(This is Credo Friday where I try, each week, to post about the things I believe, the things that form me. Not the things I’ve made up but the things that are making me. Today I’m getting around to politics and lean into the very thing that got Jesus crucified. Prayers and thoughts, please.)
What I believe today about politics is a long way from where I was when I first started following Jesus.
Politics was one of the things I was taught not to bring up, from the pulpit or otherwise, as a preacher/pastor. But since my first year in Bible College, it was clear that there was a right party to vote for and right policies to support and a wrong party and wrong policies. To be part of the “faithful” meant you leaned right, pretty hard right, and Jesus and the Christian faith were “clearly” aligned with one of America’s two major parties.
This was caught, not taught.
But I know in some Christian circles it went well beyond something you could catch. It was a mandatory requirement if you wanted to belong.
Liberal was a bad word in politics and in religion. If you wanted a future in ministry in my little world, you avoided using it in both.
And just to be clear, I caught it. I was adamantly conservative in both my politics and my theology. My world was black and white, truth was crystal clear, the Bible clearly taught everything I believed and nothing was more clear than the way the Scriptures supported my political persuasion.
My politics suited my lifestyle as a practicing pharisee. They fed off of each other.
And then one night in 1990, I was born again, again.
Truthfully, it was all of one night and some of the following morning. But by sunrise, the old was gone and new had come.
And little by little, Jesus started scrambling all my eggs. Eventually he got to my politics and little by little, over time, over Bible study, over times of prayer and contemplation, over encounters with the Holy Spirit, and over times of ministry and conversation with people in real life…my politics shifted.
I’ve definitely become a single issue voter. My politics all revolve now around one solitary issue. It’s a core belief for me. It’s a lens or filter through which every other attachment, opinion, preference and hot take has to pass. When I discovered this aspect of following Jesus it’s not an exaggeration to say it turned everything upside down for me.
The moment I came to believe that Jesus really did come to establish his kingdom here on earth and this life wasn’t just a pass/fail test for getting into heaven, my politics changed.
The kingdom of God is now my single issue. And my single party. My only allegiance because we only get one allegiance, we can’t split it or share it or multiply it.
And I’ve chosen for it to belong to the kingdom of God.
And once I oriented my life around this single issue and this one allegiance, I found every human politic to be unworthy of allegiance. I found that every human party was now critiqued by the presence and practice of the kingdom of God. I can’t swear allegiance to a flag. I can’t vote a straight ticket. I can’t ignore the evil, the wrong, the hurtful and the hateful things done by any party. I can’t make America great again or pretend that it ever was because only the kingdom is great and good.
I have one Savior. I also have one King. I don’t have room for allegiance or alignment with any other politic or political figure.
Jesus has taught me that following him means I can’t compartmentalize my life. I don’t give him a part of me, a part of my time, a part of my relationships, a part of my politic. He’s either Lord of it all or he’s not really Lord of any of it.
Now, listen to me sounding all high and mighty.
I fail at this every day. But this I know, my failure isn’t an excuse to move the bar on what I know following Jesus means.
There is no human politic who will try the economic plan of Jesus. That’s why the kingdom has come.
There is no human politic who will try the non-violent way of Jesus. That’s why the kingdom has come.
There is no human politic that will empty itself of power and embrace weakness and humility. That’s why the kingdom has come.
A constant theme of the Old Testament is a simple message from God – don’t try to be like the other nations and pursue a politic like they have. It will always end badly for you.
Somehow we think that magically changed when Jesus brought the kingdom into our here and now. Instead of seeing Jesus establishing this politic that would forever and always be in opposition to every human political institution created by man, we sought to coopt the kingdom, make it work for our politic, to use the kingdom to further our own kingdoms.
And that’s just messed up.
You can’t be silent about the abuses of a human party you endorse and pretend your allegiance is to Jesus. It just doesn’t do.
Usually about now this conversation turns to words like “practical” and “realistic” and some variation on “the best we can do.”
At my age and stage, I am baffled by people who swear allegiance to king Jesus but then suggest any human politic is more practical, more realistic or better than the kingdom Jesus established.
Which is neither a republic or a democracy.
Caesar was called the Son of God. Our word ‘church’ comes from a term contemporary to the first century believers that referred to an ad hoc group formed of the people for a governmental purpose. Lord and king aren’t just quaint old-fashioned words but carefully chosen words to describe the exact nature of our current relationship with God in Christ and with the World.
Being a follower of Jesus has ALWAYS been a political action.
We are colonists of heaven, establishing a subversive and prophetic way of life meant to demonstrate truth to Power, not suck up to it.
So here is where I stand today. I swear one allegiance and that is to the kingdom of God and my king, Jesus. If I’m living this right, my very existence will be an ongoing critique of the Powers and Principalities by the way I live. If I’m living it right, my very existence will be an ongoing critique of the Powers and Principalities who all, by their very nature, set themselves up in opposition to my king and his kingdom.
I will live and die to be the church of Jesus. That’s my politic.