January 23, 2021

Repenting of a Political Mindset

By Chaplain Mike

NOTE: Either I have communicated poorly or my use of the word “political” has thrown some of you off in terms of the focus of this post. I am using the words “politics” and “political” in their more informal, secondary sense in what follows. Dictionary.com includes the following definitions:

  • politics = any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one’s own ends, etc.
  • political = use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.
  • to “play politics” = to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way, as for job advancement.

I have revised the post in a few places to try and make this more clear.

One reason I struggled as a pastor can be summarized in the word, “Politics.” In this case, it was “church politics.” I remember telling people, sincerely, “I don’t have a political bone in my body.” I didn’t think being a pastor should involve the kinds of maneuvering and tactics that we normally associate with politicians.

I just don’t think in those kinds of political terms. What do I mean by that?

When I use the word, “political,” and say I don’t think in those terms, I don’t mean I lack political views. If we’re talking about “politics” as a subject—the realm of political philosophy, how society should be governed, what it means to be a citizen of a community, nation, and world, and so on, of course I have certain understandings and opinions. I wouldn’t say I have highly developed views. Although I try to stay informed and find the historical study of politics interesting, I’m neither a “political junkie” nor a serious student in political matters. At certain times in my life, I’ve actually made a conscious effort not to discuss or offer opinions on many political matters because it caused too many complications and distractions in my pastoral role and in developing proper relationships with the church and parishioners.

But all of that is neither here nor there with regard to this post. I’m not talking about whether one is a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or affiliated with some other political party or platform. This is not about being a liberal or a conservative. I haven’t written this to discuss Congress or President Obama, the Tea Party, current crises over state budgets and the rights of unions, what our proper foreign policy should be toward Libya, or how we should handle the process of health care reform.

I’m talking about the political mindset. There is a way of looking at the world, of defining the issues of life, of the way we think about and treat other people, of advancing various causes and agendas, of expressing our opinions, and of participating in groups and organizations that can be described by using the word “political.” In my view, this way of relating to others is destructive to those who are called to fulfill God’s commandments to love him and our neighbors.

It can happen in any group setting, not just the public square. This mindset can be cultivated by people of all political stripes. It is not a conservative or liberal thing. It can corrupt and bring down churches, businesses, families, and neighborhood groups. This mindset is the fruit of self-righteousness and selfish ambition, though it is often couched in terms of high ideals, the “right” course of action, or even divine “absolutes.”

In these introductory thoughts on the subject, let me just mention several characteristics of what I call a “political mindset.” Once I state them in these terms, I think you will see that this perspective is pervasive; this approach to thinking about life has infiltrated many of our relationships and institutions. Remember, we are not talking about being involved in politics in the sense of participating in the civic or governmental sphere. We are talking about an approach to thinking and acting that we normally associate with the questionable tactics of party politics. I will simply list them and allow the conversation to fill them out.

The political mindset:

1. Believes that being in a position of power is the only real way to advance one’s cause.

2. Views being right as more important than being kind.

3. Considers those who do not agree as the enemy.

4. Relates to others in a spirit of suspicion and mistrust, giving no one the benefit of the doubt.

5. Lives in fear that if today is not doomsday, then tomorrow certainly will be.

6. Grounds criticisms of today’s issues in a sentimental, whitewashed view of the past.

7. Tends to turn even the most truthful statements into overstatement and propaganda.

8. Is always looking for ways to weaken and bring down the opponent.

9. Cares most about winning over those that take other positions.

In his book, Jesus and the Victory of God, N.T. Wright discusses what “repentance” would have meant to Jewish people in the days of Jesus when they heard him proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Wright makes the point that the word carried the meaning, “What Israel must do if her fortunes are to be restored,” and that this had a very practical dimension. To repent meant, for example, that they must “abandon revolutionary zeal” (p. 250), that they as a people must “abandon one set of agendas and embrace another” (p. 251). Jesus called them to turn their backs on ways of thinking and acting that they thought would give them victory over their enemies and restore Israel to their rightful place at the top.

In other words, the answer for Israel’s captivity and their hope of being delivered from their enemies was to follow Jesus and his ways. But to do so, they must “repent”—that is, they must reject the various ways of “fighting the enemy” that they had been pursuing. They must stop trying to win God’s battles for him. They must stop trying to free themselves. They must repent of a “political” mindset and approach.

I would set forth that Jesus is calling his people today to repent.

  • He is saying this to you and me and all of us in his church who rely on “the political mindset” to engage this world of sin, evil, and death.
  • He says this to those who think the only way to talk about public affairs and government is to demonize those who hold opposite views and hold them in ridicule.
  • He says this to people on the left, the right, the middle, and of all political viewpoints who think that the main goal is to win, gain power, and push through their plans.
  • He is saying this to those who write letters to the editor of their local newspapers, to those who write in the religious blogosphere and for Christian publications or who speak through Christian media.
  • He is saying this to those who think that suspicion, manipulation, deception, and arguing until I get my way is how we should relate to others in our families, neighborhoods, and communities.
  • He is saying this to those who think and act this way so that they will get their own way in the church.
  • He is saying this to pastors and church leaders who think the way to build the church is to rule over their flocks and advance their own agendas, crushing the opposition along the way.
  • He is saying this to church board members and congregation members who treat the fellowship of believers as their own personal cage match.

