Following the first presidential debate Monday night, the tenor of casual dialogue about politics reached such a low point that it seemed the only thing anyone, myself included, could do in person or on social media was criticize and bemoan both presidential candidates.
We seem especially disillusioned by the fact that politicians often appear to be much more focused on gaining and maintaining power than promoting the common good. And to the extent that is true, we have the right and perhaps the responsibility to complain.
All this complaining got me to thinking about what frustrates me with politicians most: it’s hypocrisy. They claim to be public servants and then they serve special interests. They claim to work for the common good and then they spend most of their energy taking care of their political party’s base. They claim to have a big vision, but much of the time their vision seems to barely extend passed the next election cycle.
Just as I was about to give up on our hypocritical politicians (who by the way face the difficult task of functioning within an increasingly unhealthy political system which encourages and rewards hypocrisy), I began to question where I could find a worse hypocrite than our politicians. I had to look no further than the mirror. It’s me.
I am a Christian and I have spent more time recently criticizing our politicians than praying for them. How hypocritical can you get!
Jesus did not spend much time complaining that Caesar failed to implement Kingdom values throughout the Roman Empire, but He sure expected his disciples to exhibit Kingdom values in their lives.
So, I’d like to invite you to join me in a spiritual discipline that I have just recently begun: Each time you complain about a politician, stop and say a quick prayer for our politicians including the one you just complained about.
I am already seeing the effects of this discipline in my attitudes and actions. I am slowly beginning to see politicians in more human terms. I am trying to understand the great pressures they must feel and difficult compromises they must make to move society forward. And I am becoming thankful that there are people who will dedicate themselves to being a public servant knowing full well the criticism they will hear from the very people they are trying to serve.
Some of my greatest hopes for our society come from working with teenagers in our church and seeing the talent, hopes, and dreams they possess. But would one of our talented teenagers who was exposed to my attitude toward politics still consider public service a noble calling? What world changing potential will we lose if our best, brightest, and most trustworthy young people no longer view politics as a worthy career? The more I pray for politicians, the more I find myself talking about them in a respectful, noble way: a way that a young person might just decide is the way they want to spend their life giving back to their community.
These are just a few of the benefits I believe we will experience by a renewed commitment to pray for our politicians.
So will you do it? Will you join me in praying for our politicians as much or more than we complain about them?
I am okay with living in a country where our politicians do not always articulate Kingdom values. I just want to be a part of a church that does.