Politicizing the Gospel – Part #1 – by Greg Albrecht

In PART #1 of “POLITICIZING THE GOSPEL” we will summarize the violence that so permeates the world of politics and religion today, and set the stage for a deeper analysis of the dark forces that contribute to this evil reality.

John 3:19-20: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

It is not exactly breaking news to announce that self-styled wolves in sheep’s clothing attempt to control, coerce and dominate others in the name of politics and religion. The apostle Paul speaks of deceitful workmen who claim to be benefactors but actually masquerade as angels of light and servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). 

In my teenage years I was far better acquainted with Elvis, the King of rock and roll, than I was with the Apostle Paul. In the opening lyrics of “You’re the Devil in Disguise” Elvis lamented (you didn’t have to live in Bible times to “lament”) – You look like an angel, Walk like an angel, But I got wise… You’re the devil in disguise…   

When human devils in disguise pledge enduring and endearing love, misery often follows these promises, produced by deception, betrayal and infidelity.  That’s the pathos of poetry, literature and music.  In addition to the double-dealing heartache realized in many individual human relationships, similar devils in disguise exist with the world of politics and religion. The lies and duplicity of politics and religion leave a trail of broken hearts and shattered dreams.

Perhaps nowhere is the disparity between God and those who say they represent him so obvious as religious violence.   History reveals that a huge percentage of the bloodshed that soaks the landscape of our planet earth was the product of an unholy alliance between religion and politics.

Political and religious violence is recognizable in all times and all places in human history, for a violent collision is inevitable when politics and religion meet God’s grace.   When their cherished political maxims and traditions, when their hallowed sacred cows of religious rituals and ceremonies are threatened, people often torture, maim and kill others as “a service to God” (an ironic turn of phrase normally reserved for religious violence).   

  • Politics and Religion enslave—Jesus liberates.
  • Politics and Religion condemn —Jesus pardons.
  • Politics and Religion divides in order to conquer opposition – Jesus overcomes through his love for all humanity, regardless of political affiliation or religious preference.  Jesus loves all humanity, not just some.  Jesus lives in us in such a way that we pray even for our enemies, and he never inspires us to take lives in his name.
  • Politics and Religion produce pain, heartache and tears—Jesus heals and wipes away the tears.
  • Politics and Religion records and remembers and lives to seek revenge, heaping on shame and guilt on all who stand in their way —Jesus forgives.

                                    The Most Recent Hundred Year War

The 20th century features a horrific and potent brew of religion and politics, of incendiary philosophy, accompanied by the rise of the machine age with its industrialization and technological “advancement” all inexorably used for massive bloodletting.   Conservative estimates place the final tally of lives lost in this bloody century in the neighborhood of 185 million – a number equivalent to 10% of the world’s population in the early years of the 20th century.   

Hitler is often the first name that comes to mind when thinking about the atrocities of the 20th century.   Hitler’s concentration camps (a euphemism for death camps) murdered 6 million.  Hitler’s “Final Solution” was the genocide of the Jews – unfettered racial and religious hatred – government extermination of an “undesirable” religion.  It was, chillingly, an attempt to erase a culture, a race and a religion.

Communism has more blood on its hands than any other ideology.  It’s been said, of the 20th century, that 100 years of Communism equated to 100 million lives lost.   Lenin killed several million of his own people, and Stalin’s labor “camps” – the Gulag system – obliterated 20 million more lives. Mao Tse-tung butchered approximately 45 million Chinese.   Two million lost their lives in the killing fields of Cambodia (Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge).  Few religions survived Communism.

The 20th century was a hell of totalitarianism, authoritarian despots and ethnic cleansing and while armies and nations and nationalism was at the forefront of it all, religion was always lurking behind the scenes.   

In these early years of the 21st century, we still see governments and despotic rulers involve in violence and death, but the clear distinction between war and peace has been blurred, so that now we live with war, at all times, to one degree or another.  The 21st century has escalated a time of violence that easily transcends battle fronts and military boundaries. 

No nation is exempt – as Americans we do well to remember the attempts by alliances of “democratic” nations to bring peace and make the world “safe for democracy” – Iraq and Afghanistan are recent examples.   Even when cultures and societies do not invite democracy, our American belief has been that our system of government is good for them, even if we must go to war to force democracy on others.    

Communist China is currently “re-training” an estimated two million Muslims in “re-education” camps where Muslims who do not accept Communist ideology are being brainwashed, tortured, brutalized and raped.  It is a notoriously one-sided religious purge, openly supported by the governments of N. Korea, Venezuela, Russia and Cuba, among others. China is seeking to eradicate a religion. 

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