I abhor the political mindset. Yet despite my protestations that “I don’t have a political bone in my body,” when I stop and take a good long look in the mirror, I find it has taken root in my own heart and displays itself in many ugly ways.

How about you? What do you think?


  1. honestly, just recently i had to revisit my particpation in posts & responses pointing out the perceived unChristlikeness of certain high profile evangelical/reformist/charismatic, etc. preachers & the comments they make regarding their perspectives & how they seem to miss the charity/humility aspect of being Jesus’ representative…

    i get ‘fired’ up about those that claim to be Christian publically making comments that seem off, or misplaced, or better left unsaid. i tend to hold those that claim to be Christian to a higher standard even though they are not any less a frail, weak, imperfect saint making his own way on this journey of faith…

    i have had to repent of knee-jerk reactions to the doctrinal/theological attitudes of superiority i feel are out-of-line. yet i am no more an internet policeman/apologist or heresy hunter than those that do claim to be. unfortunately i find myself reacting in a similar fashion. i can jump on the bashing bandwagon quicker than, well, a saint taking offense where he has no right to do so…

    same with political efforts in the name of God that seem to have nothing to do with the kingdom here on earth. efforts & agendas & perspectives that seem to make Jesus out to be their inspiration, but the resulting caricature someone i do not recognize. the Christianization of American politics a scary thing i do not want to feel influenced by. yet i am reacting in ways that are less Christlike & more carnal than i would like to admit. to be honest, people do tick me off! no, really. what i perceive as pompousness & superiority & assumed moral rightness does get a rise out of me. now it is true that my human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. not sure yet how to rightly divide that part of my reactionary reflex.

    i find there is much of Christianity & ways of doing church that seems very syncretic. much of our American independent work hard self-sufficient mindset i was raised in has skewed my perspective of God’s upside down kingdom. and it is so easy to allow issues whether religious or secular to inflame the passions. i can confess i am not the gold standard of right perspectives, yet i act just like those i claim have log-sized specks in their eyes.

    yeah…i can totally relate… 🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      the Christianization of American politics a scary thing i do not want to feel influenced by.

      Last weekend, a friend of mine was at a party and some Wiccans were there. “The Christianization of American Politics” was getting them scared of a “Second Burning Times.”

      Same friend told me once that he figured the danger of a coup in the US was going to peak in the next few years. “Two opposing political parties, neither with a clear majority (popular vote in recent national elections were all splitting within one percent of 50-50), both Absolutely Certain of their own Righteousness and the other’s Absolute Evil.” You do the math.

  2. I am guilty as charged.

    Lord have mercy upon me
    Christ have mercy upon me
    Grant us thy peace

  3. cm –

    ‘There is a way of looking at the world, of defining the issues of life, of the way we think about and treat other people, of advancing various causes and agendas, of expressing our opinions, and of participating in groups and organizations that is “political” and, in my view, destructive to those who are called to fulfill God’s commandments to love him and our neighbors.’

    martin luther king jr. a pastor who was non-violent, as well as a loving political activist.

    i don’t know dude. mlk’s legacy pretty much makes this entire post a straw man, imho.

    • Jason, I would say MLK proves my point. A Christian can be politically active while not having this “political mindset.”

      • “A Christian can be politically active while not having this ‘political mindset.’ ”

        Yes, that’s an important distinction, Chaplain Mike. I’m not even politically active. I get tired of even hearing the discussions. I could be accused of keeping my head in the sand, I guess. Someone needs to do the hard work that politics takes and I guess I am glad that someone else does it. I just attempt to vote for the person who seems most sensible.

        I like your list of what a political mindset is, Chaplain Mike. Especially “Views being right as more important than being kind.” Boy, isn’t THAT the truth! We all need (myself very much included) to remember this.

      • @cm: thanks for the distinction. i thought that that was what you were hinting at, but for me, your message was kind of muddled.

        all i know, is that currently, there are initiatives being undertaken in this country right now that are neither kind nor right. for instance:

        newly elected gov rick snyder, here in michigan, is pushing for near dictatorial power which would allow him to simply dissolve democratically elected public officials all on his own, as well as the ability to replace them with whomever he chooses, even the ceo of a company! so, instead of writing to my senator, whom i elected, (or at least was elected by the population in general), i could potentially be writing to sam walton, (head of walmart), my new hand picked representative to gov. snyder. so gov. snyder is seeking to choose for me/us, who our representatives to him will be. how is this democratic? how is this right? how is this kind?


