the election year car wreck

Ah, presidential elections. =)

Nothing like the stump speeches, media hoopla and baby-kissing to get everyone all riled up about the next leader of the Free World. It’s exhausting, really.

And yet it’s like a horrible accident on the highway: you can’t look away. It’s so easy to let the candidates’ brilliant smiles and convincing words woo me into thinking they hold in their hearts the power to do the things in America that are important to me.

But unless I go through a life-altering ideological shift between now and November, I won’t be at the polls on November 2.

It’s a combination of a) a deepening acknowledgment of our need for only one King; and b) a belief that, as I heard recently, the office of the president defines the person much more than the person defines the office. Good intentions and sparkling character means very little, in my opinion, when a man (or woman) is faced with the expectations of running the United States of America — economic welfare, national security, and broadening world influence.

Greg Boyd — megachurch pastor and author of Myth of a Christian Nation — had a good post on Wednesday about Christians and government. He reflects on God’s view of human government. I’d highly recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s a good nugget:

This is why it’s appropriate to refer to the Kingdom’s view of government as “Christian Anarchy” (an [without] archy [authority]). Because we trust God and have pledged our sole allegiance to God, we are to have no trust in any of the the “archys” that are premised on not trusting God.

He’s more likely, as a trusted Evangelical voice in America, to convince Christians to think deeply about their investment in human governments, including voting. The Jesus Radicals are perhaps more extreme and less well-known, but they provide a wonderful venue to learn about and contribute to the discussion surrounding Christian anarchism. Their message boards, where you’ll find a thread about Boyd as well as Christians and voting, are a great place to start.

Think about it.

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20 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by thepriesthood on January 27, 2008 at 4:02 am

    howdy, Steve. Hope all is well. funny how political posts can often ruffle feathers and polarize folks–at least that’s what i’ve encountered. perhaps that’s where the Jesus radicals can contribute the most.

    If you believed that a) Jesus’ central message in the gospels was “the kingdom of God” and b) “the kingdom of God” was necessarily a political message that stood contra to the dominant and often oppressive empire and c) you strongly felt that the vision of a political front-runner aligned quite well with this “kingdom of God” would you e) cast a vote for that person?

    btw, i’ve heard of the “Jesus for President” campaign, which sounds funny, but in line with your thoughts on the office of president, wouldn’t we be reducing Jesus to a mere figure-head–or rather, perpetuating that chummy status in our culture?

    Reply

  2. this is really funny…

    i think i will actually cast a ballot this year…

    talk about irony!

    πŸ™‚

    peace

    Reply

  3. Well Steve,

    You bring up an interesting point regarding the elections. Its amazing how many people have come to almost worship a candidate. I swear on some of the sites I frequent you would think that Ron Paul or Barack Obama is Jesus himself. Its amazing the pedastal we put these figures onto.

    Reply

  4. Great thoughts…enjoyed reading your perspective! I’m very ignorant of politics by design but your words fall on eager ears! Be blessed this week…

    Reply

  5. David Lipscomb, hail to thee… hear our heart felt praise

    Songs of truth and brotherhood, guide us all our days…

    Reply

  6. Posted by smhjr on January 29, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Priest – No, because politics is broken. The office of president matters so very little in terms of exacting lasting change. He is influenced greatly by the two other branches of government, and there is no way to assure that every cog in that machine is aligned with the kingdom of God.

    IMHO, just maintaining America’s image, “strength,” and interests around the world would require a president to betray what you and I believe to be the tenets of the kingdom: humility, “lastness,” weakness, trust in God’s provision, justice, simplicity…

    Like I said, the office changes the man more than the man changes the office.

    Miller — I’ve gotta hear this one. Do explain yourself, good sir. =)

    Toler – We are so easily wooed, aren’t we? Thanks for commenting.

    Teens of Highland — you guys rock. Thanks for commenting.

