In conversations with some ordained ministerial colleagues of my denomination yesterday– people whom I love and respect– the unspoken assumption was that victories by Democratic candidates, both state-wide and nationally, was good from a Christian religious, follower-of-Jesus point of view. While this may in fact be the case, it is not immediately apparently so.
More pointedly, are not Christians called to reflect– deeply and, yes, prayerfully– on the building of the Kingdom of God here on earth? And not to reflect only, but to work in bringing that Kingdom to fruition? I take it as axiomatic that the building of the Kingdom of God on earth, and the full implementation of the Democratic Party’s legislative agenda, are not co-extensive. No human agenda can stake down the uncontrollable, Spirit-blown ends of how God’s rule on earth becomes bodied.
So this is not a call for people of faith not to be involved in matters of state, because the God revealed in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures does lay claim to the right ordering of policies and laws. Nor is this a call to the false dichotomy between practicality and spirit which sees politics to be exclusively of the former, and the Kingdom of God of the latter– again, an un-Biblical dichotomy. Rather, the call is to discern where the Kingdom of God is breaking through, in this time and place, in ways that subvert the dominant powers of this world for the astonishing grace of God’s ways.
This discernment necessarily and essentially calls for a deeper and more extensive response than advocacy for particular policies: a response that would eventually call for action that challenges one or more of the unwholesome systems in which we are all parts.
Take Gandhi’s Salt March, for example. Gandhi didn’t work to change the law on salt (say, to advocate for a repeal of the British tax on salt). Instead, he intentionally broke the law (by producing salt without paying the tax), in order to focus attention on the increasingly untenable British colonial rule of India. Rosa Parks, from our own history, is another example. These acts of civil disobedience focused attention on systems of injustice that were antithetical to the kinds of right social relationships characteristic of God’s rule– and which humans, at our best and by grace, have at times approximated here on earth.
In addition to identifying policies for us to support, people of faith need to be identifying the unwholesome systems of which we are a part– systems that are part of our social and political life but which are deeper than party affiliation. What are those unwholesome systems? And how might we focus attention on them, in a way that their unwholesomeness is exposed? That is a vocation worthy of our calling.