        • what’s more (i’m fired up and on a rant!):

          how is what gov snyder is doing here in mi, taking money from the unions and giving it to the very billionaires who helped get him elected (the koch brothers) fair, right or kind? how is taking $1.7 million from unions via tax cuts, only to turn around and give $1.8 million in tax breaks to other special interest groups right? in other words, the net result of such a move = nothing, bordering on worse. how is taking money from one group, and then turning around and giving it to another (who don’t really need it to begin with) balancing the budget!? it’s not! this is not about the budget. this is about one political party trying to destroy the other, and the only people who lose out is the working class. this is about class warfare. this is about a small, wealthy, powerful and elite minority in this country wanting to take this country back to the realities that existed here before the middle class came into existence. it is not balancing, it is shifting, and it is shifting away from that segment of the population, by and large, who live paycheck to paycheck, in order to give it to that segment of the population who do not live paycheck to paycheck.

          regarding how to balance the various state budgets, as i have said in other recent discussions, bring all of our troops home that are currently stationed around the globe protecting the interests of multi-national corporations; i.e., supporting various non-democratically elected leaders who maintain enough “peace” and stability in order for these multi-national corporations to move in and set up shop; i.e., mine for the respective countries natural resources (which belong to the people, ironically, not the corporation or the dictator) and develop a labor force that does not have the right to collectively bargain for their wages, hours, benefits and/or rights, in order to produce their product which they then turn around and sell back to the population here in the u.s. let’s stop doing that. let’s stop wasting money, as a country, there. let’s stop being policeman of the world in the interest(s) of corporations. let’s stop trusting in secret government, who always say, in effect, ‘shhh, america, go back to sleep. we’ve got this. we know what we’re doing.’ all the while, our democracy is crumbling before our very eyes and we’re too inundated with their entertainment (bread and theater) to really notice or to care.

          or how about this:

          here’s another idea for how to free-up some of that limited supply of money: reduce the number of human beings that are languishing, terrified, yearning and hardening within the prison industrial complex. let’s re-think some of our laws regarding certain drugs and consider it purely from a financial angle, for the medical angle has, by and large, already been determined.

          so from a financial perspective. during a recent conversation the other night with my friend we wandered into the logic of lawmakers here in michigan trying to crush the legalization of marijuana, which voters overwhelmingly passed back in 2008. ok, so let’s see, our state sucks financially, and we need revenue, so let’s push what would, and is trying to be, a viable and legal business, what the citizens (politicians employers) voted FOR, back into the shadows where it cannot be taxed and regulated. right. it’s better for store fronts to sit vacant when they could be occupied by a compassion center that would be paying taxes, providing jobs and supporting the local economy. it’s idiotic.

          there are a million other ways to balance the budget. and personally, i’d like to hear from these lawmakers how they are sharing in these difficult times. what cuts are they themselves, personally, enduring and/or willing to make?

          • shouldn’t have said koch brothers, sorry. too fired up!

          • Jason, I still think you missed the post’s point. This was not about politics. I think I said that clearly. This about a mindset that affects many areas of life

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I think Jason DOES illustrate your point. Going off on a run-on Political rant, even to the point of “Koch Brothers” who I don’t know about except I’ve only heard them mentioned in a Conspiracy Theory context. Just like George Soros is mentioned in other circles.

            And the Political Mindset easily slides into the Conspiracy Mindset. Another mindset of which American Evangelicals seem prone. And when you apply the rules of Conspiracy Theory to the Political Mindset, there is no coming back. All that does not agree with you 1000% becomes part of the All-Encompassing Conspiracy, and thus MUST be discounted and discarded. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

          • Good comment, HUG, but ya lost me with the dwarfs. LOTR?

          • I think the “dwarfs” comment is from the last Chronicles of Narnia book, The Last Battle.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I think the “dwarfs” comment is from the last Chronicles of Narnia book, The Last Battle.


            In “The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs,” Lewis nails the Invincible Ignorance you see so often in the Conspiracy Mindset. Nails it Cold.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    As a guy who on occasion has been followed into the men’s can to be lectured on POLITICS POLITICS POLITICS and been high-pressured to Accept Ross Perot/Ron Paul/Barack Obama/Ayn Rand as Your Personal LORD and Savior…

    Wasn’t it the classic Communists who were infamous for making everything into “Ees Political Matter, Comrade”? And their Politics into a State Religion? Political this, Political that, Political Political Political… There was a reason Soviet-era Russians were such heavy-duty alcoholics. It was the only escape from 24/7/365 Politics Politics Politics Politics Politics.

    The political mindset:

    1. Believes that being in a position of power is the only real way to advance one’s cause.

    2. Views being right as more important than being kind.

    3. Considers those who do not agree as the enemy.

    4. Relates to others in a spirit of suspicion and mistrust, giving no one the benefit of the doubt.

    5. Lives in fear that if today is not doomsday, then tomorrow certainly will be.

    6. Grounds criticisms of today’s issues in a sentimental, whitewashed view of the past.

    7. Tends to turn even the most truthful statements into overstatement and propaganda.

    8. Is always looking for ways to weaken and bring down the opponent.

    9. Cares most about winning over those that take other positions.

    Again, everybody, how does that differ from the Agitprop you saw coming out of Soviet-era Pravda? (Including Point 6 — according to Marx, True Communism was mankind’s original state in primitive tribal societies.) And the “Shadow of the Soviets” trust-fund kiddies, Concerned/Compassionate Intellectual Activists, and Pop Neo-Communists?

