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The Politics of Jesus

By March 4, 2008One Comment

In a couple weeks I will be turning 27, but you should know that I am a 70 year old living in the body of a twenty-something. For instance, I am a huge fan of the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” It comes on every Saturday night at 6pm, and it’s done in the style of old-timey radio programs. There are musical guests, comical skits, fake commercials, and I think it’s hilarious. I also think the average listener is 62.

My favorite part of “A Prairie Home Companion” is the segment called “The News from Lake Wobegon.” In this segment, the host tells stories from his fictional hometown, Lake Wobegon. The stories are always entertaining and clever, so I often find myself laughing out loud at his tales. But perhaps the best part about these stories is how well the teller captures the reality of human nature. I love his stories because they illustrate the true human experience, and I often see myself reflected in the characters he describes.

Well today I was listening to an old segment of “The News from Lake Wobegon,” and I was struck by how applicable it was to the present political race. This particular show aired the month before the 2004 Presidential election, and what follows is an excerpt from it. Keep in mind, the tone is largely tongue in cheek…

It’s been getting cool as Halloween comes along, and people are in a cautious mood, not because of Halloween but because of the election. People have to be careful about who they talk to and about what. Some people feel very strongly that the future of Western civilization is at stake on Tuesday, and you never know to whom you may be one of the infidels, so you have to walk lightly.

Val Tollefson went up to talk to Pastor Inkqvist about the sermon for Sunday. He was a little concerned because it was Reformation Sunday, and some of the conservatives in the congregation were a little leary that the pastor might use the occasion to talk about “reform” or “over-throwing the regime” or something of the sort. Val said, “Why don’t you just talk about homeland security. That’s what’s on everyone’s mind.” Pastor said, “I thought I would talk about salvation by grace…if that’s ok with you. I mean, we’ll sing ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God,’ and that should pretty much take care of our security, no?”

The reason I have high-lighted this excerpt today is that it serves as a healthy reminder to Christians, especially as the presidential race escalates. I don’t know about you, but I have never been so enthralled by the election developments. It’s almost like a soap opera: “Stay tuned for tomorrow when the Ohio and Texas primaries may determine the future candidates of the election!” or “Tune in next time when Hillary and Barack debate for the 20th time!”

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get sucked into the excitement, and we soon forget our primary identities. It’s not that voting is unimportant, or that we shouldn’t be invested in the well-being of our country, but there is a time at which we need to kick ourselves in the pants and remember, “This world is not my home. My allegiance lies elsewhere. And with that in mind, I need to chill out!”

Along those lines, there is a fascinating book called “The Politics of Jesus,” written by theologian John Howard Yoder. In it, he does not make the move that I anticipated him making; he does not delineate the ways in which Jesus would or would not have voted. Instead, he reminds Christians that Jesus came to create an entirely new polis, one that constitutes our primariy citizenship. First and foremost, we belong to the city of God, not the city of Man, and that should instill in us a peace that cannot be shaken by the uncertainty of the Presidential race.

Again, that is not to say that we should be apathetic to the future of our nation. There is a degree to which we are called to make the world a better place, and one of the ways we can work this betterment is through the government. BUT, our first mode of change should be through the polis of Christ, which is the Church.

Scripture does not instruct Christians to rely on the government to care for the poor or love the oppressed–Scripture instead commands the Body of Christ to do these things. That said, the degree to which we become aggressive or panicked when discussing the election will reveal the primary source of our trust–we are either counting on the government to enact change, or we are counting on the Holy Spirit to enact change through the Church. You see regardless of our President, the Church will still be the Church, which means God is still moving in the world, and hope endures. In fact, a bad President may even enable the Church to shine all the brighter.

So no matter how the election ends, God will still be God. What’s more, God will use the next President to glorify Himself, regardless of who he or she might be. In the mean time, our task is to continue being the Church, and living as resident aliens in a foreign land. We must shine our light in the darkness, at times using the government to change systemic oppression when the occasion warrants, but our peace and security rest in Christ alone. A mighty fortress is our God, indeed.

One Comment

  • Dianna says:

    Don’t worry … you are not the only one who loves Prairie Home Companion. I’m 34 and a seminary student and usually catch it after church on Sunday afternoons.
    I also subscribe to the podcasts for Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.
    I’m not sure how that transfers my age in NPR years — 90 or so I guess, which brings my next question … Where are my teeth?

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