Reflections on an Emotional Election

I get it. You were stressed about this election. You were passionate and full of feeling about who would take their place in the executive branch of our government. And now you are still stressed. You were up all night watching election returns and too tired (and depressed) to go to work. It is hard to believe that not everyone sees things as clearly as you do. It is hard to stop thinking that those who do not see things the way you do are simply stupid.

Or, you were stressed before the election. And now you are relieved. You are convinced the right candidate won. You were up all night watching election returns and running on adrenalin. You are trying to convince yourself that God wanted it to be like this. And of course, it is hard to stop thinking that those who do not see things the way you do are simply stupid.

You try to convince yourself that you are simply trying to be biblical in your response. That God called you to be a democrat, or a republican. The fact is, you are probably a democrat because your grandfather was. Or because your college professor strongly influenced you to become one. You are probably a republican because you were raised in the Midwest where everyone is republican. Or because you rebelled against your liberal parents and joined the young republicans at an early age. No matter how we got where we are, we are feeling a great deal of passion and emotion about our decision (and about those who make opposing decisions).

In the midst of all these feelings, there is something we must not forget. Our definition of sovereignty does not permit us to become too dependent on any candidate, not even a candidate for president. We can never put our trust in a political party or a candidate to solve issues like poverty, racism, or any list of “political issues.”  Before the first ballot was cast on Election Day, we already knew that Jesus was risen. We knew that Jesus was sovereign. We knew that Jesus ruled as King of the Kingdom. When we all woke the day following the election, we know that Jesus is risen. We know Jesus is sovereign. We know that Jesus rules in His Kingdom. No, our hope is not in an election. But in the Good News of another Kingdom.

John Wesley and Voting

An entry from October 6, 1774 in The Journal of John Wesley

I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

Conventions and Kingdoms

With political conventions just around the corner, it may be a good time to be reminded that like anyone else the church can get caught up thinking that Caesar and Caesar’s politics are in control. Listening to would be presidents and watching the polls and reading the news are activities that try to convince us the world exists because of Caesar. This is an all too familiar song from the symphony of human strategies.

The world will continue to sing this song because it is convinced the best way to change things is through politics. This makes it even more important for us to gather to sing our songs and name the Name and open the words that remind us who we are. If we do not believe or behave differently than anyone else, why would we expect anyone else to be interested in what we have to say?

No matter your political preference, the world still begins and ends with God. Whatever happens in the capital on any day is never as significant as what happened one spring morning in a Jerusalem cemetery. No philosophy of government will ever be as interesting as the adventure the church is already on. Both democrats and republicans are only offering solutions to maintain status quo and their own versions of power. It is not their fault they only have human solutions to offer. This short reminder is not a call to boycott Election Day, only a reminder that we serve another Kingdom.

Church and Politic

In case you haven’t heard, there will be an election in November. You may not be excited about it. Just thinking about the next president may make you anxious. You might not be convinced the candidates are strong. This may be the first presidential election in history where no one actually votes for a candidate, only against the other one. You might be planning to cast a ballot and then pray for four years of gridlock.

Even in the church, many are pulling for one candidate over the other. Or, as others are, planning to vote against one or the other. While making plans about whether to vote, or who to vote for, or against – we must not forget we belong to a political story that does not accommodate the mainstream political story. We must remember that no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King.

When we say Jesus is King we are not talking about some metaphor, we are talking about the reality of “The Kingdom is at Hand.” When we say Kingdom we may picture a spiritual rule but we also recognize it as a political term that places the church smack dab in the middle of a political discussion. We cannot get away from politics when we talk about the church. Ecclesia is the word used for church in the New Testament. Interestingly, before the word was used for church it was used to describe local political gatherings. It seems that both kingdom and church take us into politics. If this puts you in the conversation of American politics, I pray you are able to behave as a follower of King Jesus.

Still it is easy at this point of the political cycle to bow to the politics of the world. It is easy to begin thinking that victory on the world stage is the same as a victory in the Kingdom. Yet, we are not called to be soldiers in the culture wars. We cannot vacillate between treating Jesus as King in the spiritual realm but Caesar as king in the public sector. We are not casting a ballot for Caesar; we have already given our allegiance to another. We may not be able to get away from political implications. But, whatever else happens in November, we will still be living under the rule of our King and by the expectations of His Kingdom. Perhaps our best political moves will be to gather in order to do the things we are called to do as followers of King Jesus.

