The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency recently claimed that the modern-day Republican Party is the most “dangerous” political force he has ever seen. With Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s ambitions for global dominance, Iran’s growing power in the Middle East, and North Korea’s nuclear threats, this is quite a statement.
In similar news, Vanity Fair published an article titled “Republicans appear to be realizing all their candidates are dangerous weirdos.” And Democratic strategist James Carville is condemning the media for covering “both sides” equally when some Democrats are “just silly” but Republicans are “evil.”
By contrast, Republican House candidate Sarah Palin told a cheering audience, “It’s no longer Democrat versus Republican. This is all about control versus freedom. It’s good versus evil. It’s a spiritual battle.” A national conservative commentator said of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, “I just think she’s an evil woman. A woman who is consumed with power. . . . it just makes me disgusted.”
More than 40 percent of Democrats see Republicans not as political opponents but as enemies; close to 60 percent of Republicans view Democrats in the same way. And Pew Research Center reports that 72 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of Democrats say members of the other party are more immoral, dishonest, and close-minded than other Americans.
We are seeing a level of political divisiveness and hatred today that challenges our confidence in democracy itself. One researcher warned that Americans are “losing faith in elections, institutions, and the ability of democracy to survive.”
More than at any time in my lifetime, it is urgent that Christians be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
“Our Christian political ethic is upside down”
Christian cultural commentator David French published an article yesterday in which he wrote: “The longer I live the more convinced I am that our Christian political ethic is upside down. On a bipartisan basis, the church has formed its members to be adamant about policies that are difficult and contingent and flexible about virtues that are clear and mandatory” (his emphases).
Dr. Tim Keller agrees. In a typically perceptive analysis, he stated: “One of the many reasons for the decline of church-going and religion in the US is that increasingly Christians are seen as highly partisan foot-soldiers for political movements. This is both divisive within the church and discrediting out in the world. Many Christians publicly disown and attack other believers who share the same beliefs in Christ but who are voting for the ‘wrong’ candidates. They seem to feel a more common bond with people of the same politics than of the same faith.
“When the church as a whole is no longer seen as speaking to questions that transcend politics, and when it is no longer united by a common faith that transcends politics, then the world sees strong evidence that Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx were right, that religion is really just a cover for people wanting to get their way in the world.”
Here’s a virtue that is “clear and mandatory,” to cite French: Paul instructed Titus to “remind” Christians “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:1, 2, my emphases).
Why should we extend such grace? “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (v. 3).
What changed? “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (vv. 4–5). As a result, Christians are to “devote themselves to good works” (v. 8) and to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (v. 9).
This is such an urgent issue that Paul advised Titus, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (vv. 10–11).
We know the real enemy
Does this mean that Christians should not stand boldly for biblical truth and morality? Absolutely not. Early Christians were condemned and martyred by the authorities of their day precisely because they would not stop preaching the gospel and speaking truth to power.
But it does mean that we must refuse to condemn those with whom we disagree. This fact is vital in a democracy—if people who disagree cannot work together, ultimately they cannot live together and the future of their nation is imperiled. We can coexist with people who are “wrong,” but living with people who are “evil” is another matter.
As those who have been transformed by grace, you and I can—and, in fact, must—take the lead here. We know that the real enemy is Satan, the one who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). And we know the One who is the only true hope of the world (Acts 4:12).
As “sons of God,” we are called by Jesus to be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). We are forbidden by Scripture to say about someone what we would not say to them (cf. Matthew 18:15). We are likewise forbidden to slander (1 Peter 2:1), lie (Exodus 20:16), or gossip (Proverbs 16:28).
Rather, we are to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1–2). We can and should hold them accountable (Luke 17:3), but in a spirit of encouragement rather than condemnation (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We can and should participate in our political process, but as salt and light rather than as divisive partisans.
Ronald Reagan’s example
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once worked for President Ronald Reagan. When asked what impacted him from those days, he said, “He would encourage us to remember that we have only opponents, not enemies. He learned how to turn the other cheek and never lost sight of the fact that we are all in this together—as Americans.
“He would never stoop to the level of personalizing things, even if his opponents were doing it to him. It’s really important never to demonize groups or people in political life, and he led by example in this regard.”
Let’s do the same today, to the glory of God.