“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.”
-Rob Bell (Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile)
Christians and politics...
Odds are if you hear these two words in a sentence, it can bring up all kinds of negative images, and rightly so.
I've been thinking a lot about this quote, from the book Jesus Wants to Save Christians. It's quite a good read, and challenged me on a lot of different levels.
It is very important for the church to understand its role when it comes to politics, because this understanding will vastly shape the body of Christ itself, and what it is presented as to the countries it is in.
It occured to me that Christians in the early church were none too focused on the politics of their time. In fact, if Jesus had wanted to start a political revolution, he certainly had the clout to do so early in his ministry, but he didn't. He kept talking about the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is a recurring theme throughout the new testament. It's something that the early church pursued wholeheartedly. It's the establishment of something that goes beyond human systems, and governmental infrastructures.
So when we see members of the American body of Christ using their faith as a political tool, it raises quite a few disturbing questions.
Chiefly: "Does the American body of Christ's goals align with the early followers of Jesus?"
It's this political posturing on the part of many preachers that can actually drive people away from the central message of Jesus. A message that transcends current political trends.
Both sides of the aisle do this.
We have the so called "values voters" on the conservative side, a title which is really a misnomer, because it implies that those opposed to these particular views have no values. This is untrue. Everyone has a set of values. It determines how we think, act and interact with others.
There's also the radical left wing preachers who use Jesus and his message to promote a liberal political agenda.
But, in my understanding, the church wasn't formed as a political tool. Oh, yes, we are called as Christians to live in accordance to the laws laid down by the powers that be, to "render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser's." But that's about it...
The idea of the church is to begin to heal the world of its many injuries. How can we do that when we are tied up in political disputes that are actually quite petty?
Would our time be better invested in action, rather than trying to legislate a better world?
America is a Democratic Republic.
I find this fact exceptionally interesting, given the fact the all of the founding fathers were devoutly religious, and that the overwhelming majority embraced the Christian faith, or at least professed to.
True, they did base much of our current government's framework on Judeo-Christian ethic, that is indisputable. But, America is not a Theocracy. It wasn't designed for the institutionalized church to govern its people.
Why is that?
I think the founding fathers understood that church and government have two vastly different functions. I think the founders, having come from a religious monarchy to begin with, also understood that there is just as much potential for a church, when given this kind of power, to become an oppressor, rather than a vessel of freedom.
When the flag and the Bible start to hold hands, we see systems set in place which can actually take away freedoms, and render life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness useless.
The church is not a governmental vessel. The Bible was not designed to be legislated onto those who don't believe as the Christian does. The power of the Bible comes from individual revelation, and inner change. The power of God's word is how it interacts with the individual, and how the individual responds.
Politicizing the scriptures actually can end up trivializing the message of Jesus.
I can't tell you how many of my friends, who don't believe in Christianity, seem to think that all Christians vote Republican.
I can't even begin to describe how difficult it is to explain that Christianity is more than just heterosexual soccer moms who tote their kids to soccer practice in an American made minivan, that is plastered with pro-life stickers.
The message of Jesus is so much greater than the American experiment.
It is more than a political agenda.
It's more than legislating morality onto others.
The message of Jesus calls for the institution of the kingdom of heaven, on earth.
A kingdom of charity.
A kingdom of love.
A kingdom with a citizenry that cares for their neighbors.
A kingdom where we delight in creation, and cast our worries on the one who created all because, after all, he cares for the sparrows and the flowers, how much more than will he care about us.
Christianity and politics should be like oil and water. Separate.
We do have a blessing in this great country where we can choose and elect our leaders. A luxury many in this world do not have. But when we go to the polls, I pray that we can remember that America isn't the point.
It may seem un-patriotic to say.
I don't, by any means, harbor contempt for this nation.
Trust me, I love America, and what it stands for, but it isn't the point in the grander scheme of things.
Many throughout human history have placed their faith in great nations. In reading about the Assyrian empire yesterday, I found out that they named one of their palaces the "Palace without a Rival."
The Palace without a Rival now lays in ruins now just outside of the Iraqi town of Mosul.
Rome was considered the world's shining light. The eternal kingdom. It too fell.
America isn't the point.
The kingdom of heaven is the point, and as citizens of this great kingdom we have a responsibility to move for what matters.
To see the last become first.
To free the oppressed.
To rid ourselves of hatred.
To become all we were intended to be.
Our glory is not in a system.
Our glory is being the progeny of a Creator, who is love and who deserves all glory, praise and honor.