While there is value in avoiding arguments, I do believe there’s a place for fair discussion today. And religion and politics necessarily mix very well whether we like it or not. ◊
Wise advice given to me when I was young was to “never discuss religion and politics in polite company.” This was never a problem for me because I paid no attention to either religion or politics. And then I wasn’t even sure I’d ever been around “polite company.”
As I am now older, more knowledgeable, more opinionated, and now often engaging with so-called polite company, I fully appreciate the intent of that original advice. The problem today is that it is a quaint and bygone sentiment which has little real relevance ther than keeping argumentative people at bay.
While there is value in avoiding arguments, I do believe there’s a place for fair discussion today. And religion and politics necessarily mix very well whether we like it or not.
Consider Then (650 BC) vs. Today (AD 2020)
Imagine one living in the mid–7th century BC in the countryside of Judah outside the city of Jerusalem. As a good citizen one may have felt the Jewish nation was “falling apart” and governing leaders were corrupt and out of sync with the people. Some religious leaders were warning of impending doom if the nation did not return to the faith and beliefs of its founding fathers.
Of course, some people did not agree and enjoyed life as it came and even prospered.
Now fast forward to the early 21st century AD and consider one living in the suburbs of San Francisco. As a good United States citizen, one may be thinking the American nation is “falling apart” and governing leaders are corrupt and out of sync with the people. Some religious leaders are warning of impending doom if the nation does not return to the faith and beliefs of its founding fathers.
Of course, some people do not agree and enjoy life as it comes and even prosper.
No need for imagination. Both scenarios are real, one historic, the other being lived out today in the fall of 2020. And our country is currently in great angst over the election of its future President/King.
Though we are not living in a theocratic society, it may be helpful to get some perspective on the long play of a nation’s rise and fall by looking at historical Israel at a culturally similar time.
President (King) Manasseh to Josiah
If you were a good practicing Hebrew living in the region of Judah outside the city of Jerusalem in the year 650 BC, you would have been in the final years of a very long 55-year reign of the wicked king Manasseh. Coming to power at the age of 12 after the death of his father Hezekiah, a good king, Manasseh “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” (2 Kings 21:2)
Manasseh followed the practices of the surrounding pagan nations, rebuilding altars to other gods, and honoring heathen worship practices in the Temple, including child sacrifices (even his own son). He and his administration practiced “soothsaying and augury and dealt with mediums and wizards” or, in other words, they were dealing with sorcery, fortune-telling and omens.
And the Lord said by his prophets (Jeremiah 19:3, Isaiah 65:11-12):
“Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. – 2 Kings 21:11-12
Manasseh died (in office) in 643 BC and his 22-year-old son Amom then reigned for 2 years. Amom continued the evil and idolatrous ways of his father serving idols and worshiping them. Jewish tradition says that he disregarded the Torah (Hebrew Bible), even burned it and allowed cobwebs to cover the altar through complete disuse. He didn’t last long though as he was assassinated in 641 BC by his own servants. His son Josiah was put in place as king by the people of Israel at the age of 8. (2 Kings 21:19-26).
But Josiah was a good king, reigning 31 years in Jerusalem.
“And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of David his ancestor, and he did not turn to the right or to the left.” 2 Kings 22:2
After 18 years of his reign, good King Josiah instigated a major Temple renovation and repair project. He famously rediscovered the dusty Holy Mosaic Scriptures (Book of the Law passed from Moses) in the back rooms. He was shocked at what he read and realized how far his nation had fallen from God. He renewed the reading of the Scriptures and re-instituted the ways of the Lord across the Hebrew nation. He reestablished Temple worship and destroyed all remnants of pagan and idolatrous worship across the country.
Josiah died in 609 BC, and his son Jehoahaz ruled for 3 months and his other son Johoiakim took over until his death in 598 BC at the hands of the conquering Babylonian King Nebuchadenezzar. Scripture notes that both sons “did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
It was Nebuchadenezzar that oversaw the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC. He was the one that took the Hebrews as slaves into captivity in Babylon where they stayed for 70 years until allowed to return back to rebuild Jerusalem.
This desolation of Judah/Jerusalem was the fulfillment of the prophesies of Jeremiah and Isaiah a half a century earlier.
President Eisenhower to Trump
I’ve lived through 11 US presidents. The lessons in Biblical and modern history are relevant in showing God’s treatment of time, national leaders, nations, judgment, and His promises.
I can imagine obedient, praying Jewish people living through the years of evil king Manasseh and his foolish son and then seeing prayers answered during the reign of good king Josiah. They received a decades long reprieve before the inevitable fulfillment of the promised judgment. We can look at our past and future leaders and eras in that same manner.
God is not mocked. Even in the modern world of sophisticated nations. And a nation that fails to recognize good, noble, and ultimately God-fearing leaders is doomed. And what is good, noble and God-fearing? It starts with a heart of righteousness and respect for life, honesty, and the Word of God.
In that sense faith and politics can and must be discerningly mixed.
Is your candidate good, noble, and God-fearing? Are you discerning?
“In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” – Mark Twain