NPR ran a story today that caught my eye: Evangelical Leaders Struggle to Crown a Candidate. Apparently Republican leaders are trying to come up with a “Jesus” candidate for president. It seems that few things are as important to the Religious Right as getting their man in place politically. Now, of course society needs good leaders making policy and directing our affairs. But as believers, we can never be sure “our” candidate is also God’s.
Here’s my rational for this assumption: it completely subverts Christ’s teaching. Jesus demands that all of His followers carry the cross and persevere in sacrificial suffering for His name’s sake. The only kingdom we’re to sacrifice for is the kingdom of God. We are to be noted for our Calvary-like, counter-cultural lifestyles. Consequently, we must always be on guard against substituting the kingdom of America for the kingdom of God. The character of God’s kingdom is widely different from what is commonly envisaged today. Its glory is revealed only through suffering – a point that Jesus’ disciples, then and now, have been slow to understand. The kingdom of God is never imperialistic. It has no political ambitions. It conquers not by force but by love.
Experience has shown that once the church has become just another worldly archy, once it has allowed itself to be subverted by politics, it has achieved a “victory” at the expense of the Gospel. The Gospel is something intolerable because it requires us to renounce our illusions and the blind cul-de-sacs of our religious archys. The tragedy is that so many Christians have freely chosen this course of action. They have voluntarily opted for Christendom over Christianity. This “subversion of Christianity” (the title of one of Jacque Ellul’s books), this matter of putting our petty gods above Christ, causes the church to miss its way. When the church behaves like this, and when its leaders and theologians go along with it, it utterly fails to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, overcoming evil with good (instead of with political force). Jesus taught us that only powerless love is the basis upon which to build the kingdom. In Him we find a true Revolutionary who is capable of saving the world without political coercion or violence of any kind (including military).
In my opinion, the efforts to crown an American “Jesus candidate” is nothing less than shocking. You know the church is in trouble when Washington replaces Jesus as the hope of the world and when America replaces the kingdom of God as the rule we are to persevere for. I could go on and on but I think I’ve made my point. I’ll end by simply noting that Jesus never connected freedom with political freedom. The chief business of the church is to emulate the true Jesus and the true kingdom He came to establish. That’s why it’s a waste of time to look for a political Messiah, be he a Mormon or a Baptist. Let’s refuse to put our trust in the archys that are premised on replacing the true kingdom of God.