By Tim Rowe
The Bible is very clear that our heart’s allegiance must be to God first as we are to have no other gods or idols in our lives that we put above Him. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and put nothing ahead of Him. I think when we hear the word “idol” we think of a wooden pagan god or some huge statue of some ancient god of the past. We often think that idols only existed in Bible times. This is not true as an idol is anything that you elevate to a position of worship and devotion in your life and look to it for something that only God can provide. An idol is anything that is more important to you than God.
Did you know that a political philosophy or ideology, a political party or cause can be an idol in our heart? In Timothy Keller’s book “Counterfeit Gods: the Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters,” he says, “It is the settled tendency of human societies to turn good political causes into counterfeit gods.” He says that when a society has lost the reality of God they often turn to politics to give them fulfillment and meaning in life. “We can look upon our political leaders as “messiahs,” our political policies as saving doctrine, and turn our political activism into a kind of religion” We can make the Republican, Democratic or Tea Party, socialism or capitalism, or any political cause into an idol in our heart. We can look to this idol for answers and meaning in life that only God can provide.
He says when prosperity and power of the nation become unconditional that veto all other concerns, then violence and injustice can be perpetuated without question. “If the end indiscriminately justifies every means…Thus a nation’s goal of material prosperity becomes an idol when we use it to justify the destruction of the natural environment or allow the abuse of individuals or classes of people. A nation’s goal of military security becomes an idol when we use it to justify the removal of rights to free speech and judicial process, or the abuse of an ethnic minority”
Our political philosophy can become an idol when we make it a “saving faith.” An ideology, like an idol, is a limited, partial account of reality that is raised to the level of the final say on things. Ideologues believe that their school or party has the real and complete answer to society’s problems. Ideologies do not depend upon God but look to some idea or person for the answers to life and society.
Keller says one of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol we become dependent upon it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way our reaction is complete panic. “We cry this is the end. There is no hope!” Keller says this maybe the reason why so many people respond to US political trends in such an extreme way. When the other party wins, a certain percentage talks about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. They believe if their policies and people are not in power everything will fall apart. This is idolatry my friend and many Christians have fallen into this trap of setting this idol in their hearts.
Another sign of political idolatry according to Keller is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken but evil. The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in US politics today is a sign we have made political activism into a form of religion. We forget the main problem in life is sin and the only solution is God and His grace. If something besides God is the main remedy you sell out to, it is idolatry. We are to love and support our country and there is nothing wrong with being patriotic but the viciousness of politics recently and often by our Christian brothers and sisters has taken politics and political causes to idol status above God. Human thinking always elevates some finite value or object to be the Answer. Socialism, Communism and even Capitalism has been exalted to godlike status as the answer to all society’s problems. We have been sold the idea that only these ideas can make us free and happy and then we throw a little religion on top and think we are doing God a favor. Political ideologies make absolute promise and demand total life commitment.
The problem has been even though many Christians have meant well and it has been often for a good cause, they have allowed the idea to be elevated above God where their character and manner of life does not reflect Christ-like behavior. We are not imitating our Heavenly Father when we allow our minds and mouth to spew out hatred against every opponent of our idol. We have become a part of poisonous public discourse and allowed our hearts to be filled with bitterness, resentment, anger, hatred and arrogance toward any person that dares be on the other side. No one is exempt from these hateful accusations as they are hurled against the President and every elected leader and they are called anti-christs and worse. These Christians mean well but what has concerned me is that it has been elevated to an idol in the heart of many and that never glorifies God. This does not glorify Christ. It plays right into the pattern of the world. God still says we are to pray for our leaders not villify them. Neither political party has all the answers but God does. The Tea Party does not have all the answers but God does. We need to be involved in the issues that affect our country, but let us remember that nothing should ever be elevated about God in our lives and only He can save and give us life and joy. No political idea or party can ever take the place of God in our lives.