The Idol You Don’t Know You’re Worshiping

What’s your secret sin?

Everybody has one. It’s that part of your life where depravity seems to have the strongest grip. Most don’t fight the kind of sin that’s evident to the world around them. It’s the internal battles with things like gossip and lust that consume the average Christian. But even worse are those sins that we’re either unaware of, or are unwilling to acknowledge. In fact, I’ve come to realize that American followers of Jesus collectively suffer from one particularly destructive sin that has gone largely unrecognized. What is it?

The idolatry of politics.

God is supposed to be our first intellectual stop in life. He’s our focal point of truth and direction. So anything that supplants His primary position is considered an idol. Far too often, I see followers of Jesus in America allowing partisan politics to shape their view of the world. God has been relegated exclusively to their spiritual lives, while they inadvertently shut Him out of their cultural, intellectual and interpersonal existence.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the primary symptoms that illustrate how politics has become an idol for many Christians today: 

  • The disposition of political opponents. In politics, the other party is your enemy. Your job is to defeat them. Even despise them. In the Christian faith, you’re supposed to love your enemy. See the problem here? If you spend time demonizing your political opponents online or in conversation, you’re not following Jesus. You’re following your idol. 
  • The oversimplification of complex issues. Lots of organizations make it easier for us to vote. They create simple charts that enable everyone to quickly determine whether a candidate is “for” or “against” an issue. Since this is so convenient, many have decided to transfer the concept to faith. They’ve awkwardly squeezed the omniscience of God into a cute little political checklist. Just like many political issues are much more complicated than we’d like to admit, God is much bigger than we care to acknowledge. So let’s stop oversimplifying the Creator of the universe, who reminded us that “…Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me?
  • The wrong source for cultural analysis. If someone has questions about prayer, they turn to God. The afterlife? Same thing. But if an African American teenager gets shot in Ferguson, Missouri, they run to Bill O’Reilly or Bill Maher. As I’ve written before, this is unwise at best. We end up looking inconsistent and strange when we post a Bible verse on Facebook in the morning, followed by hate-filled partisan political rhetoric in the afternoon. Whether we like it or not, we cannot compartmentalize loving our neighbor. Particularly in the midst of contentious cultural issues.
  • The political litmus test for faith. Somehow, many Christians have decided that there’s one particular political party that’s inherently more Christian than another. In essence, they believe that if someone isn’t affiliated with their favorite party, their eternal salvation is probably in jeopardy. This is absolute foolishness. A broad examination of Biblical principles would take you across both sides of the aisle, and into many third parties. And the opposite concept is also true. All political parties fall short of God’s standards, just like we do.
  • The means of societal change. It’s an idea that looks good on the surface. Armed with good intentions, many Christians have tried to change America by legislating Biblical morality. They hope to compel conformity with the rule of law. Unfortunately, this is a short sighted approach. It neglects that essential problem solving question everyone must ask – “Then what?” For example, let’s just say you could pass every faith-based bill of your dreams. Then what? Would people instantly start following Jesus? I doubt it. Laws don’t change hearts or make disciples. God does. Through you.

    Watch the news. Listen to your favorite talk radio program. Make educated decisions in the voting booth. Stand firm on Biblical truth. But stop making politics your idol. This sin is hurting others, misrepresenting the Gospel, and probably keeping others from Christ.

    Just seek to follow Jesus and love your neighbor, with a generous dose of humility.

    photo credit: DSC_0097 via photopin (license)

    2 Replies to “The Idol You Don’t Know You’re Worshiping”

    1. Brian – Excellent post!
      Bursting from the OT to support your 5th point that laws can not affect meaningful societal change is the sordid history of the Israeli people; true repentence being hinged on spiritual rebirth, something even ole Nicodemus should known.

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