I wrote most of this immediately after Obama’s win in 2008. Although the context is different now, I think my main points apply. I know I struggle with putting too much faith in politics, but the ‘faith’ american christians have in conservative, Republican politicians grieves me profoundly. Satan has used conservative Republican and now tea party people to distract the church from its real mission. (and that real mission isn’t voting Democratic either…)
But the notion that we can vote into reality a top-down systemic moral/cultural change is absurd on many levels. It’s not supported in Scripture, and its effectiveness in real life is negligible. Here’s the argument developed further …
A majority of Americans cheered and wept with relief as the Bush era was swept aside by Obamamania. A minority woke up depressed on Wednesday with the nagging idea that the country might be center-left after all. The ones feeling the most pain from this setback are those evangelical “Country First” christians who have tried to keep America “christian” or bring it back to some ethereal “christendom” it started losing in the 60’s. Events like the 2000 and 2004 elections and the pandering Palin pick gave them a feeling of majority-like political power that the false prophets of the religious right believe is their holy mandate and the church’s dominion destiny.
Nov 8, 2008, however, cheered home the unspinnable fact that the evangelical-in-bed-with-the-Republicans vote isn’t proving enough to hold back the tide of the majority, the definitional nexus of power in a democracy. In fact, the outcomes of this election, excepting the anti-gay marriage victories in California and Florida, show that the power of this political minority is steadily slipping. But that trend can be a cause for rejoicing for those who turn away from worldly power and put their complete trust in the King of kings.
Accepting this politically impotent minority status does not feel good, especially after having experienced past mountain top experiences where american evangelical political power seemed to be validated when certain laws were passed, a particularly bold “christian” was elected or some Republican said he/she supported the “christian/evangelical” cause. (e.g Reagan’s patronization) But if these purported followers of Jesus would rightly discern the Scriptures they literally cherish, they should be embracing the politically ineffective minority status that the Democratic/Obama win represents. It is God’s perfect will for His church, even the American one, to occupy a politically weak minority status.
In Matthew, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” God desires that every heart would follow Him, but He loves humanity with the choice of free will, and history and current circumstances show that only a small redeemed remnant constitutes His kingdom. That remnant minority will never be politically powerful enough to bring top-down, power-over others change. A skimming of the NT hammers home that reality.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Here we find the admonition to “rejoice” in the lowest of earthly positions. Ironically, American followers of Christ are not even near this blessed lowly place.
Paul adds in 2 Corinthians 10:4 that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds”. The political power of a majority is a completely human construct of Enlightenment democratic ideology. It is the “power over” way that Jesus consistently rejected. In His lifestyle, trial, death and resurrection, Jesus demonstrates an almost total disinterest in political power of any kind. When standing before Pilate, Jesus delivers the real blow to the american evangelical power aspirations in John 18: 35-37, when He says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
These passages argue against the idea that God’s kingdom of hearts should seek or even possess political power. For when the meek, peaceful, loving kingdom of God obtains the power of a human political majority it ceases to be the kingdom of God. Worldly, political power, the power that Satan gives to those who bow to him, cannot reside within the kingdom of God.
History has been teaching this principle for centuries. Constantine, the Holy Roman Empire, the Reformation, the European religious wars, the Oliver Cromwell theocracy, the Geneva of John Calvin all illustrate the futility of trying to stuff political power into the Kingdom of God box. (and yes, it does have boundaries) Unfortunately, many American “christians” continue to pursue, sometimes by very unChrist-like means, the Constantinian, Augustinian, Falwellian heresy of “christian” political power. Sadly, in doing so, they have become worldlier and less like Christ.
Why should we Americans who claim to and who truly desire to follow Jesus embrace a politically powerless minority status, especially after the center-left majority has spoken and elected Barack Obama as their leader? In a general way, the God-ordained lowly minority status blesses us with inspiring freedoms and spiritual zeal. Instead of wailing, “Now we won’t be able to do anything”, the church can rise up and state, “ ‘Yes, we can’ bring the light of Jesus to our dark corner and establish His kingdom here in the hearts of men.”
By embracing a pilgrim minority status, we are freed from slavish patriotism/nationalism. This is not apathy about America’s troubling issues, but an understanding that america does not hold a more exceptional place in God’s kingdom of hearts than any other secular worldly nation on this planet. Freedom from American tribalism allows us to see other races and nationalities with God’s loving perspective. We’re also freed from the compulsion to “christianize” our nationalistic impulses.
Freedom from nationalism also releases us from selfish fears and worries associated with the national “direction”. Pre-election horror scenarios like Focus on the Family Action’s “Letter from 2012” will have no impact on us. Again, this should not be a “we don’t care” attitude but a confident trust in God’s power and care despite the political landscape around us. He has promised to “never leave us or forsake us”. His promise stands no matter which direction America heads. If the church demonstrated this trust in God through word and deed, many on the outside would take notice. Real change of heart might happen more, the kingdom would grow and America would change, from the inside out.
In our minority status we are free to love rather than coerce. The mechanisms of compulsion, law and punishment are no longer available to us. Our only avenues are the ones so well exemplified by Jesus’ Gospel lifestyle. We can bless and encourage rather than retaliate and punish. We can witness with our feet and hands rather than rant like a radio talk show. Our local communities will become our focus and bringing light to nearby dark corners will become our main concern. And if all of this causes the ungodly to lash out with national or local-level persecution, we are free to suffer joyfully, returning good for evil, praying with love and blessing those who curse us.
The Obama win is a gift to the true Kingdom of God in America. God has given His people another chance to seize the humble minority status from which a river of life can flow. Will the church join the political far-right in its campaign to fight back with the weapons of human politics and try to destroy the Obama administration like they did during the Clinton years? Or will the church finally lay down their American idol and stop pursuing political power? Will they finally focus on the two great commandments that Jesus said are most important? Instead of huddling in fear and grumbling without end, will American followers of Jesus pour themselves into encouraging the weak, empowering the helpless, freeing the bound, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting the lonely, caring for the broken, and loving the resistant. Will the church shrug off the weights and reach out to all faiths, creeds, ideologies, colors, situations and lifestyles with the love of Jesus? If we follow through with a resounding yes to all these and more, then we will be a river of life that will produce an abundant harvest of real in-the-heart change.
(Based on most recent events, the american evangelical church in general continues to play the worldly political game, and when God-ordained circumstances nudge them towards real Kingdom of God fruitfulness, their response continues to be… “hell, no!”)