Every Christian has probably heard it more than once. “Whether you like him or not, Mr. Soandso was put in his position by God so as a good Christian you should support him.” My made-up politician is a man only because I couldn’t figure out how to spell the word that is pronounced mizz. The person saying this is always trying to convince the other person that this politician is the second coming of Jesus, despite any objections that may reasonably be raised.
Of course, Evangelical Christians are largely conservative minded politically. The issues they champion are well known. Abortion tops the list and for many is the only issue. “Traditional family values” is their nice way of communicating that social issues are the scourge of society. But there is a large and growing segment that is more progressively minded. The Christian Left, as they’ve come to be known, are a group that identifies as far more liberal politically. They identify with things like this. Driven by their belief that government can be a tool to help bring about more equality and social justice, the Christian Left is an increasingly powerful group within Canada.
Why do these sides matter in the discussion of whether our respective leaders were put there by God? Because when it comes to answering this question, the answer seems to be an enthusiastic yes when their candidate wins and a resounding no when they lose. Just look at the elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump for proof of this. When Obama, a professed Christian who had worked for churches in the Chicago area, was elected, conspiracy theories about his secret Muslim agenda began immediately. A study by the University of Georgia found that Evangelicals were the most likely to believe these lies. And when Trump won, Evangelical leaders shouted that God’s will had been done. So much for consistency. Or is only God’s will when people we agree with win?
Things in Canada are, as usual, less sensationalist, but follow a similar pattern. It’s human nature to believe good things about people we admire and be more willing to associate negative things with those we don’t. Maybe that’s why we all secretly want Tom Hanks to be our leader… or at least our uncle.
But here’s the thing. If we believe that leaders are given their authority by God, then we have to be willing to accept that both Obama and Trump were ordained by God. So were Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau for that matter. But then we would also have to say that so were Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler. And what about dictators who govern illegitimately? This argument gets ridiculous fast.
And yet, how do we get around the clear biblical truth that God is in charge of placing leaders in their position and that He grants their authority? The two most oft quoted passages are Daniel 2:21 which says, “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” And Romans 13:1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
But what do those passages actually say? Read them again. Neither of them says that God installs leaders because he approves of them. In fact, if we take a look at 1 Samuel, we see that God doesn’t even want earthly leaders who claim authority. He grants a king to His people only because they demand it. And these leaders were blessed by God if they sought His face and used their power to bring Him glory. What this shows us is that God cares just as much about how things get done and how things happen as what is happening. He cares about the ethics of our leadership.
Say a Christian plumber comes around your house because you’ve got a leaky pipe, and they say they’ve fixed it and then leave. Then you find you’ve got your ceiling flooded over the course of the next few weeks, so you call him back and tell him he did a terrible job. Then he says: “But hey God has chosen me to be your plumber!” You wouldn’t put up with that and so we shouldn’t really put up with it in politics either.
The truth is, no earthly leader deserves our blind allegiance or trust – whether he or she claims to be leading as God would have them lead or not. I’ve limited this discussion pretty well exclusively to North America. And in North America, we live in democracies. We aren’t lazy subjects of a king who has been appointed (well, except in Canada we kind of are…).
It is actually our duty to question and challenge our leaders. True patriotism means questioning our government. True belief in God ordained authority doesn’t mean blind faith in any human being. God can and has used imperfect leaders for the entirety of human history. One can say that King David was anointed by God and did his best to reign in His honour while also acknowledging that what transpired with Bathsheba was sinful.
And here we arrive at the crux of all of this. It doesn’t matter how much you like any politician. They simply NEVER deserve amnesty from our critiques. No one is perfect and a leader can be good without being perfect. They can also be bad without being evil.
So, let’s be harder on our leaders. Let’s vote for men and women of integrity and high moral fibre, and then let’s expect greatness of them. Let us vote with our Christian beliefs at the forefront of our mind. After all, voting is a deeply spiritual practise.