Talking Politics and Religion? What Is This?

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

— Abraham Lincoln.

What’s going on here with politics and religion?

How Should Christians Vote has a provocative title, but it is not an answer. It is a question for Christians about politics and religion.

It is an invitation to reflect on whether Abraham Lincoln was right, and whether we have better angels of our nature. Better angels, that perhaps, can help us to see our politics not exclusively in terms of right and wrong, righteous and evil, friends and enemies. Instead, can we reflect on our role in the world as Christians, and consider the problem of pride in all of our hearts? It is a chance to stop and think about motivations, and ask if we’re willing to examine our own more critically than we do others. For those who are willing, it is perhaps also an opportunity to contribute with empathy and vulnerability and humility.

Now that you’re here, here is some additional context about what this is, and is not, intended to be.

This is an uncertain attempt at obedience

I’ve struggled mightily with the idea of faith and politics for years. I’ve slowly come to realize how similar I am to the Pharisees, having spent ample (and unknowing) time as both a Conservative Pharisee and a Liberal Pharisee. In February of 2020, I felt like God was calling me to explore this subject more. The question, “How Should Christians Vote?” came into my mind during a quiet time, and I committed that if the domain name was somehow available, I would get it. It was and I did.

Since that time, I really have had no sense of God leading anywhere on this subject, other than to keep thinking about it and reading on the subject. And now, some of those thoughts are published here, including thoughts on marriage counseling and politics.

This is not an attempt to change a vote

I am a registered Republican who would describe himself as an Independent. I do not know who I’m going to vote for in the next election, and haven’t even decided if I will vote at all. I believe there are informed voices that have an informed perspective on the topic, but I personally have no unique insight to share that should influence your voting plans. What I do have is a deep and growing conviction that the intersection of faith and politics has been a highly problematic one for Christians like me, especially evangelicals. At the very least, I know that it has been hard for me.

If there is a mission statement to this exercise it is this: To prove to myself and others that my calling as a Christian is not defined by which party or person I choose to vote – or not vote – for.

This is a chance the Pharisees to get some good PR.

Would you think about the Pharisees differently if you knew they thought they were the good guys? I see myself in the Pharisees, in no small part because it is so easy to cling to self righteousness when I see myself as the one who is the reformer, the one who is on the side of the people, and the one that God has blessed. Learning more about the Pharisees has allowed me to hold the mirror up to my own assumptions and beliefs, and those whitewashed tombs have challenged me in ways I never thought possible.

This is a call for humility in a world that honors the proud

I’m a person perpetually battling against a desire to build myself up into someone who is worth something. But this idol-making is antithetical to the Gospel and my call as a Christian. It’s only when I recognize the self-righteousness in my own heart (an exercise that I require daily, at minimum) that I can think clearly about pride and humility, and find the peace that comes through submission and surrender. I believe that C.S. Lewis was right when he called Pride the Great Sin, that afflicts all us.

This is an attempt to re-frame the enemy

As Christians, we don’t struggle against Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians, or against anything that is flesh and blood. Our struggle is against powers and principalities, against pride and greed and selfish ambition and slothfulness and racism and a misplaced desire for earthly power.

We have an Enemy who would love to see believers thrown into disunion over political striving, and who would recast faith as politics and politics as faith. He is an enemy who gains control through half-truths and fear, and desires to see a church made up of selfish, proud, and graceless Christians. I believe that reminding ourselves of this is one of the many ways that help to see the world in a new light.

This is a chance to hear from others who have voices that are worth hearing

C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Latasha Morrison, Fyodor Dostoevky, Jemar Tisby, Craig Denison. These are people who have contributed in a meaningful way to my own journey of learning. Any ideas that might seem original here are probably not so. I believe that learning from those who are wiser than ourselves is both a great exercise in humility and a practical way to learn more about God, ourselves, and the nature of the world around us. Resources from these authors and thinkers are scattered throughout, including this Tim Keller sermon on why politics is like sex. (?!)

This is a refusal to believe that racism is a “political” issue

The average black family in America has a net worth that is 10% that of the average white family in America. Is this because whites are simply 10 times better than blacks at building wealth? Have Americans with lighter skin, in aggregate, earned more from their hard work and ingenuity, while Americans with darker skin have simply failed to adequately pull themselves up by their bootstraps? Or, could this vast disparity be related to the legacy of slavery that was ingrained in our system of economics, politics (and yes, religion) since the founding of our country?

