Is anybody else sick of politics yet? I’m struggling to remember what life was like before the US Presidential race began. That was over a year ago but is due to wrap up within the next week or so. Finally! I get the feeling I’m not the only one who feels this way.
But passionate internet keyboard warriors are still sharing, clicking, liking and commenting for their chosen candidate; even here in Australia. The volume of social media articles and comments between supporters seems to be approaching a creshendo. The age-old clash between conservatives and progressives; The left and the right personified in Trump and Hillary. “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy” chided Brian’s mother in the Life of Brian; and this rings true of every politician we raise. We hope they can save us; but they are ultimately all just naughty boys and girls who are not equipped for salvation.
I think much of the heated political debate stems from a society that places responsibility and blame for its ills at the feet of politicians and their political system. It’s probably true to say that where people used to pray to a god for change and justice, now they just petition (or vote out) government. “Why doesn’t the government do something?” is something I hear older folk say. Millennials think the same, but it looks different. We fill in petitions, tweet politicians, and share our articles in order to get our friends on board to vote in a certain way for various issues. Early 19th Century apologist and author GK Chesterton nailed it; “Once abolish the God and the government becomes the God.” And it would seem that he was right, but perhaps he would be shocked to see how this is the case within much of the church.
Government is terrible at change
Government is a good thing when in it’s rightful place. There are many issues that Christians are concerned about in the upcoming US elections. Abortion, gun control, gay marriage, national debt, environmental protection, veteran affairs, homelessness, national debt, and the place of Christianity in politics. Government has a role to play in these issues; but we are deluded if we think that passing laws is what makes people do what they ought to do (whatever we consider that to be), or that our laws have to be perfect Christian ones in order to prosper. Governments are extremely inefficient at bringing lasting societal change; so why do we as a society look so much to them for it? If we find ourselves caring too much at the outcomes of elections; then we’ve missed the point of our faith. If God thought that what we needed most was laws and governance; he would have sent a politician. But he didn’t. He sent a lamb. A saviour. What a foolish thing to send.
God’s solution: the church
Much of the church has become lazy. We’ve become so accustomed to a favoured political position, that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to actually be the church on mission, instead we have become the church on the campaign trail. We’ve gotten it wrong. Political power is no power at all. Our power comes from weakness and seemingly foolish things like serving and prayer and missions.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
The early church had such a significant impact on their local communities, through their missional work; that a government ban could not stop them continuing to grow. In the 1904 Welsh revival, policemen reportedly ran out of work, horses who were accustomed to being sworn at and abused were so confused at the change in language used in talking to them, stopped working. Groups of men would pray for each other before starting work. Entire communities changed overnight – without a single law being passed. In New York city, the Dreamcentre church has changed a community through it’s 24 hr missional work;
“To give you an idea of the impact God is having on our community: The Echo Park area of LA, in which the Dream Center is housed, used to be one of the most crime-ridden regions in the country. It was recently named one of the “50 most livable cities in America.” Crime has been significantly reduced.”Matthew Barnett
Naughty boys and girls
So in an increasingly politically obsessed world; we as the church have an opportunity. After the political messiahs are unmasked as the naughty boys and girls they are. After the disillusionment of Kevin07, Abbott or Trump or Clinton, we can show them the weakness of power; and the power in weakness. We can show it by putting our hope somewhere much less fallible than political candidates and political systems. By not buying into a political system that demonises the other side, we can show that there is a better tribe to belong to, outside the simplified left-or-right, progrssive-or-conservative tribal system. It might just mean that we take time away from petitions and sharing political content and just actually become a church on mission. Rolling our sleeves up and serving our community as ones who are part of it. I think we’d be amazed at who would listen to us then. If it’s true that the gates of hell can’t stop the church, we sure as eggs don’t need the support of political systems.