In just under two months we will hopefully come to the end of what has been a long and trying presidential election cycle. Some of the first candidates started declaring their candidacy almost eighteen months ago. This has created a cycle that at times feels like it would just be nicer if it all went away. As I’ve personally considered the options, or at times lack of options, I’ve pondered what does this all mean from a Christian perspective. Here are some humble thoughts.
Elections, in some ways, don’t really matter. No matter who is elected on November 8, God will still be God, and will reign over all the earth. While the president of the United States may be one of the most powerful people in the world, the president is still a human. God is supreme. God rules over all the earth. God is bringing the kingdom to bear in this time and place. Both major parties will try to convince us that if the other party wins it is the end of our country as we know it, but ultimately that is just fear mongering. If God wants the United States to end, it will end. If God wants the United States to continue, it will continue. God is the one who is in charge, and four years from now God will still be in charge. Christians would do well to remember this truth.
Elections, in some ways, matter a great deal. Adolf Hitler rose to power not by taking over the country through a military coup, but through a legal election. The fact that Adolf Hitler came to power was a horrible reality for the rest of the world. Consider for a moment the death and destruction that happened because Hitler was in power. Elected officials have the capacity to bring much evil to the world. Being commander and chief of the largest and most powerful military in the world is a grave responsibility. Having access to such things as nuclear codes gives the president the power to wield death and destruction throughout the world. We, as citizens with the right to vote, have a responsibility to the rest of the world to choose wisely who will wield such power.
As Christians, we must be careful where we place our trust. My whole life I’ve been told “we are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.” We will use these phrases to convince ourselves that the United States is a “shining city on a hill” with the responsibility to bring freedom throughout the world. As this notion takes root, it breeds a reality in which every cause the United States gets involved in is a holy cause, and if we’re not careful, the way of the United States will become enmeshed with the way of the Kingdom of God. The United States is not holy. Our trust for protection and blessings must never reside in the government of our country, or any country. The United States is an institution that like all institutions will make decisions on what is best for the institution, not what is best for the rest of the world. Sometimes these decisions are very unchristian. This doesn’t make the United States evil, it’s just reality. Our trust must never be in the country, but in Almighty God.
As the church, we are called to live as Kingdom participants in the midst of Fallen Babylon. As John Howard Yoder (and others) have stated, Jesus Christ very much had a politic that he was advancing, a way for humans to conduct themselves in the public sphere. That politic went against the mainstream politic of the day because it wasn’t built on power and control, but on love and self-sacrifice. The same is true today. As the church, we are called to live a Kingdom politic with and for the rest of the world. At times, that will call us to join with our government in offering aid to refugees, assistance to the those who are poor, and honoring marriage, family, and life. At other times, it will call us to protest an unjust war, or welcome all human beings as neighbors because they are made in the image of God, whether they are documented or not. It means that we will be willing to welcome anyone, even those of a different religious faith such as Muslims, and see them in light of the parable of the Good Samaritan, a neighbor who needs help. Political seasons should cause us to embrace the kingdom politic more fully, not to rely on the politic of fallen Babylon. That should challenge us to become more involved, not necessarily in the political process but as involved participants in our local communities (places where we live, work, and eat) striving for change one person at a time. As we in the church learn to love the neighbor who is in front of us right now more fully, we will see God’s kingdom come in this world, no matter who is elected and what policies they choose to follow.