What is it about a political season that makes Christians as well as those who oppose evangelical (with a little "e") Christianity lose their minds? We have two choices before us for president. But depending on the person speaking to me, my choices are either a right-winged puppet of George Bush who by virtue of his selection of Sara Palin wants to institute a theocracy that would suppress all individual rights and force all music stations to play the Gaither Trio's Classic Hymn Collection, twenty-four hours a day, or a communist-loving, terrorist-sympathizing radical Muslim who has been bred to do what he is doing because he is the anti-Christ.
And this kind of extreme and alarmist polemic is what passes for dialogue and discourse in our day. We've got t-r-o-u-b-l-e! I cannot really address those outside of the faith, because I am not one of them. All I can offer them is the example and testimony of one who by the power of God's grace, is striving like crazy to live and love as Jesus did. Nothing else I can offer is likely to influence them.
But for those of us in the Christian camp, can we just stop it? Please? In something I read recently, the author talked about Christians who often go through two incorrect understandings of the Kingdom of God before they get it right, if they ever do.
One idea is that we want Jesus to bless our rule of our kingdom. This is a corruption of the Gospel that plagues a lot of us. Some of us move past this distortion only to embrace another. We realize thet Jesus needs to rule, so we ask Jesus to rule our kingdom. We want him to rule, but to also remember that it is our kingdom, and we hold veto power of any of his decisions. I think a lot of us are stuck there. We want to do right, but are fully prepared to do wrong if it gets us what we want. And we wonder why the unbelieving world sees us as inauthentic.
Of course the correct and biblical view is for us to forsake our pretend little kingdoms and join the Kingdom of God where Jesus is Lord. And what should our understanding of that Kingdom be in light of the upcoming election? How about loving those we see as our enemies, praying for them, blessing and not cursing them? How about speaking the truth in love? How about refraining from speck removal and concentrating on plank removal (not to be confused with a political party plank)? How about caring for the poor and oppressed and those on the margins? How about honoring and facilitating hard work and enterprise and creativity and growth? How about caring for the environment over which God has made us stewards? How about caring for fatherless and the widow and those who have no voice and cannot speak for themselves, from the homeless in the US, to the starving children on another continent, to the unborn everywhere?
When did, "Go, sell all that you have . . . and come, follow me" turn into "stay, keep all you have and gather more, and elect politicians who will give you what you want so that you can continue to rule your own kingdom, or imagine that I am running it?"
Look, I know I am stepping out on a limb here, but if Jesus were to inject his voice into this political scene, I think he might be consistent with his behavior while in the flesh. To the irreligious who were guilty of greed and irresponsibility and self-promotion and lack of concern for others, he would have some redirecting words of grace pointing to an offer of transfomration.
For those of us in the church who have bilindly wed ourselves to Conservative (with a big "C") politics, or Liberal (with a capital "L") politics, giving automatic blesing, and recklessly and indiscriminately buying into whatever those leaders offered, Jesus would have some very harsh words. Too many of us have wanted Jesus to rule over our kingdoms instead of forsaking ours and joining his.
We always ask God to bless America. Maybe God is waiting for those who say they follow Jesus to bless him by living according to the kingdom principals he lived and proclaimed. Maybe God has no interest in blessing our pretend little kingdoms.
My thought is that Christians need to be part of the discussion in the public square and work to influence public policy as much as we can. But to indiscriminately join ourselves to political parties or movements without reserving a healthy level of detachment, is reckless and poor stewardship of the Gospel we have been given as a priceless treasure, because it causes the Gospel to become a prop in service of an ideology. When we are guilty of that, we've got trouble with a capital "T."