    Because those nine points reduce Everything to Power Struggle. And in Power Struggle there are only two end states.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Reminds me of in Fiddler on the Roof when Perchik (a Bolshevik) is getting up the guts to ask Hodel’s hand in marriage. He starts with, “Hodel, may I ask you a political question?” When she realizes what he’s driving at, she says “Is this a POLITICAL question?” He replies, “Of course! Everything is politics!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        But when those Nine Points come into play, everybody starts to resemble Perchik.

        Years ago, after experiencing these Nine Points with a Christian coat of paint, I used to joke about “the difference between Christians and Communists is they quote different Party Lines.” When you factor in the Christian Culture Warrior types swallowing and digesting the Nine Points of The Poltiical Mindset (and DB Beem’s commentary below), looks like it isn’t a joke any more.

        • HUG, you’re so on the money — when I first read that list, I flashed back to two things: some of my experiences with the Religious Right/Left, and taking Soviet & East European Politics in college back in 1990. When did evangelicalism embrace Lenin?

          Also riffing off of #6 … have you ever noticed that when American Christians talk about how great things were before the Sixties, it’s never black Christians saying that? Or Hispanic Christians? (Not saying it’s a racist point of view, just that it’s an incredibly myopic one.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I am just old enough to remember the tail end of the Nifty Fifties. While I remain an aficionado of that era, it was NOT the Godly Golden Age you hear preached from so many Culture War pulpits.

            Instead, it preaches like the first of three axioms for a Grievance Culture:
            1. Once upon a time, We were Lords of All Creation and Everything Was Perfect, including Free Ice Cream.
            2. Then THEY (The Other, The Conspiracy) came and took it all away from us.
            3. IT’S PAYBACK TIME!

  5. Saul Alinsky, in his (in)famous community activism primer Rules For Radicals:
    “One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue.”

    BTW, Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer, for agitating so effectively that he got what he wanted – – his own kingdom.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer, for agitating so effectively that he got what he wanted – – his own kingdom.

      Guy had a point.

  6. Agree that this mindset is a poison in our relationship with God and others.

    One other point I would add, (and this is similar to 4) Relates to others in a spirit of suspicion and mistrust, giving no one the benefit of the doubt.) is the tendency to see all decisions through the lens of power.

    I would also say that the political mindset is biased against transparency and honesty.

    So, the political mindset would see all decisions in a church, for example, as either giving or taking power away from someone. A political mindset, would see transparency and honesty and enemies, because “spin” becomes more important than truth. Sharing the truth and being honest, where the truth is painful or possibily exposes one to shame, is discouraged, because the consequences (viz. losing power) are undesirable.

    Another part of the political mindset is that the end always justifies the mean. Lying becomes acceptable, and even preferable, where power is lost, or where that is a concern.

    The political mindset also veils its agenda in “group speak.” It’s never about power, instead it’s about what is best for the group.

    Having been involved both in church situations and in politics, I have seen all of the aforementioned, and have struggled with how to “not have this view.” It’s hard because when you’re there in that church, or in that political campaign, its difficult to not have that mindset. It’s very much learned behavior. It is a mindset, that I want to unlearn.

    The effect of this mindset, is perhaps one of the reasons why Jesus said. . .

    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matt 5:8)

    Having a political focus, sees the world through tinted glasses and an impure. In that case, its hard to see God, because all you see is power.

    • Excellent additions to the list, DB.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      In that case, its hard to see God, because all you see is power.

      Or you see God only in terms of Omnipotence (i.e. Power) but not Benevolence. I’ve heard Islam’s concept of God described that way, and you see similarities with our own Hypercalvinists/Truly Reformed.

      Or you see Power as God. (“The only goal of Power is POWER.” — Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984)

      This dovetails into Slacktivist’s page-by-page deconstruction of Left Behind; specifically, LaHaye & Jenkins’ God as revealed in the narrative. On many occasions, Slack has ripped into their characterization of God and Christ in their take on Revelation as simply a Bigger Bully with a Bigger Boot. As if they’ve gotten so enamored with God’s Power in the Second Coming they see God ONLY in terms of that Power enabling a Revenge Fantasy. Especially telling is the end of Volume 12, where after the Second Coming and the Sheep-and-Goats Judgement (all described very literally and unimaginatively), LaHaye’s Author Self-Insert is literally “handed a New Arda from the hand of Iluvatar Himself.” His reaction? “Now we can turn this country into a REAL Christian Nation.” Culture War Without End, Amen.

      • Please tell me you are joking and made up that last quote. Please….

      • Dear Headless, please assure me that the bit about Arda and Iluvatar was the critique by the reviewer and not an actual quote from the book in question, otherwise I may have to run around in circles screaming at the top of my lungs.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Yes, it was. At least the “Arda and Iluvatar” reference. That was how I have to visualize the “New Heavens and New Earth” in order to get around all the Christianese baggage.

          However, the reaction of LaHaye’s Author Self-Insert is accurate according to Slacktivist’s commenters, though the exact words might show a bit of “from memory drift”.

