Humbled by the Fall
This is the second in a series of posts sketching some of the most important truths guiding this website’s editorial direction.
Rick Barry is managing editor of The Body Politic. 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 currently oversees communications for the Grace DC church network in Washington, DC.
Humanity is fallen, and we’re not going to fully recover from that until Jesus comes back and makes us perfect. Until then, we have to deal with the fact that sin has broken our relationships to one another on micro and macro scales, warps our sense of self and, most pertinent to this post, clouds our minds.
In his contribution the collection Thinking. Loving. Doing. A Call to Glorify God with Heart and Mind, Rev. Al Mohler outlines a number of specific clouds the fall has cast over the way our minds work. Among them are ignorance, prejudice, faulty perspective, intellectual fatigue, inconsistencies, failure to draw the right conclusion, apathy and dogmatism/closed-mindedness.
If you already follow politics, chances are you encounter these every day. They take the form of sensationalistic soundbites from pundits you can’t stand. They are capitalized on by misleading headlines run by websites you probably don’t read. They’re codified into law by elected officials you didn’t vote for. And every time you notice them, the fact that the world around you is broken and corrupt enough to make room for them probably sets your blood on fire.
The Hard Truth
The only problem is, our minds are just as broken as the minds of our political opponents, our reason just as faulty, our passions just as prone to mis-direction. We’re fallen, too. We wouldn’t need Jesus if we weren’t.
It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been following Christ. It doesn’t matter how insightful your pastor is or how compelling your worship leader is. It doesn’t matter if you read through the Bible every year or spend hours a day in prayer. It doesn’t matter how sincere you are in your faith or how enthusiastically you follow Christ or what podcasts you listen to or what authors you read (though you should probably keep reading The Body Politic, just to be safe). You’re not going to be fully sanctified until Jesus comes back. Until then, you fall short of the glory of God.
All people—even ourselves and our political allies—are marred by sin and thus capable of being wrong about what’s best, even when we are sure we are right. We are sometimes completely blind to the long-term or far-reaching consequences of the policies we endorse. We can even tend to be reductive, treating complex systems as though they are simple and dismissing those who insist they are not.
What Can We Do?
If we can’t trust that our political preferences are really the best prescription for human flourishing, how should we enter into political conversation?
The short answer is, we need to engage in politics and civics very, very humbly.
It's okay to have clear political preferences and even political loyalties, but as Christians, we don’t have the luxury of unassailable political ideologies. Because we know that the fall taints us and everything we do, we have to be willing to admit that there’s a chance that we’re wrong about the best way to fix a problem. When we are talking about politics, we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and unafraid of asking questions that might seem obvious to the people around us.
This is good news for those of you who aren't already deeply invested in politics, or who have never felt like you quite fit in with one party or the other. You're already free to ask better questions—and in the process, bless the people around you by helping them find better answers. The rest of us will need to ask God to teach us the humility you already have, and prayers for humility are often answered in painful ways.
When Christians have strong political opinions, we have to solicit and consider the arguments of those who disagree with us. Our political opponents aren’t just unfortunate obstacles standing between us and achieving our vision—they are human beings made in the image of God and their objections may be a helpful reminder to check our blind spots.
Over the next few weeks, several of our writers will share their experiences with humility and the fall—times they learned to check their blind spots and times they watched other people do it better than they were. Please pray for us and join us as, together, we remind one another that we are fallen creatures still waiting for our final perfection.