This is a link to a 9-minute economics podcast on the persistence of poverty in certain areas of Bolivia and Peru. The short version is this: in 1573 Spanish conquistadors instituted forced labor amongst the indigenous population in areas with rich silver deposits. One out of seven males were required to work in the mines. From then until forced labor was abolished in 1812, there were significantly fewer public investments in the mining communities than in other areas of Bolivia and Peru where the Spanish settlers lived. The majority of public works projects and educational investments were concentrated in wealthier areas in the region. Today, more than 450 years after forced labor was instituted and 200 years after forced labor was ended, there is still a wealth gap between the old mining communities compared to the rest of the country.

This is not a project designed to address racism. There are far more educated and important voices on the topic, and I’d encourage you to read them. But it is also not designed to ignore racism, because as Gospel-believing Christians I believe we are all called to deal with the ugliness in our own hearts and the ugliness of systems that have allowed this “Christian nation” to have such a vast gulf that exists between people who have different skin colors.

Racism should not be a political cause. And that’s good news for us Christians who believe that we are all lost without God’s grace and are therefore free to extend it to others.

This is a question and not an answer

How should Christians vote? I’ve wrestled with this question throughout the years. In the past, I searched for a simple answer. Should Christians vote for this party or that party? Should Christians vote exclusively in favor of this policy or that policy? What happens when when those policies don’t all seem to land on one end of the political spectrum? Where are the rules?

After many false starts, I’ve realized that the real question for me is not “who should Christians vote for?”, but rather the “how” one goes about the process. I have been learning from mature believers from all across the political spectrum, and believe that I’ve found commonalities rooted in themes like humility, empathy, a perspective not ultimately rooted in this world, and a willingness to admit mistakes and hear from different points of view.

But even still, this is a question without a single answer. I believe that simply by asking these questions about politics and religion, we can start to confront the idolatry of partisanship and prove to ourselves and others that our calling as Christians is not defined by the person or party we may choose to vote for, or against.

This is an invitation

For anyone who so desires, this an invitation to contribute a perspective. Topics might include…

Pride and humility: 

What is something you are proud about? How has God been working on you in this area?

What is an idol that you have in your life? Has it remained consistent or changed over time? What do you think they are rooted in?


What is something that you struggle with? Do you believe God is teaching you anything during this time?

Challenging our own thinking: 

What is something you believe you have learned / are learning that is challenging long held beliefs related to politics and religion (or otherwise)?

What is something positive or praiseworthy that you’ve learned about a person or party on the other side of the political spectrum from you?

Counting others as greater than ourselves:

What is a way that you have been learning to serve others.

How could you serve a person or group on the opposite side of the political spectrum from yourself? For the purposes of this exercise, assume that giving them a lecture on how they are wrong does not count as service.  ; )

For anything else, guest authors are welcome to contribute something that might be a more “political” subject related to a bill, or a law, or a policy. Anything in this direct category of politics and religion will be reviewed by two guest editors, who are Christians with opposing political views. The content will only be published if approved by both.

Politics is Like Sex

“You know what, politics is like sex. You always knew that didn’t you?”

— Tim Keller, “With a Politician” (28:52)

The contents of this article are entirely from Tim Keller’s sermon, “With a Politician.” Link to the listen to the sermon at the end of this article.

Tim Keller, With a Politician

You know what, politics is like sex. You always knew that didn’t you?

Think about this. Back in Luke Chapter 7, do you remember a woman? The woman who was a prostitute? And she gave Jesus the perfume, alabaster, flask around her neck. Remember that?

Because what she was saying is, “I thought spirituality was really all about sexuality. I thought basically sex was what moved the world. But I realize now that sexuality is about spirituality. Actually, I realize now that through my sexual activity, I was trying to get something done that only Jesus can give me. I was trying to get closure. I was trying to get a sense of security and acceptance. In all of my sexuality I thought I was really achieving something that only Jesus can achieve for me.” And therefore, she laid her sexuality down before Jesus’ feet. That didn’t mean now she could never have sex. But she’s never going to make it into that idol. And it’s never going to be the thing that drives her, and it’s never going to be her identity, and she’s never going to be in a sense, a slave to it. Never again.

Now politics is like that.

In what way?

There are an awful lot of people who ask me questions. They say, “come on now, what is your church really about politically.” In other words, the idea is, that really here’s religion but underneath everything is really politics.



