Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Politics and Love

Political discourse can be more frustrating for Christians than for many others because of our need to love. God commands us to love: to love God by obeying Him, to love one another, to love our families, to love neighbors, to love foreigners in our land, and even to love our enemies. We are also commanded to act based on love – warm fuzzy feelings are not enough. The Bible even says Christians should be recognized by their love. There is no question that we are failing in our Christian walk if we are motivated by hate instead of love. But politics rarely results in everyone even feeling loved.

No matter how just or necessary a war may be, killing combatants on purpose, civilians by accident, and appearing to fuel the killing done by our antagonists, always looks and feels unloving to a significant number of people.

When a group or class of people need money or food or health care or housing or education or encouragement or self esteem, it always seems unloving to many to say government larges is not the appropriate solution to that need.

When we say we want to limit illegal and undocumented immigration, it sounds like we do not care about the needs of penniless Mexicans who need a chance to feed and cloth their families.

Opposition to homosexual and polyamourous marriage sounds like we hate homosexuals and advocates of unconventional sexualities. Resisting our sex drenched and obsessed society makes us sound like we are the ones who are obsessed with our supposed loathing of sex.

Stiff sentencing laws for violent criminals make their friends, families, and protectors certain that we must hate them.

And, when we argue against the coherence and practicality of our political opponent’s arguments, they say we are filed with hate for them personally.

I know many Christians and some secularists who are so affected by the desire to avoid appearing unloving that they always side with those on the apparently “loving” side of these issues or claim that these issues are of no real political importance.

The problem is that sometimes there is a difference between appearing loving and being loving. God Himself is the very definition of love. But how many millions have doubted His love and His goodness because of the pain and suffering brought into the world by the fall?

A good parent cannot always give in to the felt needs of their children. Bad behavior must be disciplined so that the children will grow up to be virtuous and happy adults. Budgets must be kept so that real present and future needs can be met. Difficult priorities must be set. Children may think good parents are unloving when they discipline them and when they say “no.” But the children of lax parents know deep in their heart that they are really unloved – because their parents care more about impressions and convenience than reality. Wishful thinking and appeasement are not good for families or nations.

So we speak the truth in love – even when it makes some people think we are unloving. Real love, as ethicist Lewis Smedes said, is wishing the other well and acting reasonably upon that wish. Real love is not wanting to be loved and doing whatever you think people think they want to win their love – no matter how damaging or unaffordable.

Because we love the people of the world, we cannot allow totalitarian regimes to grow and spread.

Because we love the poor, we need to do more for them through charity and the church while government concentrates on unmet emergency needs, incentives, and eliminating barriers to job creation and social mobility. Because we love the poor, we also need a way for them to obtain a good private education that includes real moral truth and the gospel instead of a public education that feeds all the values that maintain poverty and crime. The government should not raise taxes so high that it destroys the economy and creates more poverty, even if that means saying “no” to some felt or even real needs.

For the sake of our children’s future happiness, we should not let law and public education user in an era of no sexual boundaries; it will cause even more pain and suffering and disease than the playboy lifestyle and the “sixties” morality have already caused.

But in advocating the policies of tough love, we need to be loving people. We need to pray for God’s help to not only love our enemies and neighbors, but to be able to communicate rationally and persuasively in a way that lets them know they are loved even though we may disagree with them or their lifestyle choices. While humor can be effective, we need to be careful not to use name calling or to go too far. We need to avoid becoming the stereotypes wishful thinkers have of us. And, we need to really act loving – not just favor policies that feather our own nests while failing to give to charity or to provide alternatives that work. This is all difficult, but life is difficult. God has set us in a moral adventure, not a perpetual spa for our egos.

We also need to remember that policies choices are not always easy things. We can, and sometimes will be wrong. Humility and persuadability go hand in hand with love too.

So let us argue and act and vote in love.

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