Well it’s that time again. When you read this, all the pundits will be in full swing doing a postmortem on election day with more punditry and wild theories than poker night at Oliver Stone‘s house. I find myself in exactly the same mental state I was in 2008 when I wrote about that historic election. Instead of taxing your already saturated political souls, with yet another amateur tea-leaf reading about what’s happened or will happen or should have happened. I’ll just revisit my 2008 post with some updating:
As I write this, people are voting. Every major news organization seems to have the good sense to avoid equating exit polling with delegate predictions . . . I don’t know who it will be. I dumped my tea leaves in the trash along with my enormous pile of election mail. I’ve already voted. And like a lot of people I didn’t like my choices. I however did not vote for the lesser of two evils. Somehow I’m just not sure that’s what Jesus would do. I also don’t think this election is any more spiritually important than the last election. They are all spiritually important.
It seems perhaps lots of people are tired of holding their noses and voting for the lesser of two evils. I still don’t like that phrase anyway. I’m not sure why. Maybe you can tell me? It smacks of pragmatism I guess. Let’s be really honest. My vote isn’t going to make a difference in who gets elected. If it turns out that any candidate wins by a hundred votes, the lawyers and courts will be deciding who I get to be mad at next congressional session. If that’s true, then the reason I vote is to express something. I want to support ideas that I agree with. In that case, I’m not interested in pragmatism.
What I do find interesting is the political landscape for Christians in the 21st century looks remarkably like the political landscape of first century Jews . . . Cullman vividly describes the political landscape Jesus walked into. There were two major parties and everyone was concerned about religion and politics. Cullman says that the disciple of Jesus had to resist two different political movements: the Sadducees and the Zealots (He sees the Zealot party as the most radical wing of the Pharisees). There was tremendous pressure for Jesus to identify with one of these parties. The Pro-Roman Sadducees questioned him about the resurrection. The Anti-Roman Pharisees questioned him about what taxes belong to the State. And Cullman notes with irony that Jesus was sentenced by a Pro-Roman mob as an Anti-Roman Zealot. Yet . . . Jesus and the emergent Christianity never joined in this unreserved submission to the Roman State or the fervor of the Zealots. The “emergent” is my emphasis I couldn’t resist the emphasis on the emergent Christianity resisting reliance on the state for well . . . anything.
Don and I have been thinking for a few months about how politically incorrect Jesus is. I don’t mean “politically incorrect” in the “don’t-call-them-handicapped-but-physically-challenge-instead” sense but rather how incredibly uninterested he was in establishing a political ideology and how so very much we are concerned with it. It occurs to me that essentially that’s because in a constitutional republic like ours, people and their vote can actually wield the sword of state—an option not available to 1st century Christians. Jesus doesn’t talk about why taxes are high because he and his audience had absolutely no say in what their taxes where. However, our constitution gives us the power to affect those taxes. It sets up a procedure. And that creates a kind of moral contract with America that in theory can only be overturned by 2/3 of the state legislatures. 1st century Christians had none of this and that is why I think the problem of democracy is the perennial problem for modern Christianity.
Jesus stubbornly refuses to be pigeon-holed, type-cast, or stereotyped. And he endorsed no one. He wasn’t a community organizer. He didn’t register voters, he trained disciples. He didn’t protest the lack of government aid, he fed 5,000 people. He didn’t demand universal healthcare, he healed the sick. He didn’t rail about a woman’s right to choose, he just warned us it’s better to wear a millstone as a flotation device than harm one of his little ones.
Of course once we have been handed this power of a constitutional republic, we are faced with figuring out how we Christians fit into this man-made power structure. If you are looking for answers in this blog, I don’t have any yet. I’m working on it and I certainly would like your thoughts.
I ended my little meditation with what I thought Christians should do in the face of political uncertainty and anxiety:
But I will say this, I got up this morning. I prayed for the same things I did yesterday: my son Wesley to grow in virtue and wisdom, My wife to have wisdom and patience raising the toddling giggle monster, and for myself to trust God today just like yesterday. Actually more than yesterday since my trust this week has stunk worse than Ben Affleck doing Hamlet.
To update my prayer. I prayed today that Wesley would grow to understand and love God because he’s asking so many questions about the nature of God like “Is God here in my room?” “Can God help me with my Legos?” I pray for wisdom so that I can paint an accurate portrait of the God I’m in love with. I pray that my wife and I will have the strength and freedom to raise Godly children in this age of Lady Gaga, Victoria’s Secret, and Brett Favre. (And my trust in God is a bit better but sometimes it’s still as decrepit as Nicholas Cage’s last movie.)
What would Jesus do? He would go about his father’s business. That’s what we should do. And as for getting on my knees and praying? Tonight as I go to bed long before I know who won this little exercise of democracy, I will pray that the new regime protects our freedom to do what Jesus commanded us to do.
That’s my greatest prayer for the powers that be. Please God grant us a measure of peace and liberty to bring up our children and protect them from the evil one.