Issues of Life
The Other "Three P's" of Politics
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" (Luke 14:28)
I always enjoy speaking to youth groups regarding the importance of political involvement for Christians. I often encourage them to consider the "Three P's" of politics to ensure that their work is effective. Before diving in, perhaps I should say a word about why I do not include a couple of "P's" popular in Christian circles, prayer and providence.
A local church recently held a voter information night to review the initiatives and candidate positions for the California primary. A very pleasant Christian woman interrupted us to stress that prayer was the most important thing for Christians to do. Now how does one disagree with that and still sound like a good Christian? Well, I don't disagree, but I did wonder why she felt it had to be discussed that night. The book of Nehemiah has made a great impact on my life, and for Nehemiah prayer was not something that he put on a list of things to do; it was his way of life. He truly demonstrated the command to "pray without ceasing." The other obvious "P" is providence: We must understand that God is ultimately in control of all things, even in the political realm. (Study Ps. 2; Dan. 2 and 4; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-8.)
So let me say up front, I am assuming a proper understanding of prayer and providence should preface all actions taken by Christ's disciples. We would expect our pastors and elders to begin all their board meetings in prayer and have an attitude of trusting God. We would be quite shocked if they then packed up and went home without doing the business of the church. We hope that parents pray and trust God for the walk of their children daily, or hourly, but would be shocked if they failed to train them in the way they should go. And, of course, it would be quite silly to see a family ask for God's blessing over a meal and then fail to actually eat that meal.
Perhaps it is only in politics that Christians would even consider the concept of praying and trusting God about the situation, and then do nothing practical about what is going on! Sadly, this is how many approach the nasty business of politics, and why I began sharing the "Three P's" of politics with the young people. If Christians do not apply these concepts and engage in the real work of politics, then our culture will surely fail, just as our churches and families would fail if all they did was pray and trust God for the outcome.
Now let me briefly share my "Three P's" of politics:the Why, the Where, and the What, if you will, of effective political involvement that, Lord willing, will make your efforts more effective and save you a lot of frustration. Christians should know that politics, involvement in our civil government, is a high calling, just like dealing with the governmental realms of family or church. Even the Apostle Paul took time from his busy schedule to participate when it was appropriate (Ac. 16:35-39). The challenge is to make sure that your work is Principled, Properly Positioned, and Productive.
The first "P" is principles. It is a bitter disappointment when Christians put time and effort into a particular candidate only to have him let them down once he is in office. In a fallen world, this can always happen, but it will happen much less often if we pay more attention to principles rather than personalities and funding. There is no better place to start than where our Lord ended in the Sermon on the Mount:What foundation you build upon makes all the difference in the world (Mt. 7:24-27). You can work to elect a great looking candidate, but if his politics are constructed on a worldview of sand, he will not survive the storms of serving in public office. Before you commit your time and talent to particular candidates, you should ask them some basic questions: Do they understand the Biblical principles upon which our nation was founded?Have they read The Theme is Freedom by M. Stanton Evans or similar books?Do they subscribe to serious magazines or journals like the Chalcedon Report? Can they explain why our War for Independence was radically different from the humanist revolution that took place at about the same time in France? The bottom line is that our focus should be on giving our time and talent to candidates who are principled and to causes that reflect Biblical principles.
The second "P" is being properly positioned, making sure that you pick your battles well. Just as with parents rearing children or elders governing a church, the real work of politics often comes down to picking your battles. For example, do we accept the fact that we live in a country that functions with a two-party system and work within one of those parties, or do we only work for third party candidates who are most often shut out of the process, but who better reflect our views? Do we always try to "play" in the important high-profile races like presidential or gubernatorial, or do we recognize that electing a principled person to the city council might one day position them to run for higher office?As Christians we should pick our battles where there is a reasonable chance of victory and where victory will advance our cause in some way (see Lk. 14:25-35). If you live in a liberal city, you may not want to start picking battles involving social issues until you have built some political structure and alliances around more populist issues like ending some unfair tax on families.
These first two "P's" are not in conflict. and I am not talking about choosing between the lesser of two "evils."They work together to make sure that you are picking the right battle to best advance candidates and issues without compromising your principles. Defeating an enemy can often be as important as helping a real friend, and sometimes we get to do both.
The final "P" is to be productive, to make sure we do the real work of politics. As Christians, we seem to enjoy encouraging others to charge up hills that are impossible to take, but at the same time seem unwilling to spend a little real time or money doing something that could really make a difference. We are very quick to sign a petition demanding that Roe v. Wade be overturned tomorrow, but if someone in the congregation announces that he is running for city council, how many people actually give even a small contribution for his campaign? In politics, as with most other important areas of life, there is just no substitute for plain hard work. If you have a principled candidate who is well positioned to win a particular office, then he must have the resources to wage a campaign:That means money, time, and talent. It means people actually writing some checks, walking a few precincts, or making a few phone calls.
Now you know all the secrets that I have been sharing with our young people. It is exciting to see many of them coming out of home schools and good Christian schools wanting to make a difference in all areas of life, including the political scene here in the United States. I hope a few more adults will study the "Three P's of Politics" so we can help them along the way.
John E. Stoos is a political consultant living in Sacramento, California, with his wife Linda. They have six children and sixteen grandchildren.