A few days ago, a parishioner of mine shared a video with me entitled, “What should Christians do if they dislike both Presidential candidates?” The show, like most Christian talk shows sits right of center, but the message of discernment is worth hearing.
As the Democratic National Convention nears its ending, with the Republican National Convention having done its work last week, I’ve been thinking again and again about what role the Church has in American Politics. No, I’m not suggesting that we repeal the Johnson Amendment, but I am suggesting that perhaps instead of letting politicians and talking heads tell us what makes these candidates good or bad, Christian or not, that preachers have an obligation to offer our congregations a glimpse into the Kingdom of God and invite them to discern, prayerfully, which candidate’s life and platform more closely align to it.
The reality is that faithful Christians are going to come up with very different answers to that question. This is because Jesus doesn’t fit nicely into the box of Democrat or Republican. Paul, as he wrote the the Church in Colossae, a church that struggled with differences of theological opinion like every other church in the history of Christianity, urged them not to get caught up in partisanship arguments of “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free” Democrat and Republican, Libertarian and Green Parry. Instead, Paul reminder the diverse members of the Colossian Church that “Christ is [the] all and in all.”
If our focus on the reign of Christ, and the work of discernment is taken out of the emotional and the self-serving, and handed over to the Spirit of Christ that dwells within us, then the vitriol and ickiness (a deeply theological word) of modern politics will fade away. We may still disagree as to whether the ideals of Johnson, Stein, Clinton, or Trump most closely align with the will of God, but if we are focused on Christ, the all who is in all, then we won’t be able to dehumanize and reject the other, but rather be willing to listen, to learn, and, God forbid, to have our minds opened to another possibility than the one truth we have found.
Not only is this way of engaging in politics Biblical, but is the teaching of the Episcopal Church, summed up in the Prayer for the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority found on page 820 of the Book of Common Prayer.
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
The telos of politics is the reign of Christ, and until we remember that, we will continue down the spiral of downright ugliness in which we are currently and seemingly intractably, stuck. May God grant us grace to seek Christ who is the all and in all. Amen.