Reflections on Elections

Given that today is the day before Election Day here in this US of A, one would think that reflection on the election would be appropriate. However, I tried to avoid it, since biblical reflection is far more difficult than it seems. What does it mean to elect someone when one is actually the citizen of another rule/Ruler, when the country in which one is voting is that of one’s natural birth (to which one has hopefully died) and one has been born again into the kingdom of God? And how does one choose among individuals for the two highest (whatever that means in biblical perspective) offices who all claim to be brothers, followers of Jesus as Lord (unless one does not accept that a Mormon is a follower of Jesus)? Of course these brothers all want (or want to retain) power and authority (rather a dicey quest in itself for a follower of Jesus given what Jesus says in places like Mark 12 about seeking authority) in a country that by definition has no established religion, certainly not the rule of Jesus.

There are, of course, those who identify Capitalism with Christianity and so would vote for the most Capitalist, which is rather strange since the Old Testament claims God is the owner of the means of production (the land) and the New Testament makes it clear that to become a follower of Jesus we sign over our selves and all that we have to him, which is why the rich cannot enter the kingdom – they need a special level of divine miracle which the poor are never said to need. And there are those who identify democracy or liberty with Christianity and so would vote for those who give the most power or independence to the people, which is also strange since Paul, James, and Peter all talk about being slaves of Jesus, never talk about voting or democracy, and yet insist that if one is in the Anointed One that person is free, that the Son has made him or her free, so to worry about human distinctions such as slave or free is to miss reality.

One could, of course, go to the Old Testament and see what the divinely appointed ruler was supposed to do there. In that case we would discover two essential functions: (1) national defense and (2) social justice, including especially care for the poor. One might add leading the nation in worship is at least demonstrated in the Old Testament, but that is something that I doubt anyone expects any of the four main candidates for the two “highest” offices to do. And what does national defense mean when the Prince of Peace has come and shown us that one wins the real battle through laying down one’s life (versus the occasional genocide of the Old Testament), for one’s real enemies, collective as well as individual, are spiritual, not physical? Furthermore, one is likely to have followers of Jesus on all sides of any armed conflict. We still have caring for the poor, but I have heard precious little analysis of how this or that person’s policies would impact the poor, other than the fact that the Catholic Bishops issued a statement early on that Paul Ryan’s budget proposal was not consistent with Catholic social policy. But that was quickly forgotten when he, so to speak, joined the ticket.

Of course, the reason that social policy, Catholic or other, has not dominated the discussion is that issues such as abortion policy (which seems to assume that there can be only one abortion policy that is Christian – I wish it were so simple on either the issue of abortion or the issue of policy approach, the latter including whether law or some other approach is a more Christian policy solution), gay marriage (which is also raised as a slogan without careful analysis, resulting in all types of issues being mixed together in a welter of emotion), and the like (including a number of urban legends like “Obama is a Muslim”) have tended to dominate the discussion.

I admit that I am personally somewhat beyond that tension, for my wife and I voted last Tuesday, more out of social expectation than out of conviction. There was (spoiler alert!) no button that allowed me to reject both or (up to) all four candidates for any office, should I have thought that none satisfied “Christian” criteria. I did not notice a candidate that was clearly individuated from a party. And I am fully convinced that God is not a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Green, so unless one is individuated from a party it is difficult to see how one can be fully listening to God. Furthermore, Jesus definitely was not running for office. (Why should he? He is already Lord or Lords, so he is not running for office, but commanding all to submit to him.)

By Wednesday morning it will (hopefully) be over. While the results will not be official for a while, we will, with a high probability, know what they are. And we will know that Mammon had a large part in creating them. Given that the campaigns were filled with untruths and twisted truths, it would not be totally wrong to say that the Father of Lies was the campaign manager for both winner and loser. And other “deities” heavily involved will have been Mars and Power. And where will Jesus and his Father be? Certainly, they will be in control of the universe. But they were in control in the events that led to the death and resurrection of Jesus, they were in control in politics of Rome in 64 – 68 CE, and they were in control in the politics that led to the disastrous war between the Jews of Palestine and Rome in 66 – 70 CE. (In fact in Mark 13 Jesus rather graphically predicted that conflict and its outcome.) The more “godly” person or persons in any contest may lose (or may win) – by the will of God – and a politics that leads to economic or ecological destruction may win. And that does not mean that Jesus and his Father are not in control.

I went to vote last Tuesday and many of my brothers and sisters will vote this Tuesday so as not to be antisocial, so as to say that I care. I did not vote for Jesus – he was not running and would not run. I doubt I voted for a leader, for I think that Edwin Friedman in Failure of Nerve is correct that a true leader either would not run or would not be nominated. I made what I judged the least bad decision – sometimes, perhaps, a protest decision – a left. Now my job of work is to remember that, whoever is declared the winner in whatever race, the Principalities and Powers still rule in this US of A, as in all other countries of the world, but that I need not be disturbed, for I live, so to speak, in an alternative universe, under an alternative rule, and that my unelected Ruler is ultimately Lord or Lords and King of Kings. My job on Wednesday will be the same as ever: to subvert the rule of this US of A (and all other lands) and call people to enter that alternative universe and live under that alternative rule. And, however the rulers of this age treat me, my equanimity is the demonstration of my conviction that my King has already triumphed over liberty, democracy, capitalism, socialism, and every other power of this age and that, in the end, whenever that may occur, I will fully experience his triumph and look on Election Day 2012 as one more experience of the angst of this age that does not know that there is already a King who reigns.

I meant to reflect on sickness and healing or the lack thereof, but that will need to wait, for the above is what was clearly on my mind, perhaps in part because the lectionary has been leading us through Mark 12 and towards Mark 13.

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