So I get it. Before we go too far into the post I want to breathe. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. OK, are we good? Fine, now we are going to talk about the election. Stop. Breathe. This has just been a rough cycle. I mean between the rise of Trump, Bernie seeming viable, Hillary being so damn Hillary. This post is non-partisan. No, really it is. A few disclaimers (I’m big on these) – at some point I’m probably going to take pot shots at all the candidates I mentioned and probably a few more I haven’t yet. This post, like every post I write, isn’t really about the election – it’s about being Church and what that means in an increasingly pluralistic society. I will say wild things just to get you thinking, I will not commit to anything other than the Gospel. My usual shtick.
So, first things first. None of these candidates are going to solve the problems of this world. None. Donald can build a fascist wall. Hillary can expand every post-90’s Democratic party solution ever formulated. Bernie can ride a tide of what he calls a “revolution” into the oval office and nothing, I repeat nothing, will change. Guys, when did hanging our hats on empires ever serve the Church? Ever? The United States is another temporary empire full of strife. Racism. Abject poverty. War. Heinous acts of violence. Straw purchases. The rich slowly draining the life out of the very state that feeds them. The United States is built on a bloody foundation of genocide, atrocity, with a little bit of tragedy mixed into every square foot. It’s the truth. This “dream” we are all chasing is so far away from the radical vision of God’s kingdom that Jesus gives us, it shocks me when people think they even slightly correlate.
I have seen everyone in an uproar. I have watched the debates. I have seen the ads. I have read the policy statements. I’m just as guilty as you. I have been swept up once again. I have watched some major candidates advocate war crimes, and seen people dragged out of his rallies by secret service agents. I have seen the same woman talk about dismantling the prison industrial complex, while never once mentioning that it was her husband’s policy that built the edifice itself. I have seen people claim the same God I worship, a God of mercy, forgiveness, and grace. I have seen them claim that this Jesus wouldn’t invite my LGBTQ brothers and sisters to the banquet as he made them. Their “just wars” are a joke. Their xenophobia is palpable. I have listened to a man, whom I actually respect, openly admit that he believes that somehow manipulating economics will make God’s justice break into the world. It sounds believable – but then again, it always sounds believable every four-year cycle.
I have watched the media focus once again on what box I fit in. Evangelical. Liberal. Conservative. Black. Latino. Millennial. Boomer. Democrat. Republican. On and on. This endless parade of talking heads explaining how my particular demographic can be leveraged. I have watched #blacklivesmatter slowly be squeezed into a constituency. I have seen everything you have. Jesus isn’t on the ticket this year guys, and I don’t think he would endorse any of this, whatever this is.
The truth is that I don’t think we as Church should be aligned with any particular party, country, political leader, and certainly not with the empire we have become in this country. We are better than this. I believe that we are the foothold of God’s ever expanding kingdom. I think that we have survived persecutions, the fall of empires, plagues, terrible leadership inside and outside the Church and our own sins. I believe that we should be engaged in the world, but not the world that our present crop of presidential candidates are constantly trying to pull us into. Their policies don’t sound like mercy. Their stump speeches won’t bring the Brown family back their son. A portion of our country has shown they can’t tell the difference between fascism or democracy, Bernie or Stalin. We are lost in a sea of confusion and adrift on a tide of deep pain.
Church, we may no longer be the rudder in this country, but we can be the compass. Church, we can “render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s” and still give God what is God’s. I’m not telling you not to vote. I’m not telling you that there aren’t high stakes this election, because there are. I’m not even telling you not to constantly rant on social media about what you see as wrong. Please do. Lift every voice and sing! But I am asking a question. What is the cornerstone you operate from? What is at the very essence of what you do? In a seemingly darker world, whose hands and feet are you? Who is present when you see the light push back against the darkness. Is it Hillary? Is it Ted Cruz? Is it a naked savior?
The rulers of this country can build a wall and I will still welcome the stranger. They can expand healthcare or shrink it and I will still bring good news to the sick. They can take bread out of the mouth of children to fill their coffers and I will still share whatever I have. They can tell me that the tent doesn’t have room for anyone else, and I will still stretch and pull so someone else can fit. They can lock me in their prisons for speaking the truth, and I will still speak. They can lower taxes or raise them but they can never pay the cost. They can send bullets across the world instead of grain. They can tell me hatred is life-giving. They can claim to be my ruler, but they aren’t. They can tell me that my life isn’t mine to spill out for others, but it is. They have done all these things before, those in power. They will do it again.
But I serve one God and we are winning. I serve one Kingdom and it is already here, not yet, and will be. They can railroad my God in court. Falsely accuse him. Beat him to a bloody pulp. Wash their hands of the crime. Hang him from a tree. I have still been given life. Here and now, I stand with life. Resurrection. I stand with the Church. God’s kingdom on earth – full of broken people, doing broken things, living in a broken world.