Tuesday, July 19, 2005

King "W?"

The following appeared in our church newsletter in Nov. 2004, just after the presidential election.
"The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Across the country yesterday, in houses of worship, it was a true study in contrast. Different people, claiming faith in the same God through the same Jesus Christ, were either glorifying God as interceding in the outcome of a national election, or they were weeping and gnashing their teeth as if exiled from their home proclaiming, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

How can this be? How is it that national politics have become so, well, religious? Studies of the electorate show that 1 in 5 of the almost 120 million people who voted represented the conservative, evangelical Christian movement, and that, overwhelmingly, they voted for President Bush. On a purely political basis, that’s a formidable voting block, and the Democratic Party needs to wake up and realize that, and, unless it really wants to contribute the national dialogue on important issues for the generations to come, something’s gotta change.

Does God desire a particular candidate be elected? If so, does that not also make one wonder if God wanted the Red Sox to win the World Series (maybe God pitied them for losing for so long, I know I did), or Louisville to beat the Tigers (based on how our defense couldn’t make one stop, not one, makes me wonder about that one).

As I’ve come to think about it, I’m of the mind that we’re just as quick to credit God for some things as we are to blame God for others. What’s the difference in saying, “it’s God’s will” when the tragic and inexplicable occurs, and saying the same when we win – a ballgame or an election? It’s really two sides of the same coin.

Sure, the precedent of the theocracy is as old as the time of Samuel. The people of God decided they needed a king, an earthly manifestation of the One who demanded of them no idols and no other gods before the God of Israel. God seemed to be saying, “You don’t need a king, you need me, but if you want a king, you’ll get one, and everything that comes with it, including the human capacity for sin.” That’s when Israel’s problems started.

We don’t live in a theocracy. Never have. And let’s not confuse “freedom of religion” with theocracy.

Democracy at its best always has a little bit of the ugly in it. But even that is much preferred to some other form of governance, including a monarchy, which, as I recall my American history, revolt evolved to revolution because of a king. Ironically, wasn’t it King George the III?

In this comes my confession, I’ve come to believe that blind allegiance to any political leader is a dangerous thing. There is a difference between having a political preference, strong resonance in that candidate’s politics and policies, and speaking of that person in larger than life terms. And when I see “W the President” stickers, hats, and T-shirts, it smacks of idolatry to me. I don’t have a problem with W’04 stickers. They seem appropriate in a campaign. It’s the “the” that’s the problem.

What I understand God doing is instilling within each of us the capacity to make political decisions based upon what we see the Realm of God looking like. And on this point good people can disagree. That’s o.k. I don’t have to have a country where we are all in lock step.

So, whether your guy won Tuesday or lost -don’t blame God nor give God the credit for it. Now, Karl Rove? That’s another matter altogether. Even those who despise his politics have to admire his savvy.

True enough, the people have spoken. And democracy as process must be honored and respected. The presidency is an office to be honored, but the person in it should never be exalted to a place higher than the office intended. Our founding fathers could have established a monarchy, but intentionally chose otherwise because their own experience showed them how dangerous it could be. Certainly, though, given the times in which we live, we absolutely should be in prayer for all of our leaders, including President Bush.

Oh, the other thing about biblical theocracies with earthly kings, God also raised up prophetic voices, a kinda “check and balance,” if you will. If your candidate lost, and you’re angry about it, get over it. If there is any anger to be had it must be that which is born of righteous anger whenever leadership (Democratic, Republican or whatever) instills policies that harm the least among us, or whenever power is self-serving. When that happens, prophets will rise up and the call will sound forth. Be sure that it’s a righteous anger you bring and not your own, otherwise you perpetuate a cycle of “slash and burn” politics that further marginalizes the forgotten.


Chris Chastain said...

You have made a good point - Democrat or Republican - no one "lost" the election and no one "won" the election. During the last election, our (real) choice was between George Bush or John Kerry. That was the best America had to offer? People who know me know I worry. I worry about growing old, not having enough money, now, raising a child in America. I worry that sweet potatoes aren't as good for me as some might suggest. I worry that there will never be another John Coltrane or Charlie Parker. But I really worry that America is so far down a road that we can't come back on (and I am not putting this on any one President's back - AT ALL), that the rot is so deep, that the best our country has to offer, is electing Bush or Kerry - and that is it. Mr. Haggard, I think, wrote, "Are the good times really gone for good?" Maybe, and if I really wash my sweet potatoes, I can get the pesticides off, right?

Tiberius said...

It has been interesting to read political blogs and bulletin boards of late regard Sen. Frist's support of stem cell research. Some Republicans are calling it a "crisis." While I may inwardly smile at this, it does point to the fact that some politicians still have passion about SOME things.

Frist was first a healer before a senator. I would like to think his heart won out over his political head.

But then, some said that his announcement and Nancy Reagan's blessing of it is an attempt to get more moderate votes and sway some Democrats over to the Dark Side.

I wonder what they said about Jesus and his motivations. [grin]