Especially during election season, politics make me crazy – and Facebook is the first place I show it.
Usually, it begins with news of some political action or position I find untenable. I sink into a funk and share witty quips to expose it – but too often I take personal aim at its supporters, devolving into biting sarcasm. Since my ultimate goal is to be loving, not biting, I’m constantly asking God to save me from myself (and constantly thanking him for the “delete” function).
One recent funk started on a Tuesday, the day of the Oregon primary election. All morning I tried to ignore my ballot on the corner of my desk, debating whether it was worth the effort to turn it in. I have never been so unexcited about voting in my life.
Like millions of other voters, over time I have felt more and more beaten down by politicians from both major political parties – specifically by their tone-deaf disregard for us, their constituents. However, our current choices, specifically for president, seem no better than those of the past; in fact, to me they seem much worse. In most elections I am concerned that my candidate might lose, but this time I am horrified that one of the remaining choices is actually going to win.
They’ve ignored us, lied to us, insulted us, and promised us a fantasy so far beyond the Constitutional powers of a president that no president could legally deliver on it.
But we don’t seem to know or care; we just keep crying out, “Gimme! Gimme!”
It seems Paul’s ancient warning about theological pandering could apply almost equally to political pandering today:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3, NIV).
Sadly, there are a lot of teachers, leaders, politicians, academics, and even ministers willing to tickle those itching ears. It is amazing how quickly we will abandon critical thinking in our quest for identity and security. Like a barnacle on a boat, we’ll latch on to anything – including any leader, no matter how crass, dishonest, or delusional – just to hear what we want to hear.
However, as I stared in depression at that ballot, I realized something which brought me great hope.
It is this: I haven’t lost my identity at all. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I identify with the kingdom of God. I don’t have to fight or campaign for it because it has been given to me. My kingdom identity cannot be taken from me in an election, nor is it represented by a political party. This identity does not need to be affirmed by a fickle candidate or cause, and its existence is not contingent on popular support.
Further, I realized that the church has an opportunity to re-establish its identity within the culture. No matter who wins the election, we may have lost the culture wars in America – but we can still be spiritual warriors in God’s kingdom.
How? To do so, we must wrestle with three important questions:
1) What is the church’s most important role in our society right now? Is it to champion a cause or a belief, or is it to serve people in Jesus’ name?
Currently, in the U.S., I believe it is the latter. The Christian right correctly believes we are to be a moral voice in our culture, telling the truth about sin and repentance. The Christian left correctly believes we are to be advocates for “the least of these,” helping the poor and oppressed. However, in both cases, we as Christians should be doing those things ourselves – not trying to get the government to do them.
2) Are we ready to submit all of our political agendas to Jesus as King? After all, when the presidential election is over, the “winners” will herald utopia while the “losers” will proclaim disaster; but the new administration will last only a few short years before another will take its place. Do we truly believe that God’s very kingdom itself depends on the outcome of human governments?
Newsflash: No political party – conservative, progressive, or socialist – can claim exclusive rights to the kingdom of God, which is far greater than Trump, Clinton, or Sanders. His kingdom will outlast this election and all future elections.
3) Are we willing to lose our place in society in order to gain Jesus? In the U.S., we Christians struggle with the idea that our faith is becoming marginalized. One could argue whether we were ever a “Christian” nation, but even if we were, we are quickly becoming a secular one. We are now on the outside looking in, living in the margins. The question is, what should we be doing in those margins?
Maybe, instead of working to reclaim America as a Christian nation, we should be working to surrender America to God.
No matter who wins the election.