wealth distribution), and they did so to such success that it was one of the more attractive qualities of the new faith to outsiders.
All the believers were together and had everything in common.Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
Perhaps the method of wealth distribution isn’t the problem. The de-Christianization of communist countries appears to be a greater reason that such a system would collapse upon itself.
Interestingly, in Adam Smith’s classic of economics, The Wealth of Nations, he refers to the free market as an “invisible hand” that guides people to act in ways that are best for the benefit of society. Giving an ideology that kind of credit – that it compels people to do the right thing for others, outside of connection with God – seems to give a power to something that doesn’t truly have that power, i.e. it “idolizes” it.
Upon the housing market crash and global recession that began in 2008, which was driven at least in part by greed, we’re catching more than a glimpse that a free market is perhaps not the answer to all financial problems either. I’m not at all suggesting it’s wrong. I’m merely suggesting it doesn’t have the power with which it was once credited. Free market societies, too, can collapse upon corruption.
What this issue all comes back to is how much credit we give to an ideology. There are probably a few valid tests to see whether or not you’re tempted to deify political ideology. For starters, if you can’t admit that there are going to be flaws in any political ideology, you’re likely giving a party, political leader, or ideology way too much credit. Likewise, if you can’t admit that a party which is not your party, candidate who is not your candidate, or philosophy which is not your philosophy could have some really good ideas or legitimate concerns, but rather, he/she/it is viewed as pure evil, you’re likely giving your own party, candidate, or philosophy way too much credit. At that point, you have blindness to any general points of agreement or common interest because the points of disagreement overshadow everything.
Finally, while Christianity in our country is becoming seemingly more ecumenical as churches merge together in non-denominationalism and general doctrinal indifference, American politics have become increasingly polarized and policy based. What that tells me is that it’s possible that people have become more particular about their political messiah than their spiritual messiah. Political policies have become more doctrinal than biblical doctrine. And political activism has at times achieved near religious levels. In other words, it’s possible that for some, politics is a very real idol.
Let me show you how Jesus is better.
As mentioned earlier, the Christians of the early church were able to practice communal living in a remarkably attractive fashion. The success was based in their demonstrations of Christ – their faith in action towards one another. If you took Jesus out of the equation, it never would have worked. So it’s not necessarily always that a system is flawed. It’s that the people within the system are flawed.
Now let’s apply this to modern politics. Here’s one example: A hot issue over the past couple of years has been the reform of health care. Why have health care prices been driven up so drastically in recent years? Well, there’s a host of reasons, but things like malpractice suits, patients not paying bills, drastically unhealthy living, and even the so-called “medical student syndrome” have all played big roles. Every single one of these issues ultimately revolves around sin (greed, irresponsibility, poor management, and arrogance respectively). And the smartest minds in D.C. are not going to be able to form policy that circumvents sin.
Politics, at its root, is a power and control issue. But regardless of who’s in power or what we put into legislation, we can only control so much.
There is, however, a benevolent ruler whose power is limitless and whose control is truly authoritative, while at the same time he respects the integrity of human free will. When he entered this world, the Son of God gave up his position of rule in the heavenly headquarters from which he governed creation. He humbled himself, relinquishing power, being subject to the laws made for men. And yet he kept these laws perfectly, taking his righteous life to the cross to pay for our unrighteousness. He died for those times which we lacked moral control. And yet, on the third day he rose in power and glory to benevolently rule all things on our behalf.
Whether our earthly authorities are great or corrupt, they cannot solve all of the world’s problems. But there is one who can. And did. He’s the one to whom these earthly authorities finally have to answer to in the end. And only when we relinquish ultimate power and control from ourselves and from our political parties and recognize our life, times, nation, and this world are in His control, will we find peace, the ability to love and forgive, and no desire to oppress others.
1 Corinthians 2:6-8 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.