I have to admit that I’ve been trying to stay as far away from all this election drama as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve tried. Being a Canadian living in the South as a permanent resident, I can’t vote anyways (rightly so), and it’s easy to tell myself that the whole thing doesn’t affect me much. It obviously does, just like every other person living in the United States, but the overall effect is one of having a front row seat to the house burning down.
The other reason I’ve tried to avoid it has to do with the hate I’ve seen spewed by supporters on both sides. The focus this go round seems to be less on the substantive issues and more on demonizing one side or the other for displaying whatever faults we’ve picked up on this week. For what it’s worth, I disagree on points made by both candidates, and if I could vote I’m honestly not sure which one I’d pick. (I’d probably go with Trump if I had to, as Clinton doesn’t strike me as the trustworthy type, but even then I’d have my concerns.) I also firmly believe in the adage that political discussions on social media don’t accomplish much other than to end friendships, so the bottom line is I’ve tried to stay out of it.
I watched enough of the third debate the other night to know that part of the focus was on how the candidates would make use of expected Supreme Court vacancies when it comes to issues like abortion and gun control. Their responses were about what I expected. I mean, Trump obviously isn’t going to try to load the Court with liberal judges and Clinton isn’t going to go for super-conservative ones. Given this focus, I wasn’t surprised to find on Facebook yesterday a number of posts in reference to the issue. What I was surprised to find was that one of the points made in one particular post was that, as believers in Christ, we need to vote for the candidate who will put in place Supreme Court justices who will “protect your right to your relationship with God.” (And for the life of me I wish I’d saved the link to this because I can’t find it again anywhere, but I guess that’s what I get for checking Facebook on my lunch break from my phone.)
Think about that for a moment. I live in the South, where there’s a church on every corner (and more than a few in between, depending on where exactly you go) and the culture is to a large extent saturated by the Church. We have Christian bookstores and Christian radio stations, and it often seems a point of note for a business to call itself “Christian”. And now we have someone encouraging us to vote for the one we believe will protect our right to our relationship with God.
The God of the Bible, the one we claim to believe in, is the God of 400 billion suns. The God of sunrises and sunsets and mountains and trees and everything else you can see. He is the one who sustains all of this. Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) tells us that He “upholds the universe by the word of his power.” As Matthew 27:51 records, when Jesus died on the cross, “behold, the curtin of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” His death on the cross, and His resurrection, forever opened the Holy of Holies, the place of the very presence of God, to all those who come to Him by faith. Hebrews 7 supports this by showing that Jesus’ shed blood guarantees that relationship. The price of reconciliation was paid out once and for all.
And yet apparently we need a political figure to guarantee our right to that relationship. The truth is, as I hope you can see, that we don’t need that guarantee from any political figure (see Psalm 146:3 for that one). The Gospel advances, and relationships with God flourish, even in places where the political climate is overtly hostile to Christianity. There are, right now, believers working to spread the Gospel in the Middle East, for example, where if recent news reports are to be believed, they are dying for their efforts to do so. We need a political figure to guarantee our right to many things, but not to that relationship. That relationship was locked in, so to speak, by Someone who lasts a lot longer than any mere political figure.
So what do we need a political figure to protect? We need one to protect our right to attend church openly, to have our Christian bookstores and Christian radio stations, and to have all the other things that make up our Christian culture. I don’t take those freedoms lightly, either. All you have to do is look at the wars which were fought to protect those freedoms to know that they didn’t come cheap. That being said, however, they’re not the point. If you take a look back over the course of church history, it should very quickly become apparent that while the Church has been good at dishing out persecution (and I’m not glossing over that), the normal state of affairs for the Church seems rather to be one of being persecuted. The chapter of the story we find ourselves in here in the West (it’s not just in the United States) is an encouraging one, to be sure, but a weird one in the grand scheme of things.
It makes me wonder, honestly, if there’s actually two kingdoms at play here, one being the Kingdom of God and the other being the kingdom in which we have the right to, in essence, live our lives as Christians as we choose to. It also makes me wonder if these two kingdoms aren’t always necessarily the same. In voting along the lines hinted at above, are we trying to protect the one kingdom while missing out on, or even damaging, opportunities for the other kingdom to advance? If we fight to keep the United States as a “Christian” nation, do we not communicate to those who don’t share our beliefs that they’re not welcome here? Do we need to force others to accept us and our Christian beliefs and practices in order to still have our Christian beliefs and practices? I would assert, given how Christianity has not only survived but thrived over the last 2000 years, that the answer to those questions is no. (More food for thought: How do we combine the desire for this to be a “Christian” nation, if that means what I’ve just outlined, with the biblical reference to God’s desire for “all to come to repentance” as outline in 2 Peter 3:9?)
Maybe, just maybe, we’re fighting for the wrong kingdom. Maybe we’re trying to hard to protect our right to go to church that we’re missing out on being the church.