The Stories Our Politicians Tell

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Our allegiance to economic prosperity can shape us more than we realize.

As the height of the 2020 presidential election season approaches, many Christians are asking important questions about our political responsibility: What policies should I support? Do I vote on party lines or on the issues most important to me? In the midst of a global pandemic and racial tension splintering our society, the stakes feel different this year. But important questions about parties and candidates can easily obscure another question at the heart of our political and spiritual lives: What story am I buying into?

Politics is all about storytelling. Picture Ronald Reagan’s iconic 1984 “Morning in America” campaign ad. Light slowly rises over shots of farmers working in the fields and a paperboy throwing the morning paper onto green lawns. A family moves into their new home, a beaming couple celebrates their wedding, and the sun rises over Capitol Hill. The economic statistics listed throughout the ad are secondary to the emotional and visual story of hope, new beginnings, and the American Dream.

In their campaigns, candidates do not merely outline policy proposals, they articulate a vision of a good life: free from certain threats, in community with the right kind of people. These marketable narratives are not content to remain at the penultimate level, shaping our political decisions while leaving our theological commitments and spiritual formation unaffected. Like all persuasive, affective stories, they will fight for ultimate status in our lives.

Most Christians separate their political and spiritual lives into two different realms. One is about the care of our souls, the inner life of the Christian, the way that spiritual disciplines shape us into the people of God. The other is about how we …

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