Given the incindiary rhetoric of one of the presidential candidates regularly at his rallies, it is easy to get caught up in what by any account has been easily far and away the worst US Presidential campaign in my lifetime. Some of the reaction back to that kind of talk has not been helpful, but there are people who profess to be Christians, I don’t want to say followers of Christ, who more or less seem ready to take up arms to bring America back to some supposed norm of the past, nevermind that the history of the United States is anything but spotless when it comes to morals and ethics and justice.
There is more that needs to be said on this score, indeed the subject of what the United States is and what the state or nation should be is a tall order. We need reasoned and sustained discourse, with an emphasis on preserving what indeed has been great about America, in spite of the faults. So that those thoughts might be addressed, an ongoing task in this world, indeed. We would all surely benefit from reading Augustine’s, The City of God, which while showing the contrast between that city and the earthly city (no, I haven’t read it, though I’ve read parts of it, and want to read my copy all the way through), does see much good ordained from God through the state. I’m not sure I’ll track completely with Augustine, since I will want to consider his argument in light of all of scripture, but I think this kind of reasoning, to see the good as well as the limitations of the state, are especially needed in our day.
That said, the church has allowed itself to get caught up in a war in which the actual war the church is in, spiritual, not physical, and over the proclamation of the one good news, the gospel, is all but lost in what the church seems to stand for: either the takeover or pushing back of America to some pristine past (the Religious Right), or the continuation of America to some “progressive” future (the Religious Left). Not to say there isn’t any truth in what’s being said on either side, which makes this all the more dangerous and difficult. But I’m afraid we’re selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.
Jesus said, “What does it profit anyone to gain the whole world yet lose their soul?” And that is just what is happening at times, when the church puts itself forward not only as a judge, but an advocate for something other than the gospel.
There is one Good News/Gospel in one Lord and King, Jesus. Even though we hope and pray for the good of the nation, and God’s mercy and blessing on it, we should be known as those who are committed to, and living out this gospel in Jesus. It is a gospel of salvation in a personal sense, but also in every other way through the new creation, without denying the role for example that the state does have as instituted by God (Romans 13). The church is the beginning of the city of God come down to earth in Jesus, something no city of this world can duplicate, even if by that light there can be benefit for such.
The church should not be known for its politics of this world, in my opinion. But rather, its own political stance, in God’s kingdom come in Jesus (Matthew 5-7, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount a central explication/instructive announcement of that) ought to be known especially by how the church conducts itself in the world, in its good works, as well as in telling the world the reason for such. Changed lives in Jesus as seen through prison ministries, not only can dispel the ignorance of the world, but even be welcomed by the state, as has been the case in the present day.
Yes, it’s so easy, all too easy to get caught up in the hype and real concerns of the election, and there are issues which need to be addressed on that level. But we must beware lest we lose our bearings and witness in this world of the one true light in Jesus, so that we’re caught up in something less, no longer holding on to the message of the gospel by which we are lights in a crooked and depraved world. God can help us repent and do better; we can be shown the way together, in and through Jesus, by the blessed Holy Spirit.
It’s not like we can’t participate somehow in the election process, by at least voting, and speaking something of our minds on it along the way. But we do so united by only one thing: the gospel in the one Lord and King Jesus, in the grace of God in him.