There are likely many sermon series with a political twist that occur in churches leading up to election time. Granted, many of those are about increasing interest and attendance. Many amount to little more than socialist propaganda. Many derive from a conservative ghetto. But at least some will explore the all important matter of allegiance.
More attention is likely given to presidential debates. A debate series stirs media attention (much more than a sermon series) because of entertainment value. Sometimes there is more to it, but like every other televised product, a debate series is primarily to attract viewers. There will be claims that they serve the primary purpose of enlightening viewers of the best candidates for president. But, these show remind us every four years that this is not about information. It is not about issues. It is about marketing candidates and television ratings. The media would like nothing more than to create a star that will guarantee ratings the next four years.
In their effort to become the star the media is looking for, candidates attempt to say the right things. In one of these shows of the 2008 series, the dialogue went like this; John McCain said “America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world.” Barack Obama, in his response, said, “Senator McCain and I do agree, this is the greatest nation on earth. We are a force of good in the world.” I have to ask, would Jesus say amen?
Television debate encourages candidates to avoid reason unless it serves the greater purpose of making an impression. Complexity nor logic nor ideas typically play a part in this drama. In fact, it would not be shocking if future debates were to come with a soundtrack or a power point presentation to further emphasize themes and enhance impressions. Candidates may debate from a distance from a web cam or even as holograms. Just as long as they leave the desired impression.
I am reminded of Neil Postman’s warnings in Amusing Ourselves to Death. There are great concerns when eye contact, one liners, and cosmetics become more important than ideology. Or when the appearance of meeting expected claims becomes more important than the actual capability of meeting those claims. Or when even things considered most important can be presented in a neat entertainment package.
Post debate commentary is even less credible. People who desire to be on television and appear as if they have value in the political process line up to further enhance the impression of their preferred candidate. (Usually by calling into question the impression made by the rival candidate).
An election year puts us on a slippery slope. The temptation increases to get caught believing in a political illusion. The temptation to put ultimate trust in political leaders and political structures. The temptation to get angry with those who do not share our ideology. There is no denying it – it is political season. We are surrounded by media spin, campaign rhetoric, over-commercialization, over-exposure of candidates, and entertainment disguised as intellectual forum. And the danger of temptation is real. We are constantly faced with the question of allegiance.
Recently, I’ve been reading Revelation. It doesn’t take long to realize that this is a political book. You can deny it – but that doesn’t make it less true. Revelation is political. Authorities are announced. People are being called to march under the mark of their leader. Revelation is a call for allegiance.
Erik Erikson stated that “Politics always competes with religion (joining it, tolerating it when it must, and absorbing it when it can) in order to promise, if not a life beyond, then a new deal on this earth, and a Leader smiling charismatically from the placards.” To this, Revelation responds.
We live in political days. Revelation is a political book. This makes it a great time to read Revelation. Revelation attempts to give perspective to the present by setting it in the context of the supernatural world. We are in need of a perspective that transforms the mundane activity of an election year to a greater perspective of reality. Perhaps Revelation should be mandatory reading during an election year. Perhaps it should be included in more sermon series.
Revelation reminds us that these debates, these campaigns, these commercial dollars, and even this brand of government is not permanent. As important as these things appear now, we must be willing to ask ourselves about their ultimate importance. In the land where we embrace, encourage, and celebrate separation of church and state – Revelation may sound a bit out of step. Revelation places politics right in the context of worship. But, Revelation knows that anything, in fact everything fits in this context.