As the leaves start to turn to signal the final stages of 2019, the 2020 elections are already in full bloom. And as candidates from both major parties—and some other parties—crisscross the nation for raucous political rallies and soundbite-driven television interviews, churches often find themselves in the crosshairs. Some candidates seek to offer campaign remarks during worship services, which not only violates IRS tax rules but also perverts the sacred time. And even for churches off the beaten campaign path, the temptation remains to divide along partisan lines as pastors and members echo a liturgy learned on their chosen cable news program.
In a time when every corner of our society seems hopelessly polarized, can churches give witness to a better way?
With that goal in mind, leaders from several Baptist groups joined with those from other Christian denominations to call for Christians to act Christlike, even in political conversations. The effort is called “Golden Rule Politics 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics.” Leaders from the American Baptist Churches USA, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Progressive National Baptist Convention, and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention endorsed this call along with Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others.
The call is seemingly simple and yet challenging to actually implement: They are requesting Christians from across the theological and political spectrums to “apply Christian principles to our political discussions.” This includes to “reflect on Jesus’s teaching that we ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’” This effort raises an important point for us to consider: “how politics in 2020 could be different if Christians practice Biblical teachings about how to treat people who disagree with them.”
Imagine a world where Christians — both those running for office and those just planning to vote — actually applied the Golden Rule. Stop laughing! I know it almost sounds impossible and even ridiculous. Some might want to quickly retort something along the lines of “If we do that, we’ll lose” or “But nice guys finish last.” Yet, we should hear the words of Jesus responding back: “What will it profit someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
The question, then, is this: Do we really believe this stuff in the Bible?
Do we really believe the truth will set you free? Do we really believe we should let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”? Do we really believe that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Do we really believe that faith, hope, and love remain and that love is the greatest? Do we really believe we should turn the other cheek and walk the extra mile? Do we really believe that the tongue is a fire that destroys? Do we really believe that we should treat others as we want to be treated?
If we don’t believe all of that, then why bother with church? Let’s just go win some elections by any means possible and gain as much power and wealth as we can. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die. But if we do believe all that stuff, then we must admit those teachings apply to every part of our lives — including politics.
And if Christians won’t live out those biblical teachings to show a better way to treat others, then who will? It may seem our political system is too broken for us to make a difference, but the Bible teaches us to hope — not not because it’s easy but because it’s needed. And we definitely won’t heal our politics if we don’t try.
The “Golden Rule 2020” effort is encouraging churches to take the first step on this journey on Nov. 3, 2019. That day, which is exactly one year before the 2020 election, lands on a Sunday. What better day to dream of a new kind of politics than on a day where we’re already gathering for worship exactly one year before the election? The “Golden Rule 2020” website includes some sample prayers, liturgy, sermon ideas, and other resources to help churches in planning for that day.
And then the hope is that churches and Christians will continue to model this biblical vision throughout the next year of politics.
This effort does not mean we don’t speak the truth to power. But it does mean we must speak truth and that we must speak that truth in love. And that means we probably need to spend more time in prayer and less time watching political rallies. It means we probably need to spend more time in our Bibles and less time watching cable news programs. It means we probably need to spend more time loving our neighbors and less time arguing politics with them on Facebook.
It’s time for a political revolution. It’s time for Golden Rule politics.