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Saturday, November 08, 2008

An Election Day meditation

My alter ego wrote this on the morning of the election for an excellent Christian blog called The Crux . It was written in response to all the fear and anxiety over what the new president elect would or would not do. Here are some highlights (you can read the entire post here):

As I write this, people are voting. Every major news organization seems to have the good sense to avoid equating exit polling with delegate predictions. Barring a nightmare like 2000, when you read this, we will have a new president-elect. I don’t know who it will be. I dumped my tea leaves in the trash along with my enormous pile of election mail. I’ve already voted. And like a lot of people I didn’t like my choices. I however did not vote for the lesser of two evils. Somehow I’m just not sure that’s what Jesus would do. I also don’t think this election is any more spiritually important than the last election.

They are all spiritually important. . .

What I do find interesting is the political landscape for Christians in the 21st century looks remarkably like the political landscape of first century Jews. I’ve been reading a cutting-edge commentary on Church and State . . . from 1956. Oscar Cullman writes about Jesus’ navigation of the political landscape of the 1st century in The State and the New Testament.

Cullman vividly describes the political landscape Jesus walked into. There were two major parties and everyone was concerned about religion and politics. There was tremendous pressure for Jesus to identify with one of these parties. The Pro-Roman Sadducees questioned him about the resurrection. The Anti-Roman Pharisees questioned him about what taxes belong to the State. And Cullman notes with irony that Jesus was sentenced by a Pro-Roman mob as an Anti-Roman Zealot. Yet as Cullman notes:

Jesus and the emergent Christianity never joined in this unreserved submission to the Roman State

or the fervor of the Zealots. The “emergent” is my emphasis I couldn’t resist the emphasis on the emergent Christianity resisting reliance on the state for well . . . anything. Oh that the new emergers would be as wary!

Jesus neither favors nor fears either party or the Roman State that would kill him. He pals with Zealots and Pro-Roman tax collectors. And he chastises both. In Luke 22:25, Jesus uses a little SNL style satire to describe the rulers and powers that be. He says, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors."

You see they called themselves benefactors on the coins of the realm that they confiscated at the point of a spear. Now that’s irony. Jesus stubbornly refuses to be pigeon-holed, type-cast, or stereotyped. And he endorsed no one. He wasn’t a community organizer. . . .

He didn’t register voters, he trained disciples. He didn’t protest the lack of government aid, he fed 5,000 people. He didn’t demand universal health care, he healed the sick. He didn’t rail about a woman’s right to choose, he just warned us it’s better to wear a millstone as a flotation device than harm one of his little ones. And in the centuries following his departure, his disciples were bringing home and raising abandoned babies (their solution to infanticide), founding hospitals and freeing slaves with their own money, often at the expense of their status, as well as their income, and in some cases their lives. . . .

I just can’t imagine Jesus having any anxiety whatsoever at the turning of some political appointment. I can’t see him crying over the new Roman governor that was appointed or biting his nails over a super-majority in the Roman Senate . . . Prophesying and denouncing the evils of the world, yes. Thinking that any part of the solution involved some magic ruler keeping Jesus’ seat warm till he and the father decide to rule themselves–not so much.

So after reading Cullman, I’ve been trying to think about what’s our role as Christians in the new regime. My first inclination is to recall the words of the Who from their cynical masterpiece, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” which, if you haven’t heard it, is one the many opening themes for the C.S.I franchise.

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

I’m trying to think of what the Christian equivalent is of “pick up my guitar and play, just like yesterday” The line connotes going on about one’s life in freedom. I think implied in the image is “Thank goodness I can still get on my guitar and play–even with all this change” Who knows what would happen if “they” came for the guitars as well?

So the question is what is the Christian analog to “pick up my guitar and play”? For the most part, I will leave that to readers who can comment. But I will say this, I got up this morning. I prayed for the same things I did yesterday: my son Wesley to grow in virtue and wisdom, My wife to have wisdom and patience raising the toddling giggle monster, and for myself to trust God today just like yesterday. Actually more than yesterday since my trust this week has stunk worse than Ben Affleck doing Hamlet.

What would Jesus do? He would go about his father’s business. That’s what we should do. And as for getting on my knees and praying? Tonight as I go to bed long before I know who won this little exercise of democracy, I will pray that the new regime protects our freedom to do what Jesus commanded us to do...

Posted by Jay Lafayette on November 8, 2008 in U.S. politics | Permalink


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A very good commentary. I especially like the part about how He wasn't a community leader. But your overriding point: don't get too caught up in the things of the world, correct? I have to concur is ultimately the right view.

Posted by: Charles Martin Cosgriff | 2008-11-08 8:14:34 AM

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