The year was 1976. It was the Carter-Ford election year. My journalism professor brother was visiting me in California. After some hours of conversation, he said, “Janice, you’re apolitical! You are a-political!” It sounded like a bad word, so since that time I have tried to pay more attention to politics. I try to look at both sides of any issue and I do vote in the elections. I am usually sympathetic with anyone who has made an informed decision contrary to mine.
It was somewhat understandable that I was not informed about the issues because I had lived in Peru from 1963-1971 (exciting times through the national election in which Belaunde was elected president and the subsequent taking over of the government by the military before he finished his six-year term). In the next five years I was teaching kindergarten full time and foster parenting three nephews while four of my children were still at home.
Now after 30 more years of watching the political system work and three days before a scary national election, I am wondering again, “Am I apolitical?” I looked up the word “politics” and all its cognates in Merriam-Webster and decided that my interests do not closely fit any of the definitions, except “politics” definition 5 a: the total complex of relations between people living in society.” In addition, definition 2 under “political economy” attracts my interest–“the theory or study of the role of public policy in influencing the economic and social welfare of a political unit.”
But what disappoints me about politics is the whole gamut of vote-getting strategies. I hear of stretched truths and omitted information, not to say outright lies of the candidates on both sides of any controversy. I know about the special interest groups who expect attention to their pet project (often money-making) in return for their support of a certain candidate.
I am not persuaded that the democratic form of government can lift a country to a better “complex of relations” among people living in society. I read once that a democracy will last only until the majority of the people learn they can vote for their own selfish interests. At this point in history that has been only about 200 years at the most.
Four years ago I had an interesting conversation with an Englishman at an international dinner at an Anglican church. It was an election year, of course, and in our discussion we began to come to the conclusion that the ideal form of government would be a monarchy, if the monarch were a person of integrity who had the best interest of the people at heart. And, perhaps because the conversation was taking place in a Christian church, we agreed that Jesus Christ is the only perfect monarch.
And that, really, is the key to the difference between how the American democracy worked in its early years and how it works today. It wasn’t so much that the constitution affirmed that we were a nation under God, it was the fact that most of the people living under the constitution had placed their own lives under God’s control. There were differences of opinion about specifics, but there were enough people who respected the authority of a beneficent higher power that they took care of themselves and their neighbors in a good way without being forced to do so by the government.
Should Christians be in politics? Surely Christians want to be involved in “the total complex of relations between people living in society.” Our involvement should be according to the natural talents we’ve been given and the learned abilities we brought with us when we accepted the call of Christ. I have decided that my own talents and abilities are more in line with the one-by-one call to each person to obey God and receive the power of his indwelling Spirit. Does that make me “apolitical?”
While I am living in the world, I want to follow the example of the first disciples in being citizens “who must obey God rather than man” when there is a conflict, but those Christians of the first centuries were also instructed to “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, respect; if honor, then honor.” They were esteemed as good citizens in the Roman Empire, except when they refused to honor the emperors as Deities.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)