This is being published today, but I'm writing this piece a little over a week out from the election. I’m willing to bet that this is how a lot of people feel this morning: disappointed, tired, anxious about the future…and that’s those who voted for the winner!
We’re now on the other side of what can only be described as an 18-month political “bender.” We’ve made ourselves drunk over the past year and a half on accusations, slander, hyperbole and partisan pot-shots.
And like the binge drinker who wakes up the morning after a few too many shots, we’re not happy or fulfilled. In fact, we wonder “how did we get here?” We try to piece together the decisions that led us to this place and events just don’t seem to add up. We start to wonder about the choice we’ve made while our faculties were impaired and the reality of what awaits starts to slowly seep in…and we’re terrified!
Well, we can’t change what we’ve done. We’ve got to live with that. What we can change is the kind of thinking and behavior that put us here. We CAN take our lives back from politics, both individually and as a nation. Here’s how:
- Admit that we have a problem. We do. As individuals we’re far too willing to sacrifice our own wills and decision making to partisan organizations. Those can be the Democrat or Republican Party apparatus, or the media organizations that serve them. We lap up the unhealthy stuff they feed us on cable TV, the internet and social media. We allow our minds to be melted into the “us v. them” mentality that lines their pockets with our cash. We stop thinking about principle and fall in line next to “our guy” (or gal), overlooking obvious fatal character flaws that should prohibit these folks from serving as the local dog-catcher, much less the leader of the United States. But we make excuses because “the other” is dangerous. Our candidate might be flawed, we say, but he/she is the lesser of two evils. Well, that’s still evil.
- We turn our problem over to God. The biggest reason we got into this mess in the first place is because we forgot what words get capitalized. We put a “G” in front of government and a “g” in front of God. We thought, “if we just elect the right people and appoint the right judges, we can legislate God’s will into existence." That model just doesn’t exist in God’s Word! If we’re going to recover from our addiction to politics, we have to turn the power back over to God. Only He can change people’s hearts. If America is truly going to be great again, we have to make God great again.
- We have to get away from those things that trigger our addiction. Like the substance abuser whose doctor informs him of the damage done by years of abuse, we can’t be all that surprised that we’ve reached this state. We spend countless hours listening to hateful, divisive rhetoric on talk radio and cable TV and compound that by reading blogs and social media filled with hyperbole and one-sided “news.” Is it any wonder after inputting all that garbage that our minds have been negatively affected? Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8 that we’re to think about “whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy.” Does that sound like political rhetoric to you? If we’re going to take our lives back from politics, we’ve got to make a clean break from the sources.
- We have to replace the bad with good. We can’t just walk away from politics altogether though. We can't quit cold turkey. We do still live in a democracy that demands our participation, and that should be an informed participation. So we have to find news sources that aren’t partisan. They’re out there, believe it or not. And we have to start parsing the information we get, not on whether it fits our preconceived partisan ideas about what’s “good” or “bad,” but on whether it fits God’s eternal standards for what’s right or wrong. If a candidate from our party is on the wrong side of God’s standard, then we have to stand against that candidate and insist on better.
- Get some balance in what you consume. We can’t binge 24/7 political news. It’s just not healthy. We need to be spending time in God’s Word, first of all. That’s going to give us the spiritual nourishment and basis for wisdom that we need to be good citizens. Then, when we’re looking for other information to “consume,” we need use Paul’s standard from Philippians. New Life publishes positive, uplifting content every single day. Publications and sites that are dedicated to building people up, not tearing them down should be getting all our clicks and hits.
Now I’m sure some are reading this and saying, “Steve, this is a pipe dream. You really think me doing all this will make a difference?” Yes, I think it will make a yuuge difference…to you! You’ll become a better-informed citizen who makes better decisions come election day (and every other day!); and whatever the results, you’ll not live in fear or anxiety because you know who’s really in control!
And imagine if all the people who call themselves Christians in this country did this, Democrat and Republican. What if the millions of Americans who profess Christ actually demanded our leaders behave in a Christ-like manner? (And no, I’m not talking about a faith litmus test or demanding candidates attend a particular church). What if we told our candidates, “we expect you, at the very least, to practice the fruits of the spirit. If you want our vote, it won’t be won by how you vote on gay marriage or your position on abortion. Our votes go to the candidates who best demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in the public square. Those aren't partisan and they shouldn't be negotiable. Make that the starting point, then we can talk about the issues.
We can take our lives back from politics. And if we do, what a world we can make.
If you're ready to take your life back from politics, or any other source of pain that's keeping you from living the life God wants for you, Take Your Life Back, the latest book from Steve Arterburn and Dr. Dave Stoop can help you get started.