Politics and Religion BothFacing Upheaval in America

By Randy Blackaby

Religion and politics  the two subjects you’ve always been advised never to discuss with your friends  are in great upheaval in America. .

And, despite the fact we’ve always been warned not to mix politics and religion, the upheavals in the two are occurring simultaneously.

There also are some parallels in the types of changes occurring in these two controversial and emotional realms.

In politics there is less and less distinction between the two predominate parties. Fewer people identify as Re-publican or Democrat and more and more declare themselves “independents.” And, more people simply have dropped out of the political process. Voter turnout is embarrassingly small for the leading democratic nation of the world.

Turning our attention to religion, we see the parallels. There is less and less difference between the major Catholic and Protestant faiths. Fewer people identify with any “church” and if they do, they are attracted to new churches that claim to be undenominational and free of doctrinal positions. Also, as in politics, fewer and fewer people actually go to worship  about 20% of Protestants and 28% of Catholics.

What do these trends and statistics mean? Do they mean Americans have lost interest in politics and religion? Some have so suggested.

But this hardly seems the case. The topics of the radio and TV talk shows, as well as the debates around the nation’s coffee tables suggest politics is alive and well.

The same is true of religion. While fewer and fewer people go to houses of worship, polls show 94% of Americans say they believe in God and 84% believe in a personal God with whom they can communicate via prayer.

The media finally seems to be taking some interest in religion, other than to ridicule and demean it. Psychiatry seems to be recognizing the positive role of religion in sound mental heath and more and more writing is dealing with the “spiritual” aspect of life.

Again, what does this all mean?

I don’t know all the answers, for sure. But Americans seem to be saying that traditional political parties have failed to convey public expectations to and through government. Discussions of third parties abound. And, the two major parties, fearing they may join the dinosaurs, are trying to revamp their positions and images.

Many of the mainline denominations which left the spiritual realm in past decades to address perceived social needs are finding their members going elsewhere to fill the spiritual void. Old denominations, losing members by the tens of thousands, are trying to survive by copying the tactics of the newer denominations.

What still seems unclear in both politics and religion, however, is whether we know what we are looking for. Both arenas seem more driven by emotion than reason. There is an absence of standards in both realms.

The Constitution and the law no longer are sacred in politics. They are deemed subject to constant change at the whim or fancy of politicians and public. And the same is true in religion. The Bible no longer is the standard of authority to most of the religions and there is no fear among most church-goers about changing God’s law to suit their own desires.

What the immediate results of these turbulent times will be is unclear. What politics and religion will look like as a new millennium dawns is yet unknown.

What should be clear to Christians is that teaching the doctrine and gospel of Christ is as needed as ever. Our mission is clear (Mark 16:15-16). A world is searching for truth, but doesn’t seem to know where to find it.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 18, p. 1
September 19, 1996