As I've mentioned many times on this blog, I wonder a great deal about why political discourse is so poisonous. I've tended to think about this from a psychological perspective. But I've repeatedly been stymied coming at the phenomenon from that angle. To be sure, psychological research has illuminated many of the cognitive and emotional dynamics that make ideological discourse so angry and close minded. And I've pointed to some of that research over the years.
However, I've just about decided that the real problem isn't psychological at all. I'm thinking that the problems with our political discourse are spiritual in nature. Specifically, I think the ideologically driven political discourse in America today is a form of demon possession.
I should probably explain that...
First, think about the negative emotions that get stirred up during political debate. These are, I'd venture, the most extreme social emotions that we see around us. I know in my own church we can talk about just about anything...except politics. I think that is diagnostic. Politics as the spiritual Power that creates conflict the Kingdom of God.
So why are the emotions so hot? Well, two things suggest themselves. First, the issues must be high stakes. We wouldn't be getting upset if we didn't think something important was up for grabs. We don't get this angry over trivialities. So, given that politics generates the hottest emotions, it stands to reason that we believe that the biggest, most important stuff is hanging in the balance when we talk about politics. Politics, given the emotions involved, has to be talking about vital and ultimate things (in the language of the bible, the "heavenly" or "spiritual" things).
Secondly, we are getting mad at people. Which means we are focused on the human sphere, getting angry at people who seem to be screwing up these very important things. In short, politics is so fractious because we feel, consciously or unconsciously, that it's all up to us, that we have to get this right, only we can save ourselves. And this is why, when we see people going wrong (in our eyes), we can't help but think in apocalyptic, doomsday scenarios. Ultimate things are at stake and it's up to us to get this right. Which makes politics, essentially, a religious debate. Politics is a from of religion, complete with believers and heretics, saints and sinners.
This has to be right. For example, most Christians I know can talk calmly with atheists. This calmness seems to suggest that nothing much is a stake. We can agree to disagree on the topic of God. But I know few conservative or liberal Christians who can talk calmly with each other. Which seems to suggest, and the emotions are diagnostic, that politics is more important than God. It's more vital and urgent. God's existence or non-existence is a bit of a yawn. But a larger or smaller government? That's an issue, no pun intended, of biblical proportions.
I'm guessing, now, you can see why I think politics is a form of demon possession. Politics is, at root, the human quest to be God, the quest to save ourselves. We become (or, more precisely, our political ideology becomes) the Messiah. And we worship this Messiah and defend it more vigorously than we'd ever think of defending God Himself.
The bible has lots of descriptions for this kind of activity, this quest to save ourselves and become the Messiah:
IdolatryPolitics is demonic because it is the belief that we can save ourselves, that its up to us to get it right and, if we don't, the Apocalypse is upon us. This, as best I can tell, is the only reason that can explain why politics is so hot, hateful, unthinking, and fractious. There is a demon/idol/false Messiah turning us against each other, driving the deepest wedge I know of between the People of God.
Exchanging the creature for the Creator
The Satanic and demonic