The Bible (as well as many other scriptures in other religions) talk about worship being more than songs. Worship is a sense of focus, attention, energy. We can “worship” even through our negative attention, through competition, through whatever it is that is on our hearts, minds, emotions, thoughts the most. We can worship things, ideas, people, celebrities, sports teams, possessions, family members, friends… and I would argue that we do. Some Christians consider idolatry to be only a very specific material object that gives material image to a supernatural being for another religion’s god (see: Hinduism). I personally believe in a broader definition, and I believe that other gods receive worship through more than just idols made by hands.
To the point on politics. Obama was essentially an idol for many. He was to be the personification of progressive and liberal ideas, and the deliverance for many. He disappointed some, and was only a president to others – I believe those two categories capture most everyone. If you thought he was going to be only a president, he was a competent one (your political values may reflect on whether he was a good or bad president). He was not, and never was going to be a king, a savior, a messiah, or even a reformer in the mythic Roosevelt-ian sense.
We don’t do that kind of politics anymore.
The kind of politics that we do have are a replacement for church. We have all the makings of “church” in the political world: community identity, value systems, clergy (politicians, lobbyists, media talking heads), and our very own earthly gods. All of the hope on the shoulders of Obama, and more recently Bernie, Trump, and Hillary, was misplaced. It was misplaced in the practical sense – no president, in any amount of time, with any makeup of congress, can take on the problems of our world. But it was misplaced in the sense that we as human beings were designed to place our hope, to connect to a being beyond our own world.
Imagine if we had the same energy, discussion, focus, and attention on transcendent ideas (love, joy, peace, hope) and an eternal, perfectly good and loving being (God) rather than … the monsters that we have created in their place.
Imagine if, in place of just some of the conversations about Trump, we prayed. Imagine if we had that kind of conviction about the place of God in our lives that we gave him more attention than our national figureheads.
Remember the schadenfreude expressed by the anti-Obama types, when Obama did not deliver on his promises? Are the anti-Trump people going to revel in the same kind of disappointment in a few years? Do we want to live in that kind of tit-for-tat world, where we are constantly taking turns with the “I told you so?” I know I don’t.
Imagine if we were “for” something instead of always “against.” The political church is a church of against. The political church has descended to a low level in this way, and it hurts me to say, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” at least offered a vision of what could be, a “for” rather than an “against.” If we had a clear picture of who we could be, as neighbors, local communities, coalitions of businesses and churches and schools and more, if we were connected deeply among each other, suddenly our political church would be less important – it would loom small in the distance in the face of loving grace and goodness.
Imagine finally, if we focused the energy that comes from hatred (or love) of a politician on the proper targets. We wouldn’t get spun out on every tweet, commercial, headline, etc, we would be responding to the needs, culture, and spirit of our neighbors and our God among us rather than… everything else.