Here’s politics and underneath everything is really religion. In politics, if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re going to try to get things done in politics that only God can do. You’re going to want to have a sense of impact. You’re going to want to have a sense of significance. You want to have a sense of mission. You want to say, “I can change the world. I can really change the world.”

Politics can only change so much.

And if you turn politics into an idol, you’ll turn to something. If you’re a conservative, you’ll make a god out of the market. If you’re a liberal, you’ll make a god out of the state. And what you’ll do is, you’ll say that is the answer to all the problems. And you will, just like, in a sense, the woman used sex to do something that only God can give her, closure, so you can use politics to get something only God can give you: which is mission, impact, change the world!

You can only do that through God.

Get involved in politics. But first, like the woman laid down her alabaster perfume, Pilate should have laid down his scepter. Think about it, Jesus could have given it back! Jesus wouldn’t have said, “well, you’re a Christian now, you can’t be involved in politics.” Oh no. Finally, finally, finally.

Pilate would have finally not been such the screw-up that he was in politics, frankly.

Now in what way then though is Jesus political? You see, on the one hand, Jesus didn’t say, “yes, I’m political.” Because he had to show that he’s not, and that he doesn’t bring you a political program, and that to become a Christian you do not first decide where are the politics going. You must not do that! Otherwise he’s not the king, you see!

But on the other hand. Ahh, on the other hand, the reason he didn’t say, “no, I’m not political.” He didn’t yes, but he didn’t say no. Why? Because in the end, what Jesus Christ does to you, changes every part of your life. Absolutely. You see?

If you want to know how that works, in a very sly way, Luke is not only showing us that he’s not political because Herod and Pilate say he’s not. And that’s Luke’s way of saying Jesus is not, basically, a political person at all. He didn’t come like that. He didn’t come to do that. So don’t think that basically Christianity is all about politics.

But on the other hand, there’s a third politician. Did you know there’s a third political operative in this story? There’s a third one. You say well ok, there’s Pilate, Herod…where’s the third political operative?

It’s Barabbas.

Oh yea. There was a real revolutionary, and he was in prison. And it was the custom at the Passover, you know, to free a prisoner. And so even though Luke doesn’t tell us, the other three gospels tell us that it was Pilate’s idea. Pilate comes and says, “You know, I don’t really want to have to kill this man, so I’ll tell you what: I’ll give you a choice. You want me to convict him, but let’s free a prisoner. What shall it be? Jesus or Barabbas? Barabbas was a real revolutionary. In other words, Barabbas was in jail for really doing the things that Jesus was about to be punished for. And of course, Pilate was a little upset and didn’t realize it backfired because….Pilate puts in front of them two Jesuses.

Did you know that Barabbas’s name was Jesus? Do you know the name Barabbas means “son of the father?” And so you have in front of us, two sons of the father, we have in front of us two Jesuses.

Pilate says which one do you want? And of course, the world says, give us Barabbas.


What Luke is trying to say is, Jesus, in one way, is a revolutionary. A very different kind of revolutionary. A very different kind.

You see on the one hand, the story of Barabbas and Jesus is brought out because Barabbas is you and me. When Jesus Christ is killed for the very sins that Barabbas is guilty of, and Barabbas is freed, what have you got a picture of?

Do you not see it?

Don’t you know an insult when you see it?

The Gospel writer Luke is trying to say we’re Barabbas. Can you imagine Barabbas? Barabbas is in prison and he’s getting ready to be crucified, and he’s thinking about the suffocation, and he’s thinking about the nails in the hands. And then he hears a crowd outside crying “crucify him, crucify him.” And he’s thinking, “oh my gosh, it’s going to be any minute.” And then he hears the soldiers come in, and open the day, and he says, “oh my gosh, here it’s going to be.”

And the soldiers say, you’re free.

And Barabbas would say, “how can I be free”?

And the soldiers, you know, being very gruff [and stupid] say “oh here, come on.” And he takes him out…and he shows him.

What’s Barabbas going to say? “Wait a minute, that’s my cross, he’s bearing. Those are my nails he’s receiving, in his hands. And that is my death he’s dying. He’s the only person in history that can actually literally say that. And I am breathing his fresh air. And I am released.”

You see that word in the end? He released. He released, Barabbas.

That is the Gospel.

God made him who knew no sin to be sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Do you know why Jesus was not saying anything? Do you know why Jesus was letting them beat him?

