I have a thing for pomp and circumstance. I famously watched all four hours of President Nixon’s funeral. I watch every second of every inauguration. The peaceful transfer of power in America moves me; it’s all so civilized. All the naughty behavior of the election season is brushed under the carpet, and grown men exchange the reins of leading the most powerful country on earth. And I’m no American elitist in this department…I also woke up at 3:30am to watch William and Kate’s wedding live at my friend Molly’s house, who answered the door in her wedding veil.
Ironic, because I put very little stock in politics. I like the dressings – the traditions, the ceremony, the legacy – but the inner workings of polarized government actually leave me very cold. My optimism was deflowered in middle school when I found out about the Electoral College:
“So my vote doesn’t actually count??” said the disillusioned 8th grader.
“Well, yes, it technically does.”
“But technically can someone win the election but lose the popular vote??”
“Technically, yes,” said the annoyed government teacher.
“All truth is dead.”
…and it really never recovered.
I am a registered independent AND WILL ALWAYS BE. I will never get in bed with a political party, because full allegiance forfeits the right to call a party to reform, and both parties are in dire need of reform. Full allegiance tempts us to place our hope in secular government fueled by greed and power, and both parties are fueled by greed and power. Full allegiance silences our prophetic voice in favor of touting party lines and demands we turn our fellow citizens into enemies for differing viewpoints.
I’m concerned, sisters and brothers in Christ, with this unyielding group identification with a political party. And I know what you’re going to say: Abortion. This is the veritable end of every discussion as a single-issue decision. To be clear: I am fully in favor of protecting our unborn. I believe history will not look kindly on this page of society. And for my Right to Choose friends who argue rape and incest, I’ll remind us those tragic cases account for less than 1% of all abortions. We have an unprecedented loss of life on our hands. It is a dark day indeed.
But in many ways, abortion is a straw issue in this election. It is not up for repeal. It is not on the docket as pending legislation. It will certainly not be outlawed by either candidate (“There’s no legislation regarding, with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” ~Romney told the Des Moines Register). No vote will result in a repeal, so perhaps we should not so quickly malign citizens who vote toward policies that reduce.
In fact, after it was legalized in 1973, abortions surged under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, remaining legal through seven Republican-appointed and only four Democratic-appointed Supreme Court justices, reaching their peak of 1.6 million in 1990. Since then, abortions have steadily decreased, with the largest decline under the Clinton administration then plateauing during the younger Bush years. (source)
The lack of far-reaching advocacy demonstrated by most Pro-Life folks is discouraging. The Right to Life focus usually omits the crucial before and after parts of the issue, as I see the same people fighting against universal pre- and postnatal care, easier access to contraception (2/3rds of all US citizens are unchurched, so it is unrealistic to expect them to adhere to Christian abstinence, you know, like all the Christian singles are…ahem), better nutrition for new mothers, affordable health care for all, the offer of true community to young and vulnerable pregnant women…as these are the tools that will actually reduce abortions. There is a high correlation between social policies like family planning, contraception promotion, comprehensive sex education, and increased health insurance coverage and lower abortion rates.
But I digress.
Perhaps most discouraging is the irrational, unreasonable hope I find fellow believers placing in a political party, and lest you think I’m just picking on Republicans, my Christian Democratic friends ‘bout drove me to drinkin’ during the Bush years.
None of this smacks of gospel.
Politics are rife with power-plays, hypocrisy, corruption, agendas, contradictions, good platforms, bad platforms, men and women who love their country, men and women who’ve lost their moral compass, good policy, dangerous policy…in the red and blue camps alike. That any believer imagines a political platform will either usher in or threaten the kingdom of God is worse than dramatic; it is unbelief.
No president can take the Kingdom out of our hearts. No candidate can steal what Jesus has already won. As the Kingdom came, so will it continue – not through Empire but through radical, subversive faith. It cannot be shaken, it cannot be removed. It lives and breathes through the work of Jesus on the cross, not the position of any human on the throne. Nor can any man in the sphere of government ever represent the comprehensive gospel of Christ. Never. He may reflect elements, but rest assured, those tenets will be contradicted elsewhere in his platform.
Our faith and outrage and hope and trust is misplaced in any leadership model other than Jesus’, who resisted all earthly power and position and rejected any political identification:
The last shall be first.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
My kingdom is not of this world.
The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Jesus’ subversive teaching taught his followers to shame and expose the evils of political oppression by audacious acts of humility, not through bedding down within the system. I particularly like how John Piper discussed voting in his post “Let Christians Vote As Though They Were Not Voting”, referencing 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (by the way, do not google “John Piper election” in hopes of pulling up this article, because you will find seven hundred thousand pages of predestination sermon links):
“So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back.”
These things remain: God’s kingdom exists anywhere believers are choosing love and grace and reckless obedience; it is undeterred by a red or blue context. Sisters and brothers in Christ will vote differently, because as we all must, we simply have to choose between two platforms that each include some gospel-centric policies and others that contradict. Either way, we will swallow some ideologies that belie the message of Jesus. Regardless, God is still on His throne, and our true allegiance rests in His sovereignty. Four or eight years of an administration cannot compromise the historical work of a holy God.
If discipleship means loving the broken, then love the broken.
If following Jesus means abandoning our rights, then abandon them.
If you care about the sanctity of life, then devote yourself to its care – womb to grave.
If you worry about the vulnerable, then give your life away for them.
If Scripture tells us perfect love drives out fear, then it does.
If your trust is in a Servant Savior, then put it there and leave it there.
As children of God, we should be unthreatened by secular power. The Law was never able to bring redemption, and it is still insufficient to make all things new. The healing and hope and goodness we long for is realized fully in Jesus, extended through His people despite hardship or distance or the passage of time or the changing of guards. No political party can see it through or take it away. It was finished on the cross, and the discussion is over.
So may we deal kindly with one another in a manner befitting the Bride, as a people who loosely engage the system of the day, retaining our prophetic voice and refusing to malign one another for a false kingdom that will soon pass away. May we preach Jesus crucified and risen, the only hope of the world. And whether we vote red or blue, may we reach across the lines, join hands, and proclaim:
“To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” ~Romans 16:27