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Are the candidates making you feel like you don't have a country?
I grew up in a household that thought that God and His Way could be found in the political system. I went to an Evangelical Free Church and the rhetoric surround God’s will and the United States was almost deafening. I didn’t swallow the Kool-Aid. But when George W. Bush evoked the name of God as he waged the war on terror, I could relate when Christians thought it was the right thing to do. It seemed to many of them that “one of us” was finally in power, after eight years of Clinton, particularly. It was like they found their representative from God to bless us all. The men behind the scenes of the terror state, Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld, weren’t nearly as religious (quite an understatement), but, man, was W. likeable! Even my left-of-center friends still think he’d be great to get a beer with. (I’ll pass, though.)
But now that’s changing. The Christians who found comfort in their Golden Boy from the Religious Right no longer have a representative. They have a vulgar man leading one party and a so-called unlikeable oligarch on the other end. The New York Times said that the Evangelicals were despairing as they couldn’t find a candidate that fit their worldview. Even Clinton and Trump’s veeps, try as they might, can’t get faith back into the mix. Christians, as is evidenced in this election cycle, are people without a country.
But I think that’s a good thing. Discern who you need to vote for or even if you should participate. That isn’t my point. I don’t put my hope in the elected officials anyway. And for too long Christians have. I don’t think too many in my circles have, but the vision that Jesus has for his church, isn’t for it to find comfort in the power of the state and its imposed leader. And yes, the two most despised candidates ever, make that abundantly clear. I’m not sure that elected officials should offer us the kind of hope that only Jesus through his church can. So if Christians are despairing at their lack of choices, let’s be another choice and offer another way.
I find comfort in the fact that it’s so abundantly clear that the narcissistic casino man and the hawkish centrist are not going to do the work of the church for the church. It puts the onus and responsibility back on the church to bring the good news and good things to the whole world. We’re no longer beholden to who is elected to wield the guns, we have a whole different way of doing things. With one party being destroyed by an orange guy with a bad haircut, and another that so readily elects another oligarch (in the same family as a previous President for goodness’ sake!), the vision, possibility, and necessity for an alternative way of doing things is clearer than ever (I'll admit, for me, Barack Obama's charisma made is a bit vaguer).
And it isn’t just the bad choices that make this clear. The complexity of the world’s problems just can’t be satisfied by empowering a new president. Colombia can’t make a peace deal. Syria is a wreck, and the old Cold War powers can’t seem to make it work. 100 kids just died there. Those are just some complicated examples of how not simple the world is and how the choices we are offered don’t make it easier. I’m not proposing a false equivalency between the candidates; discern that as you will, but do it or don’t, we have work to do. I’d rather give my money to MCC who has a great presence in both Syria and Colombia than debate any longer about the Donald and Hill.
My push back against civil religion and national idolatry may make some philosophical sense, but it won’t work unless we actually are committed to doing it. And it’s not easy to embrace. My Facebook feed is full of calls to register to vote and the binary, and ultimately dissatisfying options, is loudly represented. I enjoy following politics, it’s a personal hobby for me, but I have to confess to you that I get way too wrapped up in it sometimes. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (or the third-party people, for that matter) won’t save me, and neither will some banal discussion about the whole ordeal. The law won’t save us and I’m a little tired of the two-year-long TV show about who gets to own the state’s monopoly on violence. Time for a new thing.
There are lots of ways to bring about Jesus’ vision for the whole world into reality, but the one I’m into and what God has given me. It seems to me like more and more Christians are realizing this as they suffer disillusionment at the current affair. Call this an ad if you want, but it’s not. I’m asking, would you just try me? I think Circle of Hope, its Sunday meetings, its cells, its teams, and the life of the whole Body is a great expression of the alternative way of Jesus. We aren’t “apolitical” or “neutral on a moving train” (thanks, Howard Zinn), but we are creatively seeing behind the limited, dichotomous way of American politics. I, for one, am glad Trump and Clinton have made that need so clear.