Bryce Harper and the Problem of Partisan Politics

I am a fan of Philadelphia sports teams. This necessitates that I hate Troy Aikman, JD Drew, Sidney Crosby, Joe Carter, Sean Rodriguez, and plenty of others.

For seven years I hated Bryce Harper too.

He played for a rival. He was entitled and arrogant, an obnoxious jerk. Easy to hate.

This year he switched sides. He plays for Philadelphia now. He is one of us.

Suddenly he isn’t entitled, he is driven. He isn’t arrogant, he is confident. He isn’t a jerk, he is passionate. Easy to love.

Instead of taunting him, I defend him. Instead of pointing out his abysmal batting average and strike out rate, I laud his defensive skill and hustle.

Last night in Washington, his former city, he was heckled for switching sides.

In sports you are either for us our against us.

This is ugliest when people ignore grievous sins like assault and abuse when it benefits their team.

It turns ugly when it shows up in our politics too.

When the only thing that matters is the name after the name on the ballot. When we determine what we think about a person only by the party they belong to.

When we defend the indefensible simply because they are on our “team.” When we ignore lies or immorality or twist ourselves into pretzels to explain away troubling realities.

When we attack the other team for doing the exact same things we applaud on our side. When we pick and choose based on an R or a D after a name.

We have reached a time in our country where we have long settled what and who we believe and any evidence to the contrary is rationalized away with ease because we are more loyal to our team than we are to rational thought or even our convictions.

In politics you are either for us our against us.

And we are worse for it.

It hurts the country, the Church, even the parties we seek to defend. I mean, is there no one else from your political bent who can advance your causes while still being a decent person?

As a Christian I cannot allow a political party to determine what is right and wrong. I cannot allow leaders to steer my moral direction. As the psalmists says, I cannot put my trust in princes and human beings who cannot save.

Church, blind and unmoored partisanship is idolatry. It aligns our heart with other kingdoms and it destroys our credibility in the world. We should be the most consistent when it comes to right and wrong, yet we are often seen as the least.

Our elected officials should be held to higher standards, even when they play for our team. Let’s not so fear making our team look bad that we are afraid to call out wrong behavior. Let’s stop defending people and things simply because we agree on some policies.

We say our hope is in Jesus then we act and talk and attack like our hope is in the president or congress. We say truth and morality matter and then turn a blind eye if it benefits us. We say that Jesus is Lord and then participate in the ways of Caesar.

We must be more faithful. Partisan politics will exhaust us to the point of death and will drag others right along with us.

May our convictions guide us more than our favorite teams. May accountability lead to health for us and the Church and our nation. May we be free to always fight for what is right and good. And may righteousness and justice matter more than winning.