Next Tuesday's going to be a big day. One of my favorite morning radio hosts, Barry Young, keeps saying that this could be the biggest midterm election of his lifetime. I'm not sure about all that, but I know I am excited for it. My handsome hubby won't even let us get mail-in ballots...there is just something too invigorating about physically going to the polls on election day, he says. I secretly agree.
Politics are divisive, and not just for the same old reasons. It actually seems to be a pretty divisive topic in the church, too, which is really too bad. I'll admit - even I used to be someone who questioned getting "involved" with politics as a Christian. I heard a friend recently say that Jesus never said the word "politics" so we should all just go on our merry way. I'm sure my buddy had/has the best intentions, but I want to explore this a little bit tonight.
I've been deliberating over 1 and 2nd Kings for the past 6 months or so. Some chapters are bloody and violent and dramatic, and others seem to be just a rattling off of facts, always ending with the subtly snotty "as for the rest of what this king did.... are they not written in the annals of the kings of Israel?" (That seriously always cracks me up. I feel like the writer is yelling at me. I didn't ASK you what else he did, guy! It's ok!) But the main story line right now is that God's people have basically split into two 'nations', Israel and Judah. Israel has given to idol worship, building a false god, Baal ,and creating all these weird worship rituals and appointing 'preists'. This is an absolute affront to God, obviously, and He is heartbroken over them. Judah, however, continues to "do what is right in the eyes of the Lord" - for the most part.
Here's what I was reading last night:
"In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam King of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother's name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.
The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house."
-2 Kings 15: 1-5
("The high places" is referring to the altars Israel had built to worship Baal.)
And all at once I couldn't blame God but I also couldn't not tell him how much that rattled my "fairness" meter. How could he hold Azariah responsible for the sins of Israel? And not just hold him responsible - but plague him with such a terrifying disease?
I don't want to get into a discussion of God's judging one person for another, because I'll be honest with you - I haven't read enough on the subject and I'm not sure I know just exactly what God has to say about it. But hear me - I want to go in a slightly different direction with this, and it's a direction that points right to politics.
Azariah, though not king of Israel, was in a place of power as king of Judah. And during his time of power, Israel was continuously perverting, offending, satirizing, downplaying, mocking, and disobeying God; who not-so-long-ago had saved them from Egypt. Azariah was not doing those things - but he did nothing to stop them. And apparently God found that so disgusting, he saw fit to plague Azariah with leprosy. Not a subtle statement. And maybe there was a point when Azariah's left arm had the sores but his right arm didn't. I bet that right arm would have done anything to stop it from getting to him if he could have.
Listen. Anyone can sit and stare at a blank wall and after 24 hours, claim to have spent a day without sinning. But what's holy in that? I've been memorizing Proverbs 31, which described a 'noble wife.' Verse 27 says she "does not eat the bread of idleness." There it is again. 'Not sinning,' if accomplished by doing nothing, is also 'not doing anything good,' friends.
I don't want to get off on a rabbit trail. I also don't want to imply that we are responsible for wrong decisions our government makes - especially when they make them against our will. BUT - I do think that when we see something going wrong, we are obligated to at least try to stop it. God must value that - because in the absence of it, in Azariah's case, He felt that the appropriate punishment was a deadly disease and a cutting-off from society.
Moreover, we, just like Azariah have power. Luckily for us, we live in a democratic society, which asks for our vote. That is our power. I have heard so many people shrug off getting involved in politics as Christians, quoting Jesus when He said "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" and interpreting that to mean "we should leave government alone." But in the case study of the United States, what does a democracy, our "caesar," demand? Involvement. Give to Caesar.
I would also make the argument to someone who says we should leave government alone that in this day in age, as Christians, government is not leaving us alone; and we can't sit by like Azariah. I want to say two more things about this. The first is that I don't think it's always clear how we should vote. I am not trying to say that as Christians, we should all just blindly vote Republican and call our duty done. I am also not trying to liken our government right now to Israel. First and foremost, I am just saying we should vote. I can't stand when people try the whole "when did you hear Jesus say the word 'politics'?" thing. That's just semantics and it's pretentious. I didn't hear Jesus say the words "grapefruit juice" either but I don't think it's a sin to drink it. And since when didn't Jesus plead with us to change the world? Isn't that the reason He made us; and left us here in this crappy situation, even after it became crappy? Because he thinks we can make it better? And isn't that the Great Commission - to love each other, and look out for each other, and try to give everyone the freedom to live as He lived? Look around, sweet friends. It's starting to get a bit harder to live as He lived. It's harder to give to the needy of our own volition when a family with an income of roughly $60,000 a year is forecasted to have their taxes increase by an extra $2,000 next year. It's harder to help Phoenician associates living in poverty visit the doctor when they're sick when their HSA cards won't even cover over-the-counter meds anymore next year. (Rabbit trail again - but you cannot possibly imagine how many people depend on those accounts for over-the-counter lifelines like allergy meds and even shampoo. Starting January 1, they're SOL.) It's harder to stand up for life when a president doesn't even acknowledge that that life exists. If we don't get involved and we think we're 'doing good' by staring straight ahead, I think Azariah would have a different story for us.
The last thing I want to say - while trying as hard as I can to avoid another rabbit trail - is that it is a crime, a betrayal, and plain willful ignorance to ignore the abortion issue. You can't get around it. You can't pretend it's not there, or that it's not a giant tragedy, or that it's not a black and white issue. Whether a person is a person or not is not a moral question. It's a scientific one. And there is only one answer, friends. I'm not a question mark if one person thinks I'm real and another one doesn't. I either am or I am not. If a baby is a baby, then there are no questions left. You cannot not get involved. Whatever other questions you might have about Christians in politics don't apply to this. I hope that you hear me.
There are so many facets to the Christians-in-politics issue, but I just feel encouraged that God read 2 Kings 15 to me last night. I hope my rambling about it encourages you, too, and I hope this election next Tuesday pleases our Guy in Charge.
P.S. Shameless plug - if you live in AZ and you're still on the fence about some candidates, check out my gorgeous husband's brainchild, the AZ Voter Guide. And hey, donate to CAP while you're at it! ;)