  7. The political mindset is an ongoing problem for the church. The marriage of politics and Christianity will always be ugly (regardless of the cause…)

    Speaking of ugly 😯 …..

    How many people here at IMonk want to start a pool and see which “fundegelical” will attribute this 8.9 Japanese earthquake from God as the result of sin, liberals, feminists, etc… Between John MacArthur, John Piper, and Pat Robertson there are many possibilities 😉 (And there were many I left off the list!!!)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      One of the Youtube videos of the earthquake/tsunami had a commenter plugging it as a fulfillment of Harold Camping/May 21, 2011, but that was the only one I’ve run into so far.

      Besides the usual Beavis-and-Butthead comments, there were also several Mayan Calendar 2012s preaching 12/21/2012 in counter to Camping’s 5/21/2011, several others preaching about how Mother Gaia is Angry at Us (Global Warming Global Warming Global Warming…), and (germane to the original post) Political Conspiracy Theories. (On the order of the South Park Tone 40 mantra “It’s All The Republicans’ Fault; The Republicans Are To Blame…”)

      One thing in common for all of them (except maybe the Beavis-and-Buttheads): Every one took the news as Absolute Proof of the Utter Righteousness of their own Agenda.

      • While ignoring all the people suffering because of the earthquakes and tsunamis, I gather?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Don’t ask Political Questions, Comrade.

          The continuing damage to that one nuke plant (two reactors totalled and a third going down) brought all the Anti-Nuke Activists out Advancing The Agenda. Just like any spectacular shooting brings out Sarah Brady and the rest of the Total Gun Control Activists (the Total Gun Ban bills get introduced the very next day). And the more dead and maimed, the more eggs broken to make the Perfect Agenda Omelet. Sacrifices for The Cause, Comrades.

          Compared to The Concerned and Compassionate Kyle’s Moms (TM), the Beavises and Buttheads are a relief. They’re just serious arrested-development cases, ROFLMAOing at someone else’s misery. Anyone who was ten years old and male (where anything and everything gross and digsusting is hilarious) understands that.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          While ignoring all the people suffering because of the earthquakes and tsunamis, I gather?

          First Christian type example coming in. A Hypothetrical Bus sermon updated to use the Hypothetical Tsunami instead, link from one of Eagle’s comments to a recent Christian Monist posting.

          “If you can’t love ’em into the Kingdom, SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!”
          — Quote from a morning Christian radio talk show, circa mid-Eighties.

    • I’ll take Robertson

    • VolAlongTheWatchTower says

      Agree, Robertson will come out and directly say it first, MacArthur’s still too distracted by his revulsion at the fact somebody, SOMEWHERE might be happy.

  8. David Cornwell says

    This is a trap that any of us can fall into and most of us probably have. When we are acting we need to examine ourselves as to motive, first principles, and love for God and neighbor. This extends to even how we write on this blog. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of disdain and contempt. When writing for instance, no one can read our body language that is so much a part of communication, so restraint is called for. After we say something, it is out there, and cannot be called back.

    I firmly believe that there are ways to engage the world politically. But it should always be couched in humility and love for the other person and the other viewpoint. It isn’t easy to do. Most of us fail at this sooner or later.

    We also need to remember that we are praying for the Kingdom of God to come here on this earth. This is where our expectation must be. All politics will fail us. Every president and political program will disappoint. Reading the Sermon on the Mount often can give us direction. Saying the “Our Father…” will turn us to the real source. In the end God’s Kingdom will come.

  9. The political mindset is the reason I left grad school. Couldn’t stand how everything (in my field – language and literature) had to be viewed through the lens of politics and power, and how all motives (by both writers and critics) were suspect. “Everything is political” got said over and over again. Arghh!

    • Thanks for showing another place where this is prevalent.

    • FollowerOfHim says

      Example #482 of how mathematics and the hard sciences are, contra YEC suspicions, far more welcoming of divergent political and/or religious viewpoints than are the humanities. (Not that there aren’t political antics in the math department as well, of course!)

      I never saw a mathematical proof of which it could be said “That’s a very political approach.” I’m sorry your experience was (completely unnecessarily) otherwise in the worthy field of literature, Dill, and I hope you maintain a lively interest in the field nonetheless.

      • FOH,

        As we know, there is plenty of politics in the hard sciences. However, where the sciences have an advantage is their fall-back, “Show me the data.” While there are power plays and jockeying for position, everyone knows that anyone can be toppled by the data.

        The advantages of the hard sciences, however, include the presupposition that all positions are tentative and subject to further investigation, that nearly every datum may have an alternate explanation that fits better, and that often seemingly contradictory and incompatible positions are often harmonized by a synthetic approach. This has been especially true in quantum mechanics.

        If only others would accept these principles.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I never saw a mathematical proof of which it could be said “That’s a very political approach.”

        Remember the first theorizing about Nuclear Winter back in the Late Seventies? My D&D Dungeonmaster observed this:

        “This is the first time you could predict 100% whether a scientist would be pro or con by checking his political party membership. If they’re Republican, they’re against it; if they’re Democrat, they’re for it.”

