Intro Post: The Bread of Politics vs. the Bread of Life
Updated: May 11
Middle age makes me mushy.
Not just in my waistline, but also in my heart.
And not heart, as in heart muscle, but heart as in my emotion part. I find myself feeling a little more weepy at times, both when happy and sad, and also a lot more sentimental.
I think I’m being tenderized like a chicken breast under a meat mallet. Maybe you are, too.
Life pounds us and pounds us throughout the decades—through the ups and downs of relationships, jobs, parenting, finances, etc. But then, the next thing we know, our bodies start showing their age, and the blows of the mallet back off. We don’t need to be pounded as hard because our hearts are finally softening.
I know that’s happening to me. My mushier outlook is allowing more nostalgia to seep into my brain. My defenses are slackening and I find myself reminiscing about the good ol’ days with anyone polite enough to listen. This leads, therefore, to one inevitable conclusion:
I’ve become my mother.
Which is actually a good thing, considering so many of my best childhood memories involve my mom. God has blessed me with a wonderful mom who, among other beautiful things, is an excellent cook. So many of my nicest memories are imbued with the tastes and smells of the holiday meals she serves and the yummy cookies she has pulled out of the oven repeatedly over the years.
But, oh, it’s her bread—the delicious bread she baked weekly from scratch—that always comes first to mind when I recall the food I loved as a kid.
This memory brought on an epiphany of sorts recently when I entered a restaurant filled with the blare of large TV monitors stationed throughout the establishment. I prickled with irritation. Why do we have to be bombarded with screens everywhere now? Worse yet, instead of airing the usual sporting events, most of the monitors were streaming news channels.
The TVs’ talking heads invaded my eyes and ears with their self-generated brands of “truth.” I didn’t want to hear their claims—I just wanted to enjoy a peaceful lunch with my husband.
But then, as the hostess led us to a booth, I suddenly became aware of a delectable smell wafting underneath the bombardment of my sight and hearing.
It was the heady, yeasty aroma of fresh-from-the-oven bread. It swirled around the room, unseen and underneath the plastic screens like a warm current. I slid into my seat, closed my eyes and breathed in the tantalizing scent. It instantly triggered my hunger.
Without warning, these words of Jesus came to mind: “I am the Bread of Life.”
A sudden longing for Jesus to show up in the restaurant and feed everyone his truth hit me. I know, that’s weird, but I wanted, just for a moment, for all of us to turn deaf ears and blind eyes to the sensationalized media and all its political hype, and just breathe in…Jesus.
Oh, the comfort we would all experience together! The encouragement we could feel as Jesus reminded us that he is our primary sustainer, not our government or the elected officials that run it, or the gossip-mongering news sources that constantly shout at us from every corner.
God’s son, Jesus, was, and is, responsible for every breath we take, and every heartbeat that pumps our lifeblood, and every molecule of nourishment that fuels our bodies and minds to partner with him in his creative works of love and service. Jesus. Yes, Jesus.
That longing for all our eyes to be opened to him became the springboard from which this blog has sprung. It follows on the heels of a previous blog which I've now published into a book entitled, Piety, Pride and a Cosy of Cures.
In those chapters, I contemplated all the ways Pharisaism, a prideful spiritual sickness, stunted my Christian growth. Using my own stories and studies, I compared my religious pride to that of the Pharisees’ in Jesus’ day and wrote about how God healed me through humbling me.
Now, I'm going a step further, realizing that another spiritual sickness, often co-occurrent with Pharisaism, has infected my soul. I believe I caught it about ten years ago when I carelessly mixed too many political opinions in with my Christian faith and allowed these ideas to rise to an equal status with the teaching of the bible in my belief system. I call this sickness Politicism.
Politicism manifests in my heart as a type of religious nationalism. I’ve learned that it results from focusing too much on politics as the answer for our nation’s problems and too little on God’s love and provision for the whole world.
