Sean McDowell | November 3, 2020

The Idolatry of Politics: 3 Questions for Thought

This weekend my pastor taught from Ephesians 5, in which Paul says that those who are sexually immoral have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (v. 5). Paul took sexual immorality very seriously.

But this was not the point that jumped out to me from his sermon. Paul also says that idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God. As Christians, we know that God takes sex seriously. But do we focus as much on idolatry, which is (arguably) the greatest sin? And have we thought about how politics can become an idol?

My point here is not to argue for a particular candidate. Who you vote for is between you and God. And my point is not to uniquely call you an idolater. I have thought about this a lot and repented of my own shortcomings.

My point is to raise three questions for Christians of all political parties to search their hearts and reflect upon whether they have possibly turned politics into an idol.

QUESTION 1: Who are you trusting for the future? Are you putting your confidence, or a lot of it, in who is elected? I realize that elections have wide-ranging consequences. But our ultimate hope must be in the Lord.

I sent out a tweet on Sunday to remind Christians of where our focus should be during this election season. It said, “Jesus is Lord today, tomorrow, Tuesday, AND Wednesday. No election can change that.”

During a season of persecution, Peter encouraged believers to place their hope in the grace that comes through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

Elections come and go. Presidents come and go. But Jesus is Lord forever. If we are placing our trust in the next president, we may be veering into idolatry.

QUESTION 2: How do you treat people who vote differently? How do you treat others, both Christians and non-Christians, who vote differently than you? Do you demonize them and assume the worst? Or are you charitable towards them and treat them as you would want to be treated?

I understand that much is at stake and emotions are high in this election. But does that override the commandment to love others? Of course not.

There is a way to be charitable towards others, treat them lovingly, and disagree with them. We can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Even if you consider people from the other political party as your enemies, didn’t Jesus say to love them and to pray for them? If we find ourselves not being motivated to love others during this political season, we may be veering into idolatry.

QUESTION #3: How will you respond to the election results? Regardless of who wins the presidential election, many Christians will be disappointed. We can each vote, but we can’t ultimately control who wins. We can only control how we respond.

If we find ourselves gloating over who wins, we may be veering into idolatry. If we find ourselves depressed for days, we may be veering into idolatry.

Elections matter. I do believe Christians have a responsibility to vote according to their consciences as informed by Scripture. But when it is all said and done, what matters is how Christians conduct themselves during this season, whether we vote with biblical conviction, and how we love others regardless of the results.

Is it at least possible some Christians have made politics into an idol? This question is simply too important to ignore.

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Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: