The current issue of Christianity Today contains an alarming nugget from the American Journal of Political Science that sheds some light on the disturbing ways our national politics get mixed in with our identities as followers of Jesus. According to the latest research, a small but significant number of Americans don’t vote based on their religion, race, or ethnicity. Instead, they switch those personal identities to better align with their political preferences.
Instead of identifying first as a Christian and voting for candidates and party platforms through that lens, more and more people identify as Republicans or Democrats first and shape their religious beliefs through those lenses. What one believes about the Bible and about Jesus as Lord is determined by that person’s political affiliations, not the other way around.
The research indicates that, over a four year period, the probability that a conservative Republican will start to identify as “born again” is one out of 25. And the probability that a Christian liberal Democrat will stop identifying as “born again” is the same, one in 25.
In other words, how a person’s political party leads on issues of immigration, race, violence, war, abortion, and sexual ethics is more and more forming how Christians interpret their Bibles, how Christians view their own Christianity. Instead of the Bible and the Church shaping our views on politics, our politics are shaping our views on the Bible and the Church.
Just as troubling is that this doesn’t simply impact the spiritual formation of American Christians and their fidelity to Jesus. This also impacts how non-Christians view the Church. The bottom line here is that the term “born again” is increasingly coming to mean “Republican.” God’s Church in this country is accelerating in lining up with a particular political party, its leaders, its methods, and its styles.
One of the best ways to shut down any conversation about our Lord with a person under the age of 40 is to tell them that being a Christian has anything to do with national politics. That following Jesus and belonging to his Kingdom means involving yourself in the ways and means and ends of this nation’s politics. If you do that, it’s over. And we’re doing it more and more and more.
What’s going to dissolve the troubling marriage between national politics and God’s Church in this country? What’s going to reverse the order so that we are convicted first of God’s ways and means and goals and then decide what we do and how we behave relative to national politics?
When we realize that being born again means being born into a whole new political body. We are citizens of an eternal Kingdom. We belong to a particular people. We serve a King who sits on a throne. We have rules and laws and codes by which we live and a political ethic that determines how we interact with others. That is our identity. First and always. Everything else runs through that.