Mary Lederleitner on Have Your Political Views Become an Idol?

Mary Lederleitner is author of the book Women in God’s Mission and Managing Director of the Church Evangelism Institute at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center.


Are your political views and convictions growing in intensity? Are you finding yourself feeling angrier than you used to be about a variety of political issues? Are people in your extended family, community, or church becoming angrier?

In addition to being in the midst of a global pandemic, widespread demonstrations about racial injustices, and an election year, we live in a media saturated environment where hate and division trigger wider viewership, larger ratings, and significantly higher advertising revenue.

In such an environment, how can we as individual Christians, or as pastors or ministry leaders tasked with leading others, know when we are getting sidetracked, especially when “believing you’re right and that others are wrong” triggers intense and addictive feelings?

Media outlets on both the left and right are using language and tactics to inflame anger, alienate, and disparage whomever ‘the other’ might be and, as a result, there are growing levels of disrespect and hatred towards people who hold different political views.

As followers of Christ who are engaging in this process, are we starting to cross a line that shouldn’t be crossed? And, if we are, how can we know when this is happening, and what are the costs?

Signs of political idolatry

Idolatry comes in all shapes and sizes. It is not limited to people who put a metal or wooden statue on an altar and light incense to it. Although this happens in many parts of the world, idolatry is a deeper issue. Here are a few questions to discern if it is at work in our hearts.

Who or what am I trusting to provide for my future?

People enter into idolatry because they feel the need for safety and security. Life can be hard and even if we are experiencing good times, there is a sense that we do not want them to end.

It doesn’t take much to realize how truly fragile, vulnerable, and powerless we are in this world. The pandemic alone, with all its recent economic ripple effects, has made this painfully clear even for many who thought they could control their destinies.

Political idolatry happens when we begin fixating on what a human leader or political party can do for us more than we focus our eyes on our Heavenly Father, our true provider who calls us to trust him and not worry (Matt. 6:25-34).

How am I treating people who disagree with me?

We can also tell if we have moved into political idolatry by how we treat people with different opinions, be they on the left or right of the political spectrum. All human beings, despite their political views or political affiliations, are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-28).

As such, humans are held to a very high standard regarding how we treat people. Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46 that whatsoever we do to “the least of these” we have done to him. In the current political environment “the least of these” are often whoever is on the other end of the political spectrum.

When we interact with “those people” who see political and social issues so differently, do we treat them with dignity and honor the way we would treat Jesus? Are we treating them with kindness so we bear the image of our Heavenly Father (Matt. 5:43-48)?

Where is my loyalty being placed?

The next logical step in discerning if we are letting our political views become idols is by looking at the loyalty and allegiance question. When faced with a choice between what political pundits and political leaders are asking us to do, and what Scripture asks of us as followers of Christ, which actions do we take?

For example, God is going to judge us for how we speak about people, and for the names we call them (Matt. 5:21-24). Do we take our cues from political leaders and fear them, or do we fear God, the one who deserves our ultimate allegiance (Luke 12:2-5)?

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Source: Christianity Today