God Loves Socialists

God loves socialists. This is fact. There is no evidence to the contrary. None. It does not matter to God  whether socialism is a good way to govern or not. For that matter, God also loves capitalists. In fact, God may be less concerned about your leanings on the political spectrum than the notion you are willing to identify yourself with such small short sided labels.

Vote carefully. Vote for someone you think will be a good leader. Vote for someone you think will be a steward of resources. Vote for someone who knows that words mean things, yet will not take their own words so seriously they may be unable to admit when they are wrong. But whoever you vote for, do not put unrealistic expectations on them. They will be more like a pharaoh than a messiah.

No matter who you vote for, no matter who is elected, love them. God does.

A Season for Fashion

Political season is but a fashion show.  Do I look good as a conservative?  Do liberal views make me appear younger?  If I vote Nader will people recognize my sense of independence?  Or perhaps we wear one suit at the office and feel more comfortable in another on the weekend.  It is not an accident that our lack of identity and community result in a lack of political savvy.

To vote is the great American privilege.  Yet, I can’t help but think that it is a great danger.  I listen to people as they prepare to vote.  I’m shocked they can tie their own shoes and we let them choose the president.  This is the American dilemma.  Another dilemma is the choices given.  I’m not sure I want a president who wants to be president so badly.  (I heard that one candidate spent 3.3 million dollars on television ads alone in one day).

Some claim to vote for life.  Some claim choice.  Some claim to vote economy.  Some claim to vote green.  Some guns.  Some race.  Some gender.  Some vote because they are told to.  Some vote for who they are told to.  Some vote Democrat because of FDR.  Some vote Republican because of Reagan.  Some make up their mind when they walk into the booth.  The reasons that people vote and who they vote for should shock us, yet it doesn’t even mildly surprise us.

It is possible that voting for one candidate may cause others to consider you unintelligent.  By voting for the other, you may be considered immoral.  Some may view one candidate a type of savior.  Others may view the very same candidate the anti-Christ.

Some claim that this is the start of a new era.  Some claim that this is the demise of the nation.  Some claim that there is no difference.  Some claim not to care.  Election years tell us something about ourselves.  We are fickle.  Polls go up and down weekly depending on who said what, who did what.  Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Tina Fey, Ann Coulter are perhaps more influential than the candidates themselves.  We allow media to determine our vote.  Entertainers sway us.

We are in politics whether we want to be or not.  Whether anyone votes for us or not.  What we do not want is a political agenda that looks like the Republican party on its knees.  Christians are not synonymous with conservative secularists.  Nor do we want mainline denominations automatically assuming the social position of liberal Democrats.  The church can not be limited to a simple prop for the state.

Perhaps the church needs politics to prevent us from becoming escapists.  To prevent us from believing that our faith is for our own private benefit.  Perhaps politics needs the church to prevent it from placing totalizing demands on its citizens.  Perhaps we are a reminder that government is always limited in its sovereignty.

What I want is to hear Gospel lessons about loving one another that lead to belief that citizens have a moral obligation to take care of the poor and marginalized.  I want to hear that allegiance to or dependence on government is far too narrow a focus for discovering purpose and meaning.

In a year of presidential election, the news is focused on economy, on health care, on race, on gender, on taxes, on terrorism, on alternative fuel.  I would not suggest these things are unimportant.  Yet, I cannot help but think that the things we concern ourselves with are small and unimaginative.

Beware of compromise.  Not just with emperor, but with all facets of the state in collusion with religious, economic, and social aspects of the idolatrous culture.  Beware, politics can be willing to do whatever it takes to make a good show and get the applause of the crowd in order to get access to power and become self-important.  When will we recognize that we can not rely upon government to be the answer to the problems that concern us?

Presidential election should not be taken lightly.  But, we continue to show our priorities by our decisions.  We are American, we participate in American activity.  Yet, we recognize that we are citizens of another kingdom.  We live for a different Kingdom every day.  In this Kingdom, we vote with our lives, not in a booth expressing our opinion about what Caesar should do.  We may look out of step.  We may not fit at the office or on the weekend.  But we know that fashion is only for a season.

A Pledge for Perspective

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.