Because Jesus Christ was taking our punishment. He was acting the way a guilty person should act. He was being true to us. He was being faithful to us. And, if you take that in, if you take that all the way in. If you know, that you are now – don’t you see what’s so interesting, Jesus didn’t just die for you so your sins are forgiven in a general way – what you have is what the theologians here, in the picture of Jesus and Barabbas, call double imputation. Double imputation!

It’s not just that Jesus died so your sins go to him. But his freedom comes to you. His righteousness comes to you. You are now treated as if you never did these things. God now accepts you and loves you as you are.

That’s revolutionary. Absolutely revolutionary.


Because, do you know what it means now?

It means your identity…

Your real wealth isn’t….

Your real citizenship isn’t…

Your race.

Your ethnicity.

Your culture.

Your class status.

None of those things are as important now as what Jesus is to you. And that means your whole attitude toward your politics, toward your culture, toward your class, has all been changed. And you’re free to go, wherever you can do the most good.

You don’t have to fight. You’re not bitter all the time. Because your identity isn’t your race, it’s not your class, it’s Jesus. It’s not your wealth, it’s not your career, it’s Jesus.

You suddenly are radically changed, radically freed in every way. Your attitude toward everything. He is incredibly political.

And let me close with this. Tom Skinner, African American pastor who lived in New York and died not too long ago. He preached a sermon at Urbana Missionary Conference, in Urbana, Illinois in 1970. I didn’t make it, but I got the tape, and a number of my friends went. I was a brand new Christian. And I could not listen to this sermon enough.

You know, we’re about to take missions offering at the end of this sermon, at the end of this service.


Because we believe that the best way to change the world is to fill it with the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing more revolutionary, and politically revolutionary in the end than that.

Marriage Counseling and Politics

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

— Jesus, from Luke 6: 37 – 38 (ESV)

“Yea, right. I’m out of here.”

— The author, from marriage counseling (circa 2013)

A plug for marriage counseling

My wife and I have been seeing a marriage counselor over the last several years. It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made as a couple. Even today, as we’ve smoothed out some rough edges, it’s still something we’ll continue to do.

It wasn’t always that way though.

False start, on the offense…

We first tried our hand at counseling around 7 years ago. My wife had just finished a grueling period of professional training working 70 – 80 hours a week, in which we were rarely able to connect. We had survived, but had definitely not established healthy patterns for marriage. We knew we needed help to hit the reset button, so even though it felt “weird” (embarassing), we went to see a counselor.

We made it about two sessions together before I bailed and refused to go back.

The reason? I decided I didn’t respect the intellectual integrity of the counselor. She insisted that no matter what my wife and I each thought individually about our problems, we both needed to be willing to share the blame for them equally. I was ready to share some of the blame, but definitely not the 50 / 50 split that she advocated. Based on an objective review of “The Facts,” I was convinced that an impartial jury would saddle me with no more than 20% of the blame. I’d willingly own up to my mistakes, but only if the chief offender who slept on the other side of our bed would admit to the 80% that was clearly, clearly her fault. In my view, all I wanted was to pursue the truth with objectivity, and use those “facts” as the logical springboard into the rest of the conversation. I told the counselor as much, and (shockingly!) she did not agree. So I decided I didn’t respect her process and that wouldn’t waste my time with it any longer.

The truth

The reality was I was too angry, hurt, and proud to wipe the slate clean for a fresh start with my wife. I couldn’t give up the things that I *knew* to be true, including the presumption that I was already most of the way right on my own.  I quit when my presumptions were challenged and instead, missed far more important truths. One of the important truths I missed was that a relationship requires grace and unconditional love in order to grow. And those were two things I lacked as a person.


In a way, some of the same dynamics that plagued our marriage are at work today with Christians and politics.

Self delusion

I would have said (and did say) that our marriage was of the utmost importance to me, and that my thoughts about marriage were grounded in what God has outlined in the Bible. But my actions betrayed my true beliefs: my pride, wounds, resentments, and need for justification came first. In the same way, as Christians we say that we will have no other gods before God, but we can make idols of our political beliefs. Even worse, we often intermix our political affiliation with our faith. Our priorities are upside down.

We cling to what we “know” to be true in our beliefs, but miss what we don’t know, unwilling to truly listen to another perspective that challenges our political beliefs and our hearts.

When forced to confront difficult conversations that could actually challenge us and grow us, we often quit, preferring to wait for another opportunity with a more sympathetic audience that will echo our preexisting notions.