I pondered how accepting Jesus’ offer to be my sustainer and spiritual sanctuary was my soul’s equivalent to my mom’s offer of fresh bread in our kitchen on baking day. I’ll never forget the physical warmth and safety I ran to there, especially when my teenage life roller-coastered from exhilaration to tragedy, sometimes within hours. Mom and her bread and her warm kitchen were my emotional salvation.
Jesus and his words and his life are my spiritual salvation.
Yet, Politicism complicates Jesus’ simple, yet profound message. When Jesus warned his disciples to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees” I believe he was pointing out how those leaders’ toxic hypocrisy and pride had infected and spread throughout their Jewish religion.
Now, centuries later, we are still called not only to guard against Pharisaism, but also the sneaky introduction of political idolatry into our Christian faith.
I say idolatry because that is loosely defined as the worship, reverence, or excessive devotion to something in the place of God. Politicism causes us to start worshiping the tools God provides for healthy and productive governing of society (like our right to vote, for example*) instead of simply utilizing those tools as God directs, knowing that He can take them away or redirect their powers at any time, and in any way He chooses.
We become proud of our methods and credit those for our prosperity rather than God’s providence. Worse yet, politicizing God’s blessings causes Christian leaders to credit themselves, and those they endorse, for America’s success as a nation.
For me, Politicism quietly hid behind Pharisaism in my soul. It didn’t come to light until I succeeded in pushing the Pharisee in me—my Christian pride and piety—off its pedestal in my heart. Now that I’m facing it, I see Politicism was hiding behind that pedestal all along.
My excessive devotion to conservative political thought caused me to try and cook up my own “bread” to serve my neighbors. I fell prey to the powerful allure of the media telling me I must identify with the political views that are supposedly sustaining American life as we know it. I got caught up in the rallying cries of those who say they trust God to take care of them, but still count on their candidate of choice to keep them safe and fed.
Somewhere along the line, I—along with many conservative Christians—started seeing our elected leaders as bread bakers for Jesus. It was a potent school of thought that rapidly arose throughout our faith dough. In their impatient zeal to combat secular liberalism in America, many Christian leaders partnered with political leaders. They formed a coalition that kneaded their own PAC and legislation yeast into the Bread of Life dough to produce a more powerful loaf.
Yet, in much the same way that too much yeast in bread dough will create a bread that rises too high, becomes too puffy, and completely crumbles when cut, so does too much faith in politics as a changing agent affect the message that I am called to serve to my neighbors.
So now, this new conviction tells me to pull my hands out of the dough I’m kneading and reassess just exactly what I’ve mixed into it before I produce it. Before I bake it in the oven of hot news and dole it out on a social media platter to everyone around me.
Stepping back from my decades-old brand of God and Country doctrine helps me to focus a bit clearer on how its message, when overused, becomes puffed with so much pride, superiority and bias that it simply falls apart.
And now, sadly, like stale bread, it is drying out, becoming tasteless and unpalatable to the neighbors with whom I’m supposed to share it.
My new conviction bids me to simply share my portions of the living Bread that has been here with me all along. It is baked daily, like manna in the wilderness, and is truer, fresher, more aromatic and life-giving than any of the political opinions I try to get my neighbors to swallow. That bread is the love of Jesus.
You may or may not feel this conviction, but either way I invite you to read my ponderings about this perspective and see if there are any you might identify with. More than anything, my goal is for us to chew on a few questions together. Keep these in mind as you poke around in my posts:
Was America historically destined to be a Christian nation? Is it still? Should it be?
Is it accurate to say that America was built on a Christian foundation? Or is it more honest to simply state instead that most of America's foundation builders were dedicated Christians? How should we define the word, "blessed" as it applies to our nation?" To what did Jesus apply that word?
Where is the line that separates being used by God from acting as though we are God?
Please read this with an open mind and see how our bread turns out. I know it won’t be perfect by any means, but still, it is homemade, and it might take your mind off some of the more troubling things rising in your world right now.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even want to share some with your neighbors.