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Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Politics Has No Place in Christian Workplaces

When I joined the Church some eight or nine years ago I was fortunate enough to go through several months of classes in moral theology. While I was an occasional guest in Sunday School as a child, this was the first time someone intelligently laid out for me the relationships of God to man, and man to his fellow man. For the sake of brevity I'll summarize it like this: we have a responsibility for our own personal moral conduct as an example to our children, families, and community; we have an equal moral responsibility to the greater world around us in helping the least among our fellow man and to be good stewards of the world given to us.

When I learned this I immediately recognized a fact of organized politics; that both major parties have developed their own civil religion that is about half of moral theology. Each uses its civil religion as its own moral high ground against the other party while ignoring the moral whole.

On one side we have a Republican civil religion that seems intensely interested in peoples' personal moral conduct, less interested in charity (outside its Evangelical wing), and looks the other way on matters of environment so as not to offend its Big Business donor base.

On the other side we have the civil religion of the Democratic party. Very interested in people's responsibilities to each other and to society, dedicated to government as an instrument to achieve charity, but it looks the other way on matters of personal conduct so as not to offend the activist wing of its party that includes NOW, NARAL, and various gay and lesbian activist groups.

Realizing the moral vacuum of professional politics, I dropped any political party affiliation and became a politically independent Christian. By that I mean that I decide which candidate's direction best promotes the common good regardless of party. I've not voted a straight party ticket since and find that very liberating.

The fact that each party claims part of Christian values sets the stage for endless conflict over who represents God. The answer is, of course, both and neither. Remember that politics is the art of consolidating your base and splitting the other party's. Nothing splits people like religion, and its become the number one wedge issue in American politics. The presence of that wedge remains after the election is over, and the lingering divisiveness works counter to teamwork, cohesion, and the harmony necessary in effective workplaces.

This election cycle adds another reason to keep it out of the workplace; people need some place to get away from it! By election day we will be two years in the process and sometimes work is the only place where you're not bombarded by political news.

On my way home from work last Tuesday I saw a bumper sticker in traffic that said, "God is not a Republican or a Democrat". Driving to work Wednesday morning I saw another bumper sticker that said, "God may not be a Republican, but Satan is surely a Democrat". Last night when I checked my home email account I had 51 emails from family and friends, about half of which were anti-Obama prayer requests and one unique interpretation of Revelation that "proves" Obama is the Anti-Christ. What prompted the post you're reading now was an immediate sense of thanks that I don't have to see this base and contentious content at work each day.

During these next seven days, I encourage all of us to keep it this way. Let's keep politics out of our workplace and especially off our email system. Let's use our values at the polls to inform our vote. If we don't divide into political teams now we can still play on the same business team when the shouting dies down. I took advantage of early voting last Saturday and am thankful that, for me at least, its over for another four years.


Milan Ford said...

Great post Jim. Couldn't agree with you more!!

Mark Gilroy said...

I almost agree with you Jim. Where I differ somewhat is the observation that at times, the marriage of politics and a devout (and specific) Christian theology have yielded significant results that have echoed throughout history: Lincoln on slavery; MLK Jr. on civil rights; heck, our founding fathers on political liberty.

That said, day in and day out, leaving political opinions at home probably works out best.

Jim Thomason said...

I completely agree with you Mark. As Christians we have a citizenship obligation to enter into the public arena with our values. My point is that, for better or worse, the workplace is private-sector and not where our political energies should go.

davidpleach said...

Brilliant post, Jim. An addendum to Mark's well-taken point, historically the church itself has been unreliable as a social force for good and liberation (slavery, civil rights, and the Holocaust all come to mind), choosing rather to bury its head in the sand when the world needed a Christ-centered moral compass to lead.

My personal thanks for keeping the political "debate" out of the shop.