Shayne Looper: Here I am, stuck in the middle with you

Shayne Looper

Liberals to the left of me, tea party to the right; here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

The middle is a lonely place these days. There was a time when the nation was more or less divided in half. Now it is perforated along the edges and ready to tear into pieces. 

When it comes to government, I follow a few guiding principles, informed by common sense and by biblical teaching. I believe, for example, that a big government is less manageable than a small one. The breaking GSA scandal (and I’m pretty sure it’s still breaking) is a good example.

I believe that a sprawling bureaucracy is inefficient and wasteful. Where accountability is lacking, misconduct will be plentiful. 

I believe that taxpayers should get what they pay for. This has nothing to do with whether taxes should be higher or lower. It simply means that we should get a dollar’s worth of results out of every dollar we decide to spend.

I believe that money is an instrument, not an objective; a tool, not a goal. Put that tool in the hands of someone who knows what to do with it, and much good can be accomplished; but in the wrong hands, it can cause more problems than it solves. 

(Some of my readers are nodding their heads in agreement. Well don’t stop nodding now, my friends.)

I believe a nation does well to care for its poor. The proverb states, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,” and the Lord never defaults on a debt. But is anyone talking about the poor these days? The Right is not, and neither is the Left. They stopped courting the poor several elections ago and took up with the middle class.

I believe a just policy for aliens must be in place. The Old Testament says: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him” (Leviticus 19:33). A border policy that keeps illegals out is vital. But so is a wise and compassionate policy for treating aliens who are already in.

I believe that a win in politics does not always translate into an improvement in society. If we invest in politics at the cost of ignoring our principles — or worse, our neighbors A — society will not improve; it will grow worse.

Nevertheless, I believe that people of faith have a role to play in government. A biblical principle, dating from a troubled time in Israel’s history, is this: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you ... Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

We have a role to play, but that role never requires a person to adopt a divisive, mean-spirited attitude toward people on the other side of the political spectrum. That may be politics as usual, but it is not Christian in any form, and it is unworthy of people who call Jesus “Lord.”

I believe that politicians can talk about change all they want, but real change does not come because we enact laws — as important as that is — but because we transform hearts. Change that happens in the ballot box but not in the heart and mind will never last.

I believe a Christian should be careful about his or her political allegiances. It’s OK to work for a political party; it’s not OK to be wedded to it. Should our commitment to a party or a policy surpass our commitment to God, we will immediately stop being salt and light to the world, and our unique contribution is lost.  

Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church in Michigan. He can be reached at