Every so often I am asked to contribute a short piece to end our local spoken news service – the Tendring Talking Times. This was my contribution for this week.
It seems like the world is going mad at the moment. The Brexit vote a few weeks ago triggered an avalanche of bad feeling in the country and exposed a deep rift in our society. Politics is becoming increasingly polarised: it seems that it is now almost impossible for people to respect someone with a different political opinion, let alone think they are a decent moral person. We don’t just disagree with people who have a different political persuasion; we think they are actually immoral. Something similar is happening in the USA with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – the country is divided over which political leader to support.
People seem to understand that there is something wrong with society, something wrong with our world, and they believe that these problems need political solutions. Some people believed that the right thing for Britain was to stay in the European Union – that things will all go downhill from now on. Other people believed that the right thing was to leave the European Union – it was the country’s only hope for a better future.
From a Christian perspective, all of these beliefs suffer from the same root problem: hope is placed in political leaders and policies when that hope should be reserved for God alone. I have just finished reading a book called ‘Counterfeit Gods’ by Tim Keller, a pastor from New York, and he puts it like this:
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.
To ascribe to mankind what should be reserved for God alone is what the Bible calls idolatry – worshipping the created rather than the Creator. In the book Keller goes on:
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 as 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.
Although Keller is writing about the situation in the USA, I believe he could equally be writing about Britain today: we have turned politics into a god and placed all our hopes in our political leaders and ideas.
In contrast, the Christian faith does not allow us to demonise or to deify any created thing. Nothing human, no person or political idea, is the cause of all our problems or the solution to them. The Bible is clear that the root of the human problem is not political but what it calls sin: as St. Paul puts it, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
The biggest problem the human race has is sin, and it is a universal problem which cannot be solved by political leaders: it is a spiritual problem. A spiritual problem has to have a spiritual solution, and that solution is found only in Jesus Christ. St. Peter says about Christ, “He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness”.
The biggest issue of the human race is not political in nature but spiritual: we are sinners. But Christ himself bore the penalty for our sin on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. That is the kind of salvation that we all need.