    Reply

  7. Posted by smhjr on January 29, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    As for “Jesus for President” — I’m right there with ya, Priest. Ever since I heard of Claiborne’s book and tour by that title, I’ve been uncomfortable with it, for the same reasons you mention. I haven’t heard all the talking points yet, but even the JFP phrase is slightly disconcerting.

    The kingdom transcends human politics.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Daniel Gray on January 29, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I have a song of my own…

    “God bless America, land that I love, stand beside her, and guide her, through the night, with the light from above…”

    Seriously… those of you who feel it is best for Christians to stay out of government/politics, and actually avoid talking about specific candidates/issues, I respect that!

    Reply

  9. weeeeell,

    i’m kinda thinkin Ron P. is a man i can vote for.

    i’ve always said if they give me somebody with integrity and that remembers the USA was originally (and still should be) about freedom from oppressive government rather than just another form of it…

    i’d vote for that person…

    i think Ronny P. might fit the bill.

    πŸ™‚

    peace

    Reply

  10. and i like that he wants to bring our military home!

    Reply

  11. Miller –
    Interesting. Paul certainly has some admirable qualities, not least his opposition to the war. But he’s still a cog in a broken, sinful, human system…

    You might be interested in the discussion about Ronny P over on the Jesus Radicals forum. The following comment (by Keith Johnson at the bottom of page 1) is especially interesting:

    I find his program abysmal for a lot of reasons, but IMO this one thing precludes a Christian from voting for him: he wants to deny citizenship to children born in the US to undocumented immigrants. That would be a crime. To deny citizenship to person who was born here, for whom the US is the only home he has ever known, is to declare him at birth to be a second class person! Ron Paul has chosen the side of the most extreme xenophobic wing of the Republican Party; IMO it is not possible for a Christian to love his neighbors while demonizing them as “invaders” to the point of declaring war on their children.

    Reply

  12. Posted by smhjr on January 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Also, I’d be interested to hear Paul’s position on caring for widows and orphans. If it’s like his position on the alien, then I’m not so sure he’s our golden boy …

    Reply

  13. well, you’re right about the brokenness of the system and the human!

    regarding the quotation. i think its pretty humanitarian to let an illegal immigrant to use one of our hospitals to have their children and to do it free of charge. granted, the system is broken and there are human rights issues to be aware of… but i’m pretty much opposed to the kind of demonization the author of that quote embraces.

    i don’t think it is the responsibility of the government to take care of the widows and orphans…

    but there is one institution that has the responsibility… if only it weren’t so preoccupied with buildings and programs and staff and such…

    its easy to demonize this official or that candidate for their proposals concerning the oppressed… its another thing altogether to walk away from the constant pursuit of the material and act justly. where are all of the “christians” when birthing time comes for the oppressed who don’t have access to assitance? why are there over 300,000 children in the foster care system alone who wait for a family? where are all of the righteous who care so much for the children? why are there so few organizations like Heifer International, People Not Profit, Adylene’s Hope, and Eternal Threads in this country? it seems to me that if there needs to be any scrutiny of the “justice” policies of leaders, it needs to be applied equally to all of them, espeacially the religious ones.

    what are our preachers and elders and deacons doing to help the oppressed migrant workers?

    sorry, i’m gonna just quit now…

    πŸ™‚

    peace and respect.

    Reply

  14. Posted by smhjr on January 30, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Dude, you’re preachin’ to the choir. =)

    I want the same things you want, and agree that it is the church’s responsibility to see that those things happen. My intention in publishing that quote was only to show that below the surface, no matter how good a candidate looks, there are warts. George Bush got elected because he was a “Washington outsider,” but he quickly became an insider and led perhaps the most secretive cabinet in the history of the US. If Ron Paul got elected, he’d be swept up into the same broken political stream as Dubya. Democrat…Republican…Libertarian…Green — it doesn’t matter.

    My question to you is, why vote? Why even participate in the system, if ultimately, it is futile to achieve the results it says it will achieve? Don’t you think that as a Christian, our hope lies above all that mess?

