Love and Politics

The US elections, in my opinion, reinforce an idea that Christianity is being beheaded by the power-seeking political sphere. I've never been particularly convinced that public office is the best place for one to work out the Christian faith, but I think it has to do with the fact that Christianity in it's present, mainstream form is a civil religion in both the US and Canada. As a civil religion, Christianity has lost much of what makes it unique among world religions, namely, an emphasis on the teachings of Jesus. The irony, however, is that if a Jesus-centred Christianity was at the core of a governmental system, that system would likely collapse. Therefore, the only way that Christianity can enter into the governmental spheres is if Christianity is seriously stripped of the influence of Jesus, which is exactly what has happened.

Enter the 'Christian Right'. This group has long fostered a deeply held belief, which is now well entrenched among religious conservatives, that if somehow America followed the Bible better, God would bless America. If there were less gay marriages, less abortions, more prayer in schools etc, then God would look favorably on America. It's hard to even begin to unpack the extent of the dimness in this kind of thinking. And it's not like more prayer in schools would be a bad thing. I'm just thinking along the lines of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, who reminds us that without Self sacrificial Love, all of our endeavors are meaningless.

We live in a me-first, throw-away society that essentially and effectively has enslaved us to hand-held technology in the name of liberty. We use slave labor in foreign lands to make all of the trinkets, gadgets, wardrobes and other stuff we want and believe we need. And then, in a move of sheer profit-seeking genius, we applaud when companies save money by employing our own citizens for slave-like wages, working slave-like hours in order to sell us the very stuff that enslaves us, because our 401K and RRSPs gain a little. We think this is completely normal. Yet, less gay marriage is somehow the answer to our problems? Not by a long shot.

But neither is Love as a general concept the answer. What matters is faith in Christ expressing itself in Love.

The flipside of faith in Christ expressing itself as love can be seen most clearly in politics. In my area of the globe, the candidate many Christians I knew were supporting for office made some ignorant remarks about the highway of tears. As I listened, it was enough to make my stomach churn. Despite the remarks he was voted in, which to me was a bit strange. The same people who were very serious about the many moral issues which this candidate supported did not seem as concerned with the incredibly important moral issue of the murders and disappearance of aboriginal women,  which this candidate tried to use to advance a political agenda of job creation.

The conservative side of politics is typically the side of politics that claims to represent Jesus (in a round about way), but I came to the conclusion some time ago that it's impossible for politics and the kingdom of God to be one-in-the-same. In politics, the agenda always wins. In the Kingdom of God, self-sacrificing love wins, and I have never seen self-sacrificing love as the core part of any political agenda. Politics is about power and control, which are antithetical to Jesus' way of Love and the Kingdom of God.

The religion held by the Christian right is predicated on an assumption that the Bible as a whole is somehow the centerpiece of the Christian faith. This conveniently feeds into ideas of taking America back for the Bible, and allows politicians to comfortably support any position they hold with one biblical prootext or another. But I want to point out that this isn't how the bible itself instructs us. John 5 is a particularly corrective piece, where Jesus says that his testimony carries more weight than John the baptist's (v36), who Jesus also said was the greatest of all the prophets (Mathew 11:11). What Jesus is saying, by implication, is that John the baptist was greater than all of the Torah prophets including Moses, from whom the entire Jewish faith came, and Jesus is above them all.
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son that all may honor theSon just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him (John 5:22-23)
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39)
I know well the Bible verses for the Bible being the final authority in faith and life, but what then do we do with Matthew 28:18? The Bible is an important source of authority, but the final source? I'm not so sure about that. What I see happening is Jesus intentionally pitting himself against the Biblicist rule-keepers, the spiritualists and the bloodline types. Jesus is saying "Read your bible, but follow me" to the Biblicists, and to the bloodline types and spiritualists he is saying, "Put your whole faith in me; this is what makes you a true believer and what will bring you true peace and contentedness". To all of us, I think the message of the cross shouts loud and clear that governments represent darkness and light simultaneously - darkness in the fact that the human beings which make up institutional systems tend to lean toward embracing their inner darkness, but light in the fact that a well run government provides much needed order and structure to a society.

It's difficult to say such things without feelings like a bit of a heretic, and I'm not interested in drumming up controversy to gain more hits. I am, however, very interested in the truth. And this has taken me on a wild ride of studying both the scriptures, history and Biblical scholarship. What I've found boils down to this: When our reading of The Bible is divorced from our relationship with Jesus, we are left with a shell that looks like Christianity on the outside, but that is darkened on the inside. This is the Christian civil religion. In this kind of religion, Jesus function more like a cog in the scriptural machine, rather than the engine of it. In civil Christianity, following the Bible's rules and applying the rules is more important than fostering and developing a relationship with Jesus. Yet Civil Christianity has made it's way into many forms of the Christian church. In conservative Churches, it seems that intense patriotism, traditional family roles and moralism are the flavors it takes. While in more liberal churches, overly broad acceptance of all forms of spirituality as valid (except, curiously, conservative forms) is the direction things seem to go.

The thing is, developing and deepening a relationship with Jesus through prayer and study of the scriptures will strengthen the parts of you that are the best of you. The point is to read the bible looking for Jesus, not looking for another rule to follow or moral code to keep. As you do this for years, the worst parts of you will be choked out in their due time, and will eventually, one by one, tap out.


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