        We later saw the same pattern in the Eighties with Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative idea (commonly called “Star Wars Missile Defense”) and now with Global Warming (or whatever it’s called these days). Political Affiliation defines scientific fact. Say hello to Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

  10. He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Michah 6:8
    The political mindset gets us so far off course.
    So easy to slip into.

    • The political mindset is just another facet of what the music teacher in the post earlier this week experienced. Which, in turn, is a subset of what B. J. Thomas once sang about — “loving things and using people.” I think we’ve all been guilty of it more times than we can count (and by “we,” I most definitely mean “I”), and we have to guard against it at every turn.

      One of the things that makes Jesus stand out from all of history is that he made a point of putting people — eternal souls, made to love God and be loved by Him — as His permanent top priority. To try to tie Jesus to ANY agenda other than that is to create another gospel, which as Paul said “is no gospel at all.”

      Now if I can just live that …

      • Now that’s a good definition: loving [my cause] and using people [to advance it].

        Thanks, Ray.

        Hey everybody that thinks this post is about “politics” (as in being involved in the public square), read that again. Ray nailed it.

        • I agree. And when your primary love is to your “cause”, then you judge and value people in accordance with that cause.

          • Or should I say, through the lens of that cause

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            And when The Cause becomes so Utterly Righteous as to justify any Evil whatsoever to bring it about?

            op cit Citizen Robespierre’s “Republique of Perfect Virtue” which has echoed from Lenin to Pol Pot, always beckoning from the other side of the “Regrettable but Necessary” Reign of Terror.

        • Glad to be of service, Mike. Too many people have been misunderstanding stuff here this week, and I don’t see how. Just read the whole articles, it’s obvious …


  11. I would add:

    10. Focusing on a “spiritual issue” and making that a litmus test of whether a candidate can govern wisely.

    A good example of this is the abortion debate. I do not support abortion (though I would love those women who had abortions unconditionally versus condemn them). That said, why is it that a politician’s position on this issue the beginning and end of the debate for Christians? Shouldn’t we look at the whole person and where (and why) the individual stands on other key issues? Shouldn’t we look at their experience, past accomplishments and general track record? Yes, their stance on abortion (or gay marriage, or whatever) is one data point, but it shouldn’t be the only data point.

    Sometimes I feel like we take the easy way out on looking at political candidates, saving ourselves from the difficulty of really making a nuanced and well thought through judgment.

    • Sorry – posted too quickly. So apply this thinking to the “political mindset.” What are the “litmus test issues” for each of us in “judging” another person? What are those issues that unite or divide a particular church?

      As much as I do not like this, I see it in myself. My judgmentalism / political mindset has been mediated only by a God that breaks my stereotypes in pretty confrontational ways, which I have to admit is pretty darn loving.

      • Good recovery, Libby!

        • i also believe one can be quite passionate about a particular issue. God is very angry against sin (broadest category) or injustice (narrower) or His name being profaned in both the political & religious arenas…

          however, it is that element of equating the ‘person’ with the perspectives they espouse. it is this very common us vs. them mentality that pigeon-holes others into neat+tidy categories where we feel justified in condemning them…

          we can build straw men arguments & revert to ad hominem defensiveness that is the unloving thing to do. Christians can be especially viscious in this against fellow believers of different flocks. but many times we as individuals usually have opinions that tend to more general than specific or lack sufficient detail to make a sound argument, so when faced with a capable opponent we resort to defensiveness & all the associated mean-spirited behaviors…

          choosing what to say when & to whom part of wisdom. we need to be sensitive to our own limitations on addressing topics with those of differing opinion. it should not be an excercise in winning as much as understanding & accepting people that think & feel far differently than we do. that is why i must be careful i am not carrying around in my back pocket an inflatable soapbox i setup the moment an issue i have strong feelings about is raised. maybe this ties back into the ‘silence’ consideration as i tend to be quick to speak & quick to anger in situations that i am not the final authority on.

          Lord, have mercy… ;(

          • I’m not a card carrying Christian but what you’re describing is done by every single person on earth to one extent or another. I’m the worlds worst about it. It’s hard to bust out of conditioned behavior and I’m not just talking about religion. Everyone should do what makes them happy or feel safe. I’m talking about plain old social conditioning. We grow up and live in a dog eat dog world and learn young to look out for ourselves. Probably partly instinctual, too. It’s tough to quit lying to ourselves and quit hurting others. peace

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      11. Making The Cause so Utterly Righteous that it can justify any Evil whatsoever to achieve its goals.

      Originally such Utter Righteousness was conventionally religious as in Jihad, Crusade, and Heretic/Witch Hunts, but the French Revolution secularized it with non-religious political/philosophical Causes.

      • Good cal, HUG. You’re on a roll today, man!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I’m on a roll because I’ve experienced the subject and attitude firsthand. I live in California — remember Prop 8? This kind of Political crap is NORMAL out here — from the Thin Grey Ponytails in Sacramento reliving The Sixties to Evangelical Fellowships and their Culture War Without End, Amen. It’s practically the State Religion (along with the War on Smoking, the War on Obesity, the War on Global Warming…) as well as the rallying point for every anti-State Conspiracy Theory.

