I am getting increasingly nervous about the political discourse I am hearing from my Christian brothers and sisters as the Presidential Campaign enters its the final lap. The passionate, vitriolic and divisive comments of some seem to suggest that they are in a position to definitively pronounce God’s political leanings, which just happens to correspond to their political party.
In Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, which remains the high water mark in presidential theological reflection, he notes that “Both (the North and the South) read the same Bible, and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”
The heart of the political problem, as Lincoln recognized, is that no human system can claim to embody all of God’s will, and no political platform has the ability to extricate itself from the deceptions of the human heart.
The human race needs an administration of another kind.
Jesus announced a very different administration when He said: “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” As scholars, like N.T. Wright remind us, Jesus intentionally used politically loaded words in His inaugural announcement. “Kingdom of God” is a direct challenge to the Roman Empire or any political system that demands allegiance. And “good news” is a deliberate parody of the claims of Rome that Caesar was Savior. The death of Jesus reminds us alliance to God can get one in trouble with the powers that be.
The gospel of Jesus is politically loaded, but it must never be co-opted by any political party. Indeed, it cannot. The politics of Jesus go higher and deeper than any political system can go.
Amidst a nation bitterly divided, followers of Jesus need to offer another way of discourse –one that is respectful, circumspect, and, at times, ambivalent about political outcomes. Politics matters, as one theologian said, because “there is not a place where God has not said “this is mine.” But, as Jim Wallis reminds us, “God is neither Republican or Democrat.”
Let the discussion begin, with less partisanship, please!