As our nation enters in to what is likely to be one of the most exhilarating and discouraging election cycles in recent history, it's going to be easy for Christians to either be enraptured by the fluffy political prose of their favorite candidate or completely discouraged and downcast at the sad state of the American political process. I know we are only just beginning the race for the presidency, but I feel compelled to offer a few reminders to American Christians, no matter where you may find yourself politically.
First, may we be reminded that no politician or political party can offer hope or redemption to our world. Not Donald Trump and not Hillary Clinton, despite all of the hype that will emerge around their names. No, the hope for American and indeed the hope for the world is you and me. Or rather, Christ in you and me. The election season is an easy time for followers of Jesus to shirk our responsibility to be the incarnation of Christ in the world and to participate in the delusion that redemption will somehow come from the Empire. But the whole thrust of the Gospel tells us that no king, no president, no party, and no government will ever hold the answer to our worlds greatest injustices. Because hope and redemption has never come from the top down, but from those on the bottom, coming together, empowered by the Spirit to make a tangible impact in their community, culture, and world. Yet as presidential debates and political rallies continue to roar across our nation, promising revival and redemption, may we as followers of Jesus refuse to participate in the mass delusion, but instead, work harder than ever to make the Kingdom of God manifest in our world through one subversive act of love and justice at a time. Because that is our only hope.
Second, may we refuse to allow the Church to be divided by political party or candidates. During this season, the level of vitriol and ignorance among Christians will be stunning. How many of us (including me) will be inclined to claim that our candidate or party more accurately represents the Gospel or is based on the word of God? Friends, no candidate running for office is interested in upholding Biblical values or representing Christ. And frankly, they shouldn't be. We're not a theocracy and this has never been a Christian nation. Instead, the candidates are interested in one thing: winning. And because of that, each and every one of them is going to claim Christian faith and use Christian language to appeal to the large majority of voting Americans that identify as Christian. But it's all a political game, and we know it. Let us not engage in the heated, pointless banter that we will inevitably be tempted to participate in. We are united by one thing- the Spirit of Jesus- and everything else is peripheral. As we engage in important moral conversations around heated issues, may we engage, not with political talking points, but with our eyes turned upon Christ, and engage in humility and grace, seeking to understand more than we desire to be understood. Our nation and our world will only be healed when we come together and act as the Body of Christ, united in spite of our differences, around a common vision of human flourishing and equality. At this vital point in our nations history, we cannot afford to spend any more time at each others throats. Our world needs us to be different. This is our time to witness to the radical and subversive nature of our faith that calls us not to trust in thrones or powers, but in the potency of self-giving love.
And lastly, may we remember that every "issue" we talk about is not an "issue" but a fellow human being. Whether it's abortion, or immigration, or Medicare, or taxes, all of these issues are connected to real people with real lives and real stories. As we think through our positions on all of these "issues", it would serve us well to heed the advice of the Apostle James who said: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. May we humbled ourselves, beyond our ideological convictions, to hear the stories of the people on every side of these debates. For if we allow ourselves to continue to speak, act, and vote in abstractions, we run the risk of being deceived and doing great harm to a great number of individuals. If we're going to engage in this political process, we must take the responsibility into our own hands to find and listen to the stories of those whose lives are directly impacted by what our government decides to do. We cannot rely on the straw men that the Candidates will construct, nor can we rely on the stories that the media will tell. If we're going to leverage our responsibility as citizens to vote, we must do it with integrity, with our eyes turned always to those whose lives are directly impacted by our votes. Because as followers of Jesus, we've never been called to redeem the political process, but to work for the redemption, healing, and salvation of individual people. The Christian faith is one that values incarnation, and we are called to see Christ in the life of every person that we encounter. When we realize that our votes effect people, and people are the embodiment of Christ, then everything will change. For, in the words of our Savior, "whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you also do to me." May that be our singular ethic for those followers of Christ who chose to engage in the political process this year.
I offer these reminders as much to myself as I do to anyone else. The months ahead will get bumpy and all of us will be tempted to place our faith and hope in politicians and parties instead of in Christ and his vision of the Kingdom of God. But I believe that we can overcome this temptation. That we can do this differently. And if we do, our light and witness will shine forth brightly in the midst of the political haze that will disillusion many in our nation. We have an unprecedented opportunity to share Christ with our world, and it would be a shame if we forfeited it and engaged in the artificial narratives of hope and change that so many in our nation will be enamored by.
So, my dear friends, as we enter into this election season, may we walk in the light of Jesus, embodying his humility, love, and subversive Gospel, and may the Spirit work powerfully through us to bring true redemption and reconciliation to our world. Amen.