A Simple Truth We Try to Forget About Politics

As we enter the throes of the presidential primary campaigns, it’s important to remember that the things people make reflect the people who make them.

People are good but fallen, made in the image of God but also chronically and irrepressibly prone to sin. Even in our best moments, we only see the truth through a glass dimly. When we try to tell other people things that are true, we probably distort the truth in some way.

(Even when the truth we are trying to share is the gospel, chances are we emphasize the aspects of the story of Jesus’ promise, life, death, resurrection and eventual return that most appeal to our personality or upbringing while de-emphasizing the aspects that don’t sit well with our cultural, social or personal disposition.)

Despite splashy and attention-grabbing claims by some philosophers that man is a greater being than God, a creation can not be greater than its creator. God is sinless and made humanity, which was susceptible to sin. Though marred by that sin, humans can create things that successfully fulfill an intended purpose, and we can create things that reflect some aspect of the image of God that we still bear, but we cannot create something that is not flawed. We can not create something that demonstrates the image of God but doesn’t distort it in some way.

Influenced by coordinated campaigns, persuasive personalities and an onslaught of media coverage, it’s easy to forget that political proposals are fundamentally things we create. The best we can hope for is that the political parties, political platforms and eventual laws that we create would serve their intended purposes or reflect some aspect of God’s wisdom and character while still being deeply flawed.

In the coming months, at least twenty different men and women will try to convince you that that’s not true. When asked questions about incredibly complex problems that involve hundreds of people and affect millions more, they will answer as though they see the world the way the Bible tells us only God sees the world. When they have specific solutions to recommend, their belief that their solutions are wholly good, destined to succeed, immune to unintended consequences will be infectious. When listening to your chosen candidate, it will be easy to believe that your candidate (and your candidate alone!) is operating out of noble motivations–that sin doesn’t twist his heart or distort her reason.

Then, as the primaries draw to a close next year and each major party rallies around a leading candidate, each party will present outlines of their goals in light of the leading candidate’s proposals. The winning party will try to turn that platform into a series of laws, many of which will be fought over ad nauseum throughout our country.

But these laws are written and negotiated by hundreds of people, following the lead of platforms influenced by thousands more, and championed by a candidate who led a massive campaign made up of countless staff members and volunteers. Every single one of them was good but fallen, and so are the works of their hands.

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  • Rick Barry is Executive Director of Center for Christian Civics, where he helps ministry leaders and faith communities develop missional approaches to their local public squares. He has worked on campaigns for local, state and federal office, is a former writer and editor for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and oversaw communications for the Grace DC church network. He and his wife live in Washington, DC.

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