          And one thing they have in common, no matter where they’re coming from. The Cause is parsed like Truly Reformed Theology, and All Heretics MUST Be Burned.

      • Good call, HUG. You’re on a roll today, man!

      • Bingo! Absolutely right. I’ve seen this happen and it was like watching reality get warped so sharply that I almost get whiplash. I now understand like never before why St. Paul said so emphatically, “May it never be!” in response to the ‘let us do evil that good may come’ mentality.

  12. Andy Zook says

    I need to hear this. It’s convicting. Thanks for the warning.

  13. Michael Blake says

    I disagree with the definition of the political mindset. For the sake of the discussion I will define politics as the creation, administration and examination of government policy and mindset is an inclination or way of viewing things. Therefore , a way of thinking related to the policies and activities of government. I believe what is described in this article is actually a subset of the political mindset; not all political mindsets stand in contradiction to the teachings of scripture.

    Here are my thoughts on each point:

    Point # 1, I don’t believe that being in a position of power is the only real way to advance a cause, quite the contrary, I believe that we must distribute power in order to ensure that one group does not gain too much influence over policies that affect the population.

    Point # 2, what is the difference between right (truth) and kindness? (Is the truth unkind?). I Col 13:6

    Point # 3, we are to love our enemies but we may still have enemies. (I would not agree with a murderer, and I would classify them as an enemy).

    Point # 4, I don’t relate to others in a spirit of suspicion and mistrust, I give them the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are good (I take issue with their methods producing the results they want in the long run.)

    Point #5, thank God we don’t have to fear a doomsday!

    Point #6, the past is the same as the present as is the future until the end of time, the world is fallen and is currently being redeemed.

    Point # 7, in terms of overstatement I think this article may be guilty… (I’m just saying)

    Point # 8, personally I try to understand those who disagree with me.

    Point # 8, a political mindset can care about removing policies designed to oppress one group and favor another.

    Ultimately we are called to have a mindset that is centered on Christ, I think we can have a political mindset and still honor Him.

    • Michael, Michael, Michael. For heaven’s sake, what are you, the dictionary? We use the word “politics” and “political” in many other ways than in the strict way you’ve defined it. For example, these dictionary definitions (from Dictionary.com), which speak directly to the way I am using the term:

      1. any activity concerned with the acquisition of power, gaining one’s own ends, etc.

      2. use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.

      3. to “play politics”—to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way, as for job advancement.

      Why are some of you so intent on thinking this post is about the subject of politics in terms of governmental policy? I will be revising the post in a few ways over the next few moments, and hopefully, this will clear things up.


    • Wow. Talk about an adventure in missing the point. But, hey, let’s play.

      If we are to be a follower of Jesus, he said to Pilate “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

      It’s time to stop fighting in the political arena as Jesus taught and advance the Kingdom which is both otherworldly and here now.

  14. .

    Two words…’Two Kingdoms Doctrine’.

    Politics? Fine. Just divorce it from the Gospel and divorce it from the worship service.


  15. “Politics? Fine. Just divorce it from the Gospel and divorce it from the worship service.”

    I so agree, Steve.

  16. The utter lack of civility and sensationalism is american politics is part of why I have lost my stomach for it. I have even gotten to the point where I am tried of trying to explain why I avoided voting in Prop 8 and don’t care whether the “christian laws” are on the books.

  17. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” We must remember that we are just transients here. This life is but a fragment if we have eternal life. The political mindset will lead to one’s spiritual destruction.

  18. Mike, is this post about politics?


    Actually, I think this is one of the most important posts you have written. You have brought attention to something we all struggle with, and it always is a hindrance to love (which is the real problem).

  19. I have been struggling with a certain relationship. This other person is very competitive, and has hurt me a bit. I have been tempted to begin viewing this person as an adversary, and thereby a hinderance to my happiness and the health of something I care deeply about (the church). This morning God used two things to help me avoid that, and treat this person with love and acceptance. The first was reading a few pages of Kierkegaard’s “Works of Love”. The second was reading this post. They both reminded me that my cause is not as important as simply loving that person. This surrender to love was accompanied with a wonderful sense of peace and joy.

    Thanks for that.

  20. Chaplain Mike,

    Aristotle referred to politics as answering the question, “How shall we order our life together?” In that sense politics is benign and necessary. In church life we would refer to that more accurately as “polity.” However, you have qualified in detail your use of the term. As I read your description of the political mindset, I couldn’t help but think of factions within the church. One thing I have found, though, is that often “it’s all politics” is the accusation made in dismissive terms by the disgruntled group who did not get their way.

    • “One thing I have found, though, is that often “it’s all politics” is the accusation made in dismissive terms by the disgruntled group who did not get their way.”

      There’s that, too.

  21. Everything is political and everything is religious. Jesus is Lord over all. Two Kingdom theology is just bogus!!!
    We are to take dominion for Christ in all areas of life.

    Is the author of this post a member of the Christian Left?

    • No, he isn’t. And you just proved his main thesis, however inadvertently. Nice job.

