[This is a long post, but I hope you’ll read on.]
I don’t understand evangelicals. This post, if anybody actually read my blog, would probably get me in trouble. But since no one does (other than you), I’m okay.
The marriage of religion and politics (particularly ‘conservative’ politics) that characterizes modern evangelicalism makes me uneasy. There’s the oft-spoken assumption (at least in the American South) that Christian=Republican. In other words, the folks you sit next to in a lot of evangelical churches are probably Republicans, maybe even hold elective office as Republicans. They talk, they ask questions, they make snide remarks about crazy ‘Feminazis’ (borrowing from one of their patron saints, Rush Limbaugh), fairies, or Democrats in general.
I’ve learned to smile and nod. A lot. And frankly, I’m starting to feel guilty about it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m relatively conservative, though I hate the label. The idea there, of course, is that we’re conserving something. But what? The American way of life? The ‘founders’ vision’ of America? Free trade? Freedom? I guess it puts me in mind of the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day, who were working with all their might to preserve their vision for Israel. And if that preservation required getting in bed (so to speak) with Herod or Pilate or the Zealots or whoever, they did it.
The same seems true today. If they have ‘our’ goals in mind, we can join with Democrats, or atheists, or murderers, or evolutionists (well, maybe not evolutionists) to realize the goal. That’s how we handle power. In fact, we call the powerful among us ‘power brokers’. We broker power, as if it were a commodity to be bought and sold. As in fact it is.
But where are the Jesuses of our day? Someone to say with Jesus: “Some people lord power over others. But it should not be so among you. After all, I deserve obeisance more than anyone, but that’s not part of my agenda. Instead, I’ll ransom myself for another’s freedom. I’ll take punishment I don’t deserve to relieve more spiritual and physical pain than any doctor could. I’ll surrender myself to imprisonment to lead people to ultimate freedom.” Some people get part of the message, but the pendulum swings too far. They end up brokering power on the other end, giving the top jobs to the right people. As N.T. Wright has said, Jesus said we go a different way altogether.
Instead of diving into the sack with Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians or Greens or Reform or the Marijuana party (I’m not kidding) or the Communists or any of the other political parties currently active in the US, what should Christians do? Above all, we must demonstrate that we are not just another religio-political movement. Too much energy, I believe, has been expended on taking over government. Now, I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics, that we shouldn’t vote, or anything like that. I’m only saying that we must not focus our attention on ‘taking America back.’ We must instead focus on moving forward in and with and through Christ. In other words, we–let me make it personal–I have to find ways to announce/declare the kingdom of God in the world around me.
Instead of fighting to preserve the right to pray in school, why not just pray? And keep on praying until people start thinking, “Wow, there’s more to this than a power-grab.” Or instead of making a ruckus about art that offends me (which doesn’t sound a whole lot different from the Mohammed picture hullabaloo of last year), why not ensure that real, gospel-announcing art has hermeneutical space by virtue of its marketplace space? Why not buy some art? (And not just that blacklight Jesus poster.) Why not support independent Christian musicians and bands who have something powerful to say but little space to say it because they’re not ‘marketable’?
On the flip side of that is Sojourners, a magazine and organization I think a lot of. Unfortunately, lately I’ve felt they speak less and less for things and more and more against President Bush. I’m not really a Bush fan, a fact I neither hide nor trumpet. But neither am I going to spend all my waking life lamenting the ‘stolen election’ and plotting the takedown of the industrial-military complex and the war machine. I don’t like war, I don’t believe war is a good thing, I’m not sure it’s ever ‘just’ from a Christian perspective. But all that said, I believe our troops don’t need us taking potshots at them from behind. And my generation in the church is leaning that way.
When will we wake up? I still shudder when I think of Derek Webb‘s song “A New Law.” Read the lyrics. That’s what we’ve become about in our country, our church. “I don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy, so just bring it down from the mountain to me.” Most of my current angst (and there’s a lot of it; ask someone who has to talk to me on a regular basis) comes from this one attitude. Most of the people I know are looking to leaders (or influencers, if you prefer Emergent terminology) for what to think about whatever.
I’m tired of it. I don’t have the answers, but I want to keep asking the questions. Join me.