Friday, October 10, 2008

Acting Like A Christian in an Election Year, part 1

Every election year I hear people declare that Christians should support candidate X. Now that American Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have found their political voice, there can be power in those kinds of endorsements. Wise candidates now understand that they must court the Evangelical vote or suffer mightily on voting day. There is a lot of power in that. We might recall that power, it has been said, has a tendency toward corruption.

In Matthew 20, the mother of James and John (very embarrassing for them, I'm sure) asks Jesus to give her sons places of significance and power when he comes to power. He responds by saying, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you."

I think that we American Christians still have trouble with all of this. We tend toward creating parallels between orthodox Christianity and particular political agendas. We put the American flag and the flag of the church side-by-side in many sanctuaries. But I'm pretty sure that the kingdom of God is not the kingdom of America--or any other country, for that matter.

If we honor our country as many of us claim, then perhaps we would serve it better by taking more seriously our call to be God's people for the sake of the world. I'm convinced that the doctrine of election is not about who God picked to go to heaven and those who are destined to be the presto-logs of hell (sorry Augustine, Luther and Calvin). I believe that election is about God electing a people (via Abraham) to be his special people, orienting all that they are around God, and being that people not for themselves, but for the sake of the entire world (see Genesis 12, 22 and John 3 for some good scoop on this. Also, Lesslie Newbigin has a lot to say on this topic). So rather than see our power as being political in nature, perhaps we could see that God's power is manifest as we live out our destiny as God's people.

At this writing, our nation (our world!) is undergoing a huge economic upheaval. Most economists are saying that things will ultimately stabilize, but much will be different in the future. That could be good down the road.

What if all the Americans who claim an affinity to Christian faith would, for example, stop purchasing useless stuff called Christmas presents in December? What if we said, "From now on, we're going to gather together and thank God of the birth of Jesus. We're going to celebrate by serving the poor, caring for the sick and proclaiming the good news. And we're going to do that in August, which is probably when Jesus was born anyway." That would louse up end-of-the-year retail sales for awhile. Christians might take a black eye or two over that, but (like our current crisis), things would probably stabilize after awhile, probably for the better.

I'm just thinking out loud here (after all, there are some CDs I'd like to get for Christmas). 

What do you think?


winn said...

Mike, great to see ya back in the bloggin’ world.

Technically, it seems to me that Fundamentalist has co-opted Evangelicalism in the minds of the USAmerican press. While Evangelicals is the word they use, they are focused on the extreme right of that group with folks like James Dobson as a spokesman. BTW: one of the latest bumper stickers to be seen around Colorado Springs, the Mecca of some part of Evangelicalism is “Focus on Your Own Damn Family.”

One of the great sins of the Hebrews was idol worship. They didn’t seem to be able to shed their love for idols. I often wonder if they didn’t turn their own nationalism into an idol itself worshiping who they were instead of the God who had created them to be the light of the world. It seems to me that one of the problems with USAmericanism is that somehow we think that we have been chosen by God as having a divine destiny for the rest of the world. We have in some ways put USAmerica on the same plain as ancient Israel as the “people of God.” Nothing could be further from the truth of the Story of God.

Jesus did not come to set up nations, but to confirm the Kingdom of God in this world. The church is simply the conduit through which the Kingdom comes into play in this present evil age and the Gracelets of the Spirit are the enablements to enable the church to be missional and point their time and energy toward the world. (BTW, a shameless advertisement, this is the theme of my next book).

What if we have placed USAmerica as our own idol, something we worship amiss? What if Evangelicalism is failing in USAmerica as Christine Wicker contends in her latest book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. What if the Evangelical (read Fundamentalist) church has been largely responsible for the myth of USAmerica as the “last greatest hope of the world.” What if our worship of the nation has become such an idol to followers of Jesus that God is behind its demise?

Okay, I’ve taken up lots of your allocated 1s and 0s here. Again, nice to see you back online.

Mike McNichols said...

Thanks, Winn. Great to hear from you. Another book? How do I order an advance copy?