Every four years, I see something peculiar happen inside Christian culture: evangelicals stop evangelizing and begin campaigning. Many within the church trade the cross of Christ for the cross of a candidate. Under the guise of patriotic duty, we begin to worship an idol.
I can see you now - recoiling at my damning indictment. How dare I accuse God's people of worshiping anyone other than God? Chill for a moment and allow me to explain.
Let's start with the definition of the word. According to Merriam-Webster, an idol is: "a representation or symbol of an object of worship; a false god."
For many Americans, their patriotism borders on jingoism with such fervor that it resembles religious devotion. Straight ticket voters, partisan polarization, and party purity pledges exemplify blind admiration and adoration. The GOP, DNC, TEA Party, Constitutionalists, and Libertarians are the political versions of Baptists, Methodists, Jesuits, and Lutherans. If political parties are the neo-denominations in this faux religion, elephants and donkeys are their graven images; the names on a ballot are false gods.
But how does the Bible define idolatry? In Old Testament scripture, idols were constructed of wood, stone, gold, or silver. Where people were created by God, lower case gods were created by people. Deuteronomy, calls them "a thing made by the hands of a craftsman." They are described in Isaiah as "the work of their hands … what their own fingers have made." And Habakkuk asks "What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image?" In the letter to the Colossians, Paul gave a broader definition. "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
Covetousness is idolatry.
Covetousness is a word of greed. It is a state of desire for wealth and possessions, frequently wealth and possessions belonging to someone else. Paul describes this as idolatry because we are placing a greater value on terrestrial things than we do on God; we love this thing or person more than it/he/she deserves.
In an interview, John Piper explained it like this: "It starts in the heart, craving, wanting, enjoying, being satisfied by anything that you treasure more than God. That is an idol. Paul calls this covetousness, a disordered love or desire, loving more than God what ought to be loved less than God and only for the sake of God. But covetousness is the condition that this disordered heart is into, an act of loving too much what ought to be loved less."
Piper's perspective is that idols are anything we love greater than we love God which brings us pleasure. Idols are seeking security, or satisfaction, or peace outside of God’s design. An idol is any person or thing that is loved, wanted, or desired more than God. Idols are those activities or relationships we enjoy or value above God.
Do our political obsessions fit this definition of an idol? Are we seeking security in an elected official or their promise of Supreme Court justices? Will we find satisfaction if our preferred candidates win? Are we hoping our political ideology is represented in the final vote tallies?
This doesn't mean you are forbidden from showing an interest in politics. Nor is this meant to criticize anyone who gets involved with the process as either a candidate or a campaign worker. The implications should not paint all of politics as a den of idolatrous hedonism.
We need to vote. As long as we live in a country that grants us the freedom to do so, we should always exercise our right to vote. And we should vote according to our conscience or in accordance with our moral standards. However, for the Christian, weather we are casting a vote or asking people to vote for us, we must remember that our hope is in someone bigger than an election. We hope in someone greater than America.
As the Psalmist wrote,
"I find rest in God; only he gives me hope.
He is my rock and my salvation.
He is my defender; I will not be defeated.
My honor and salvation come from God.
He is my mighty rock and my protection.”
If anyone assures you their candidate is the only one who can fix things, it’s idolatry.
If anyone claims their candidate will protect their way of life, it’s idolatry.
If anyone says the other candidate will destroy their way of life, it’s idolatry.
If anyone places more faith in a candidate than they do in God, it’s idolatry.
If anyone is worried that God might not be able to protect them if the wrong candidate is elected, it’s idolatry.
If anyone insists that voting for a specific person is your Christian duty and anyone voting for the other person is a heathen, it’s idolatry.
By the end of today, I hope you have voted. If that means you voted for Clinton, awesome. If that means you voted for Trump, OK. If that means you voted third party, great. While I don't think that Clinton will be a good president, I'm not worried what will happen if she wins. Even though I think Trump will be a dangerous and disastrous president, I'm not worried what will happen if he wins. Even if it is bad for me personally, I am still not worried because my hope does not rest upon the shoulders of Clinton, Trump, or any of the other candidates. My hope is in God.
Assuming the worst rumors and accusations about Clinton are true and she destroys America, I'll be alright because I'm God's. And if the worst of what anyone has ever said about Trump (including himself) is true and he destroys the planet, I'll be alright because I'm God's. And even if I'm not alright, I will still be alright because I am God's.