“Never think that you need to protect God. Because anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure that you are worshipping an idol.” ~ Stanley Hauerwas
Afraid. It is the best way to describe my feelings about the conversations that are taking place, the declarations being made on social media, at Bible studies and from pulpits regarding the Democratic and Republican candidates for President of the United States of America. The messages of Christ’s hope are interrupted by political analysis of speeches and the hyper- spiritualization of these political figures. Comparisons are drawn, biblical language and stories employed that would suggest that this presidential election is a spiritual war, that we are fighting for the racialized soul of America, that the social color black/ white is the symbol of right- standing with the Lord and the other “the mark of the beast.”
I have heard preachers draw dangerous conclusions as to the souls of members of the opposing party that would suggest that our vote determines our entry into heaven or hell. Who we choose as our political leader will decide our eternal fate? The results of this presidential election will not deliver or damn us. Such a view does suggest that what we are protecting is far more than our patriotic right. Still, I must remind us that the stakes are too high and the language is too strong for a position that will change in four years.
Also, I assure you that the pain caused by the attacks on the leadership practices and decisions of President Obama is not comparable to him “bearing in his body the marks of Christ” (Galatians 6.17) as I have heard it said. President Obama is not Christ neither is his suffering comparable to the suffering endured by Christ; this is not “the cost of discipleship.” It will not result in the salvation of America’s citizens; only confessing the name of Christ will secure this promise (and I think that he would agree with this statement). And the Republican party’s use of negative campaign ads is not demonic; it’s a political strategy.
It is this defense of either President Barack Obama or presidential nominee Mitt Romney through the use of Christian language and imagery that troubles me. These men have been divinized, employed to represent the hopes and plans of God and redefined as as saviors, prophets and preachers. In a recent article by The Washington Post, Romney’s message was described as the “gospel of success.” There is but one true gospel– the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither candidate is proclaiming this message either.
As I shared with a group of associate ministers last week at a retreat from a message titled “What God can do with a made up mind” (Nehemiah 4.6): As ministers, we are assailed by compromising faith statements that seek to do the impossible— be faithful and famous, anointed and accepted. Our minds are beset with messages of political endorsement so as to ensure photo opportunities with Caesar because he “looks like us.” … But, Jesus came into the world to save sinners”(i) not our seat at the king’s table. … So ensnared by and enamored with political power are some preachers that it is hard to distinguish whether or not they are in support of the American empire or the kingdom of God in their sermons. But, the American Dream, this gospel of American Christianity, proclaimed to parishioners is not synonymous with the message of Jesus Christ. God is not a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. God is sovereign. The righteous and the unrighteous cannot be discerned through these political categories. God will separate the sheep and the goat— not the donkey and the elephant.
We must not confuse a campaign with the kingdom of God, the hope of government with the hope of God, a president or presidential hopeful with a preacher or pastor. This election or any other does not define the elect of God. That we have strayed so far from the truth of Scripture for the sake of politics causes me to tremble! That we would lend our lips to such heresy is troubling. But, it is not God that we are defending but the god of race, this religion of politics that we have created. Maybe we don’t know what we are doing and so I ask God to forgive us. Amen.
[i] I Timothy 1.15