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Are Politicians Becoming Our Golden Calves?

Scott Slayton | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Thursday, August 31, 2023
Are Politicians Becoming Our Golden Calves?

Are Politicians Becoming Our Golden Calves?

As American politics takes on an increasingly apocalyptic tone, it should not surprise us to see the politically invested ascribe religious significance to their favorite politicians. Since their political heroes are little messiahs, every misstep and character flaw is explained away or buried under an avalanche of "whatabouts."

Neither political party can claim complete innocence in this idolatry project. When we think back to 2008, Democrats ascribed messianic attributes to Barack Obama. The art portrayed him as an otherworldly figure who would come and make all things right. To attack Obama was not just to question him or his policies. It was to attack an ideal.

Republicans saw the idol worship coming from the Democratic Party and decided to turn the volume up to 11. Here again, we must turn to the art Trump's movement is producing. Many portraits have portrayed Trump as a massively ripped warrior fighting the battle for his people.) Of course, it never dawns on the artist that Trump is in less than stellar physical condition and did not serve in the military during Vietnam because of bone spurs.) And the most heinous example I've seen recently was on display at a Trump event this past weekend. In the painting, Trump carried an American flag-draped cross.

Increasingly, our political commitments lead us to find our hope, salvation and security in political wins. There is a simple name for this–idolatry.

The late Tim Keller defined an idol as "anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek out to give you what only God can give. He went on to say that an idol is anything that makes us say, "If I have that, then I'll feel my life has meaning, then I'll know I have value, then I'll feel important and secure."

Keller's definition describes how we think about politics. We want safety and security. We want prosperity so America can return to its prominent place in the world. We become guilty of idolatry when we slide into this way of thinking.

Think about the Bible's most well-known example of idolatry–Israel and the golden calf. The people asked for the golden calf because they feared how long Moses was up on the mountain. They convinced Aaron to melt down all their gold and fashion it into the calf. Then he told Israel, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" They attributed to an idol a work that God did for them and that only God could have done.

Remember all that Israel had seen and heard up until this point. They saw the ten plagues, including the last plague in which the death angel killed the firstborn child in each Egyptian household and passed over the Israelite's homes. When they looked as if they were doomed at the Red Sea, the Lord worked through Moses to part the waters, allowing them to walk through on dry ground. The Lord had fed them with bread from heaven, and they heard God speak from the mountain.

On top of all they had seen and heard, they had something more important–God's promises. He promised to lead his people out of slavery and into the land he promised them. Then, he authenticated all those promises through his actions. Yet, here they were, bowing down before a golden calf and praising him for delivering them from Egypt. They abandoned the God who redeemed them and ascribed their deliverance to a lifeless piece of metal.

When we look at the Bible and see what God is doing in the world, very little of His work will be done by one person living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. God is making all things new by bringing men and women to faith in Jesus through his followers preaching the Gospel and serving people in his name. Then he is taking these new creations in Christ Jesus and forming them as his people through his word, his Spirit and his church.

What if we discovered that the change we hope will happen doesn't occur in the voting booth or any capital city? Instead, it happens through the church. The sad irony is that the more invested people become in political outcomes, the more they abandon the church because they think it's irrelevant. The church is relevant, though, and one local church committed to Jesus's mission in the world will accomplish more than any man on Capitol Hill.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Drnadig

Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”

Are Politicians Becoming Our Golden Calves?