    • It might do us good to remember that Christ “took dominion,” as you put it, by humbling himself even to death on a cross for our sakes and that to follow him means to take up our cross too. That is certainly a different power paradigm than any earthly kingdom.

      I’ve been around here long enough that I think I can vouch for CM not being a Christian leftist. But even if he was, that wouldn’t obviate the validity of what the post is saying.

  22. Two supporting quotes:

    In the devil’s theology, the important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove that everybody else is absolutely wrong. – Thomas Merton

    You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. – Anne Lamott

  23. Really appreciated this post and the framing of a widespread problem. The heart of the issue with the political mindset as I see it is that it strives for power over people and situations. That’s also why it’s so attractive and so destructive. Following the way of Jesus and taking up our cross and sacrificing our positions and very selves is hard to do at the best of times. Throw in the political mindset and it becomes something so far removed as to be unattainable.

    Following Christ is much more about what we give up than what we acquire. May God in his mercy help me to remember that and live it out.

  24. “Following Christ is much more about what we give up than what we acquire.” Amen., that’s it in a nutshell.

  25. In Matthew 20, Jesus tells his disciples how the Gentiles do it (this would be the Roman system). They have authorities that lord it over others, and the authorities believe they are doing the best thing. But Jesus says that lording it over others is not for Christians. We have a better way. Those who would be the greatest must be servant of all.

    His exhortation clearly, to me, extends far beyond civil politics and includes how we act in the church. I blogged about this once, and had several pastors rebuke me for it. My writing about Jesus’ words pressed some of their authority buttons, and after they explained the way they did things in their church, it was clear that they were closer to the Gentile way of overlording than to what Jesus called us to do. They were taking “obey your leaders” in Hebrews 13 to an extreme end and decided they had been given authority to tell people what to do and not to do, and were going to make full use of it in order to “keep order” in their church. Squashing people who didn’t agree was part of the game.

    • They were taking “obey your leaders” in Hebrews 13 to an extreme end and decided they had been given authority to tell people what to do and not to do, and were going to make full use of it in order to “keep order” in their church. Squashing people who didn’t agree was part of the game regime…

      unfortunately, an all-too-common result of the seduction of power, control, self-importance, pride…

      Lord have mercy… 🙁

  26. Political, or politics, means “of, for, or relating to citizens.” In this definition I am political, and extremely so. And I am ‘political’ for the least of these more often than I am for the ‘richest’ and most of these. In the year 2011, I fear that the true meaning of politics (as stated above) has been seriously and sinfully co-opted by the need and greed for power and capital of every nature. That is why we call Jesus “Lord” because when I understand that He came “for” us, as a gift, as the way, as the lamb of God, then the nature of our politics is based on the ‘political platform’ of Divine Love, rather than love of power. Under the banner of God’s love, my politics becomes a true ‘metanoia’ – a change of heart, allegiance, and manner of living – from my way to His way. Then and only then in my life can my ‘politics’ be sane, only then can my politics become True Politics.

  27. stan hankins says

    I will say this for sure. You BETTER be politically correct in what you say. There are certain words and phrases you cannot use. You better not use them.

    We live in a politically correct world.

  28. Because the American Christian church has now become the American Christian Church, Inc., it and it’s adherents are more likely to follow the Charlie Sheen model of “Winning!! I’m winning!” than following the model of Christ which asks us to love our enemies and be meek. And Winning!! by the world’s standards requires acquiring power. I can’t tell you how many good “Christians” I have spoken to who espouse the belief that we should just bomb the Arab world out of existence–such a loving way to view things, isn’t it?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I grew up with a little brother who Always HAD to Win. And in the zero-sum game, for him to Always Win, someone (like me) Always Had to Lose.

  29. i believe it was the rejection of just such a mindset by Christ and the apostles that made them so subversive to those in power in the first century. How do you deal with someone who just won’t play the game the way you expect power games to go? In my estimation, American Christians, mostly evangelicalism, has bought wholesale into this mindset. No wonder we aren’t as unstoppably subversive as the early church.


  30. The political mind set is really Human nature.If you read the history of the world it’s the same thing over and over. Dominance by power, war and another power rises to the top. Greece, Rome, Spain, England, Germany, Japan. All thought they were the chosen to rule the world as they knew it. Jesus is the only answer and most people won’t accept Him.

    • Good point, Vern. This is what we’re like in our unredeemed selves. We are also materialistic. By that I don’t necessarily mean that we all want to acquire a lot of stuff but that we view the world as a material, closed system. There is nothing more than what we perceive with our senses — or at least that’s how it seems without out God’s revelation — and so that means everything is limited. It’s a zero-sum game; your gain is my loss, so I can never rejoice in your good but only compete for it. Jesus showed us another way, but our natures struggle against it and prefer what CM calls the political mindset.

  31. Both of Greg Boyd’s “Myth..” books (Myth of a Christian Nation and Myth of a Christian Religion) shed some light on our political tendencies – church and governance politics alike. The whole idea of having “power over” others as the world’s norm – vs. the Kingdom of God approach of submission – coming “under” others Submission is everything.

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