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Posts Tagged ‘government’

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.

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We live in a democracy. Sometimes we act as if that means the church has fewer challenges than, if we lived in say, first century Rome. We may not have fewer challenges. However, our challenges are different. For example, we sometimes trick ourselves into thinking church and government work together as allies to make the world a better place. We may not know what it is like to be threatened by Rome’s lions or Babylon’s fiery furnace, still we are not without challenges.

We are hearing a lot of political noise on a daily basis. To listen may cause us to feel a great deal of emotion. To listen, one might think the best way to win an election is to shame the opponent. We do not participate in this. No matter how disagreeable a candidate may be, they were still created in the image of God. Here are some words we may wish to add to the political conversation;

  • The government does not mirror the will of God. Government is not given divine permission to do what it wants.
  • We are to be good citizens. This is not the same as total obedience to Caesar.
  • Government at its best is a temporary good. At its worst government will make demands of the church that are counter to church.
  • “What can the church do for the state?” is never the right question, never.

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It is my best guess that your opinion of the Supreme Court is related to the decisions they make regarding cases that you have an interest in. If that is true, you may have some strong opinions about the court at this time. Whatever you may think about it, the court has ruled to legalize same-sex marriage. My best guess is that some feel this is a step of progress. And that others feel it confirms the decay of culture. No matter your opinion, we are given opportunity to explore some important issues.

Much discussion has already taken place about this, plenty more will follow. I hope that future discussion realizes that the Supreme Court did not arrive at this decision simply to please or anger you. Nor did they attempt to define what marriage looks like in the church. No government body is even capable of this. This becomes difficult for us because for so long we have seen marriage in the sight of God and these witnesses as synonymous to marriage recognized by the state. Because of this, it may shock some when the state recognizes marriage that the church may not (I suppose the opposite of this is also true). Yet, the state has never decided what relationships the church will recognize as marriage.

The state may disagree but the church is not subject to the state. We are subject to a different King. Government does not become God when it makes decisions that we disagree with. No matter where government stands on any issue – Jesus is risen! Although we have long appreciated and enjoyed religious freedom, we do not want to be fooled into thinking that our battle is taking place in the culture wars. To have our feet in two kingdoms at once is not where we are called to be.

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It is frustrating to listen to political candidates.  I constantly want them to be people they are not.  With as much optimism as I can muster, I cast my vote.  Many will expect a newly elected official to accomplish things they are not capable of.  At the very least, we should likely require all political commercials to be proceeded with a hazardous warning label that common sense and intellectual health can be impaired by watching the commercials.  Not my idea, I’m just adding an amen to what has already been proposed by Neil Postman.

Especially at election time we are reminded that politics is an arena of suspicion, manipulation, finger pointing, fraud, forked tongue, immaturity, compromise and convenience.  For us, it is a reminder of who we really are.  A lesson in identity.  A reminder that to be shaped by government goes against creation.  It can not be emphasized enough that we are not who and what government thinks we are and wants us to be.  We are present in this realm but we are not governed here.  We live in this realm but we do not live under its rule.

To be dependent upon government is to ensure collapse for it is like building in the sand.  For one thing, government is not certain of its own identity.  Polls, lobbyists, political action committees, special interest groups, consultants, and contributors enable Gepetto to have firm control over government’s officials at any given moment.  As if it were Gumby, government is willing to twist into any shape necessary to maintain the appearance of power.

It is the desire of government that we will be willing to wear a label.  To identify ourselves as liberal or conservative.  Democrat or Republican.  Pro-choice or pro-life.  Union or coalition.  Blue collar or white collar.  NAACP or NRA.  Any group or label will do.  If we can be convinced that we are one or more of these things, we can be convinced that they are working on our behalf.

You can vote Democrat, but don’t become one.  Register Republican, but don’t become one.  You can join the NRA but that is not who you are.  You can pay dues to the union but they are not your people.  In fact, we are none of these things.  Such weak efforts at community and identity fall short on their best day.  To align ourselves with one or more may not be wrong, but to draw our identity from them is a crisis.  To consider any of them a source of community is artificial.  To pledge them our allegiance is to be a fool.

Our expectations of government need to be put into perspective.  We should not expect the most important issues to be recognized by the government.  We should not expect it to share our priorities (prayer and worship do not always provide the results that government is looking for).  Government has limits, it is not an eternal entity.  Caesar is not, has never been, and will never be in control.

I’m reminded that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Perhaps we could paraphrase “there is neither Republican nor Democrat.”  We are the people of God, the Body of Christ, we are the church.  Our gatherings, in fact all of our efforts and activities, are to the glory of God.  To gather as his people and celebrate anything else is compromise or idolatry.  We cease to be his people.  Politicians in pulpits on Sunday mornings are not God’s design for the Lord’s Day.

The issue, as it always is, is one of allegiance.  Campaigns and elections are obviously places where allegiance may be discovered.  I remember what Jesus said “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  I think of Witherington’s paraphrase “Give back to Caesar his worthless coins, and give to God your wholehearted and undivided allegiance.”

Having said that, we must acknowledge at the end of the day that government is gift.  It is given responsibility from above for a time to oversee the affairs of people like us.  “Be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God…”

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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.

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