Even when we are willing to admit to being imperfect, we are much better at finding the imperfections in others than in ourselves. We read Luke 6: 41 – 42 and imagine that it doesn’t apply to us in the same way. We somehow think Jesus would have recognized that we have only a bit of sawdust in our eyes, and that those we rail against in our social media comments are the ones with the planks.

While I hope most of us are not as blind as me, we act self righteously as we forget about extending grace and seek to justify ourselves in our own minds and before others. In the process we erode our witness as Christians and all too often seek to make God into a deity of our imagination, rather than humbling ourselves so that we can be remade in the image of Jesus.

Can we agree?

As Christians, the first and greatest command is to love God with all our heart and soul and mind. I believe this means that it’s possible to be a Christian who also happens to be a Republican, or to be a Christian who also happens to vote differently.

If Jesus were alive today, he would almost certainly not be a member of either of the two main political parties in the United States. Political conventions on both sides of the aisle would likely both love to have him speak on certain topics, and would cringe at his perspective on others.  In his day, Jesus transcended politics and power and constantly subverted expectations. He rejected the earthly power of the Pharisees and made it clear that his kingdom was not founded on political structures. He was the conquering king who chose to ride into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey instead of a thundering warhorse. The miracle worker who chose to give his life rather than to save himself.

What Happens When Everyone Else is Wrong?

He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plagueSome new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men

Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible.

— Raskolnikov’s dream, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikov in Prison

Towards the end of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the protagonist Raskolnikov is in Siberia after his conviction and has disturbing dreams while recovering from illness in a prison hospital.

Raskolnikov is a convicted murderer. He had developed his “extraordinary man” theory, which he believed gave him license to act as though everyone else was expendable, while he was free to act as a superior being. Acting on his theory ended with murder and prison, the place he eventually began to see things in a new light.

The Dream

He was in the hospital from the middle of Lent till after Easter. When he was better, he remembered the dreams he had while he was feverish and delirious. He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were destroyed except a very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge and could not agree on what to consider evil and what good; they did not whom to blame, who to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns; men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction. The plague spread and moved further and further

What happens when we all know we’re right?

As every person argues for their own perspective, utterly convinced of their own rightness, the world crumbles. When we believe that everyone else is wrong, society loses its ability to distinguish between good and evil and doesn’t know what is worthy of honor and what is worthy of blame. Since all believe they are intellectually and morally superior, they are therefore justified in fighting all the more feverishly for their convictions.

While today we may not be literally killing each in senseless spite, many of us Christians are guilty of virtual murder. Who has not felt tempted towards anger, disdain, or outright contempt when talking about (or typing about) the legitimacy of impeachment or the reliability of the national media or the reasons for the gulf between rich and poor or testing procedures and mask policies for coronavirus?

What if we are wrong when we believe that we alone have the truth? And how can we all be right when professing Christians have such strongly divergent views on the subject? We are all at risk of going mad from the same infection.

The Extraordinary Man (and Woman) Theory

Rasknolnikov is in prison for the murder of an old pawnbroker and her assistant. He’s in prison because he had a theory about the world that he called the extraordinary man theory, and he tried to put that theory into practice with his crime. Raskolnikov’s theory is quite similar to Nietzche’s later Ubermensch theory, that divides the people of the world into two classes. There are the regular people and there are the “extraordinary” or “super” among us, who can set their own rules in their pursuit of greatness. For the Ubermensch, the ends always justify the means.

The practical problem, of course, arises as it does in Rasknolnikov’s dream. When we all believe that we alone have access to the truth there is only disorder and hatred and chaos. The deeper problem is that on some level we all have hearts that crave justification.


We are proud and broken people. Even those of us who call upon the name of Jesus have proud, stubborn hearts that are desperately seeking justification, identity, and security through our own efforts, abilities, and achievements. That’s why we can still manage to sin even after coming to faith and it’s why we desperately need him. Without perpetual renewal, we will tend to convince ourselves that we are extraordinary. We will be just like God’s chosen people who, despite miraculous provision and supernatural guidance, were often described as a “stubborn and stiff-necked people” with hard hearts.

What’s My Problem?

I have a proud heart that left to its own devices will make me into a world class Pharisee. The particular brand of Pharisee has evolved throughout life. While my beliefs have changed, what hasn’t changed is that underlying each of those phases was an ironclad assurance of my own “rightness” and a feeling of superiority to all others who weren’t enlightened enough to share my views.

And I still have plenty of blind spots today. But I’ve begun to see a common thread: there is pride at the center of nearly all of it.