Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Politics and the Image of God


"Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him; because evil is but a chance misfortune, an illness, a devilish reverie. But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement." -- St. John of Kronstadt
It is often hard for us to believe that the person who hurts us, opposes us, takes from us in one way or another is still a person in the image of God.  Anger and fear blind us--lust blinds us too, but that's a topic for another day.  I have been thinking lately of how large a role fear plays in how I think about politics.  I am not a very politically minded person, and I know so little about politics that I refuse to argue with anyone about it.  Nevertheless, I must vote, and when I think about who to vote for, the largest motivating factor in my mind has been fear.  I have more often voted for party A because I was afraid of what party B might do.  Somehow this does not seem healthy.
Of course we could blame the political parties.  And certainly we can all see weaknesses in every party and platform and candidate.  But fear has more to do with a "devilish reverie" in our own hearts than it does with the party or person who is in power.  We read about the Christian martyrs who "overcame the demons' strengthless presumption" by not fearing: not fearing death, not fearing loss of property, not fearing a political system that outlawed their faith.  How is it that they did not fear?  How is it that love conquered all?
Part of the secret, I think, is pointed out by St. John of Kronstadt.  By loving the icon of Christ, I overcome fear.  If in political parties I can see men and women who are formed in the image of God, men and women who want to do good--despite evil misfortune, illness and devilish reverie;  if I see in every political platform well intended (even if misguided) goals: then perhaps I can entrust myself, my neighbours, and my country into the Hands of the One who is able to work with and save me in spite of my own misguided good intentions.  It really comes down to believing that God is bigger than government.
I am not saying that politics do not matter or that they are unimportant.  I am saying that for a Christian, the importance of politics is only secondary.  Of course, this is true only for Christians who are not materialists first and Christian later.  If we cling to prosperity, then it becomes a god to which we sacrifice even Christ Himself in the icon of those whom we fear and hate.  For the materialist, politics become very important; and fear is usually the prod that motivates their political action.
Christians must be a good citizens, first of heaven and then of whatever state they find themselves in.  If the state encourages you to vote, you should vote--and vote intelligently, responsibly.  However, vote as a Christian, without fear.  Vote trusting the God who can work with all our misguided good intentions.  And most of all, vote loving your enemies, despising no one and believing the best even of those whose politics you are not able to support.

2 comments:

Christopher said...

Very thoughtful post. What would you say to this: That politics is a reflection of the moral/ethical, and that the moral/ethical is the reflection of ones religious suppositions about the world and neighbor. If so, then politics is not neutral, in that it reflects a persons or body of persons most inward beliefs.

If so, it is not an accident of "good intentions" that the liberal and liberalizing churches of the western religious scene (think here of the protestant mainline in the United States) reflect liberal politics, rather it is a consequence of a historical deconstruction and rejection of the most basic Christian beliefs. It's not and accident then that certain politics are to be found among certain religious peoples, even if all peoples are "well intentioned"

Andrew Stennett said...

I found the quotation very powerful. It enables one to root for God's likeness in everyone, and to look for forgiveness in those whose actions or behaviours we find challenging.