    (I’m only pushing back at you, Miller, because you’ve helped shape a kingdom theology in me perhaps more than anyone else I know. Because you’ve taught me about and modeled a life that doesn’t succumb to the power struggles and sinful structures of this broken world.)

    Reply

  15. Posted by Daniel Gray on January 30, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Miller — keep at it! We need to light a fire under our religious leaders to push the church back into a suffering world where it can alleviate that suffering.

    Steve, I’ll throw my two cents in on the why vote question…

    I agree that our hope lies above this world, and yet I think God called us to take on the world’s suffering in whatever way possible. I’m gonna throw out a few verses:

    Ro 13:1(ff) — Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

    1 Peter 1:13-17, specifically 17 — Show proper respect to everyone: love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

    I think scripture is calling us (in any time period) to not only obey the laws of the land (and there were clearly times when disciples disobeyed the authorities when it conflicted in their faith). But also, we’re to honor to government — in our situation, we have a say in guiding that government.

    And I think it represents a fuller, more participatory life when we do vote/discuss politics. We’ve tried to throw off the world so much, that Christians look so incredibly disconnected. I think we have a better chance at connecting with nonbelievers when we constantly engage every facet of our culture, including politics. If we throw it out, we look disconnected and uninviting.

    Regardless of what you think of Jim Wallis’ political beliefs, he had a really good interview on the Daily Show last week about the role of Christian faith in politics:

    http://www.comedycentral.com/motherload/player.jhtml?ml_video=148211&is_large=true

    Reply

  16. no Steve, you’re right! we shouldn’t put our hope in our government…

    and i’m not!

    however, Ronny P. seems to really believe in smaller government! his record backs that notion up in every case. additionally, he seems to be a true constitutional conservative…

    my hope is that our government will become less oppressive…

    i know its not much but this really isn’t a case of choosing the lesser of two evils. i believe this man has integrity and an understanding of the role of government that i agree with. i guess i’m saying i believe i’m voting against government by voting for this guy…

    i still believe the only good government is self government!

    peace

    Reply

  17. Posted by smhjr on January 31, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Well, good luck with all that. =)

    Making America’s government smaller is like turning around the Titanic, and I’m not hopeful that this can happen at all … and definitely not because of one guy. I still hold to the belief (and please, prove me wrong!) that the office changes the president more than the president changes the office.

    Suggesting to people that American needs a smaller government is akin to suggesting that American needs smaller churches … people naturally resist such notions and doubt that it could ever work. They’d rather have the safety blanket of Big Brother “watching out for them” than enter the unknown realm of self-government.

    I don’t disagree that government in America should stand down quite a bit, but let’s face it — it’s not happening. Not and the US retain its power in the world.

    The whole system gives me the heebies, and I want no part in it. =)

    God bless ya if you do!

    Reply

  18. yeah, i hear ya bro.

    here’s my thinking. while you see a lot of people who are dependent and addicted to big government, you gotta know there are many who hate it in directly proportionate scales.

    i agree, the office changes the man more than vice-versa… and maybe i’m a fool for giving it a shot. if it weren’t for the track record this guy has in over a decade of political life i’d probably not have any hope.

    i can’t vote for any of the other candidates so if RP doesn’t make the general…

    i’ll just write him in!

    πŸ™‚

    its a matter of principle for me

    i really believe this guy might be the one to throw the first bale of tea overboard… and if he does i think there’ll be many who follow suit.

    peace

    Reply

  19. Posted by Daniel Gray on January 31, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Please help me, I’m a govoholic… tax and spend, tax and spend…

    Reply

  20. Man.

    Miller is a man after my own heart. I too did the “I’m not gonna deal with politics again thing, for spiritual reasons, and after hearing RP, decided I’d give it one last go.

    I will say, I do feel guilty, occasionally. But I don’t think a politician that believes so closely to what I agree with will ever come along again, and I sincerely believe that unless someone that understands the economy like he does gets elected, its gonna make 1929 look like the 80s. Things will be bad.

    Reply

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