A Big, Sneaky Sign You Worship Your President

Peyton Garland

Peyton Garland

iBelieve Editor
Updated Apr 17, 2024
A Big, Sneaky Sign You Worship Your President

... you're treading dangerous water when you begin to identify yourself "by" a president and their campaign.

As American citizens, we are told it's our moral obligation to vote. In fact, it's considered disdainful to ignore this right granted by those who have spilled their blood to protect our great Union. Meanwhile, as Christians, we are encouraged by pastors and faith-based influencers to honor the Bible through our ballot, yet our doctrine somehow diverges at the voting polls. 

In the past four years, I've noticed how politics have weaved their way into our churches, choking the pews with putrid pettiness that blinds us to the real issues, the real enemies, that threaten Jesus' truths in our American society. We are tangled in the ancient destruction of idolization, worshipping our candidate of choice, allowing their five-second soundbite from last night's debate to determine how we treat others on Facebook. 

We are often lawless towards our God in the name of ending legalism, yet we will hold tight to bent and twisted laws of the land that excuse our leaders' sick decisions.

We are dying on the hills of filthy politicians' public fronts but will turn a blind eye to our Christ (who died on a hill) if we think His truths collide with our candidate's behavior. 

Guys, I'm only calling it like I see it in my fellow Christians and myself. 

My sister is earning her Master's in Political Science. She's rooted in the law and order of both domestic and foreign policy. She knows the ins and outs of legislation, lobbying, and the like. In conversation one day, she deemed me a "Moderate Republican." I have no qualms with the label because I hold my politics loosely. Though I feel called to vote, especially when things like abortion and transgender surgeries for minors are on the line, I monitor my thoughts and actions to ensure I don't identify myself through the president I choose.

Good Shepherd versus Bad Shepherd

I don't think it's a coincidence that Jesus identifies Himself as the "Good" Shepherd in John 10:11 (NLT): "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." If there was only one shepherd available for us to follow, Jesus would simply consider Himself "the Shepherd." However, He defines Himself as the "Good Shepherd," implying that there are other shepherds—bad shepherds—we can blindly pursue. 

Do you want to know the one, big, sneaky way you can recognize if you worship your presidential candidate of choice? 

Take heed—the answer requires some uncomfortable self-reflection. 

You worship your president if you have allowed him to be your shepherd, leading you to waters that aren't still but rushing with rage against others who don't agree with you. You worship your president if paths of righteousness are defined by a blue tie or red tie. You worship your president if the rod and staff no longer convict you but have been widdled by your pride, forged as gnarly fingers to point at the other party's faults, neglecting your own. You worship your president if you can't sit down at a table filled with your political enemies. You worship your president if your cup runneth over with excuses for their lifestyle. You worship your president if you obey their directives to ignore the goodness and dismiss the mercy if it's extended by the other candidate. 

Is this what it means to dwell in the house of the Lord? Do we want our eternity paved by our present decision to put politicians over our great Redeemer?

Identify "with" versus Identify "By"

I'm not saying you can't identify with a certain political party. The reality is that when you vote, the system registers you based on your voting preferences. That's because identifying with someone or something, whether it's a friend, political party, social club, or religion, means you overlap in commonalities. Often, through shared experiences, you relate to a person's thoughts and opinions. As a result, those thoughts and opinions typically lead you to identify with a certain faith, community, or politician. That's how we as people establish friendships, build communities, and shape our world. 

So I'm not suggesting that you can't defend a certain president's legislative choices or campaign strategies. Frankly, I enjoy heated political discussion—that's respectful and righteous in behavior. But you must understand that you're treading dangerous water when you begin to identify yourself "by" a president and their campaign. Identifying "by" a president takes agreeing with their thoughts and experiences to an extreme, authoritative level, allowing them to reshape who you are. They become your shepherd, your compass, your convictions, your right of passage, your everything. But this is what we should allow Christ to do and be in us—not any mortal, political accolades or not:

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Disaffiliating from the Idolatry

Friends, if you've taken some time to reflect and recognize that you identify "by" your presidential candidate, allowing your voting preferences to destroy relationships and pull you from the mercy, love, and unpolitical justice Christ calls us to, take that first step towards disaffiliating from the idolatry. Step one is as simple as confession. Take it up with God. Do what all the politicians won't—apologize. Return to the Good Shepherd. 

In your day-to-day life, disaffiliating from political idolatry might look something like:

-unfollowing politicians on social media whose content is always centered on slander, defamation, and attacking the other team.
-taking a sabbatical from your favorite news station.
-watching varying news channels to see the other side's perspective.
-apologizing to someone you got into an unChristlike political argument with.
-keeping political conversations separate from family time and special occasions.
-praying fervently and compassionately before hanging out with others who hold differing political views.
-doing proper research on all candidates, regardless of party, so you vote in an educated way.

Friends, there's nothing wrong with showing up to the polls. I encourage you to. But what I discourage is demonizing someone who votes differently than you. 

Some of the most God-honoring people I know vote Republican. Some of the most God-honoring people I know vote Democratic.

Some of the most legalistic, insensitive, hateful people I know vote Republican. Some of the most legalistic, insensitive, hateful people I know vote Democratic.

It truly is a blessing and honor to live in a country that allows you to choose your leader. And I think God calls us to use our vote for His honor and glory. Now, I won't pretend to understand how we read the same Bible, worship the same God, and continue to hold such different convictions, but such a mystery leaves room for conversation, empathy, and humility. Our differences grant us the opportunity to truly decipher what our country is doing, how it's treating its people, who is being harmed by policy, and how the world benefits or is belittled by our nation's world-stage choices. 

The Fragility of Time

However, when all is said and done, when we've cast our votes and a certain man claims victory while another takes defeat, may we remember just how short life is. Four years is but a blink in the eye of eternity. All politicians will one day step down from their position, pass from this Earth, and meet their Maker. May this reflection on the fragility of time refocus our vision toward what lasts forever, Who is good, Whose mercy endures all the days of our lives. And may we dwell in His house, the Good Shepherd's house, forever. Amen.

"He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Chinnapong

Peyton Garland headshotPeyton Garland is an author and Tennessee farm mama sharing her heart on OCD, church trauma, and failed mom moments. Follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland and check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, to discover Jesus' hope in life's simplest moments.