i have a confession to make.
i voted for hillary clinton.
and that may not be the confession that some of you think it is. though she may not have been the greatest of choices generally, i had my reasons for voting thus and we can talk about them later if you’d like. my confession is of a different sort. we’ll get there soon.
i am one of many surprised and saddened by this week’s election results. for all the battles we’ve fought in this country against racism, sexism, and bullying we just elected a racist, sexist bully. his only concrete campaign promises were about controlling minorities. he made lewd comments about sexually assaulting women; the guy who laughs at him gets fired; he gets elected president. he can’t be trusted with a twitter account. the list goes on. it sends a fearful message, whether we see all the layers or not, to anyone not white and male. all of my students are in demographics that he has insulted or belittled during his campaign and many are confused. whether he believes what he says or not, he used hateful rhetoric to gain power and that alone is heinous.
i voted because i deeply wanted what i saw as the lesser of two evils for this country. and i voted as an american who had some duty to do so. but this duty seems to me hollow, an acting for the sake of acting, supporting a certain side of a non-choice. and i realize that in voting for clinton i was betting one set of human ideas against another and God felt absent.
throughout the bible we see often, especially in the gospels and revelation, the theme of the Kingdom of God as the opposite to the worldly empires we know. and any empire, whether babylonian, assyrian, egyptian, alexandrian, roman, holy roman, ottoman, british, or, indeed, american, is destined to fall. its ways are man’s and not God’s. as Jesus clearly demonstrates, God has some very serious issues with things like institutionalized religion and earthly empires and all the things the world convinces us make us powerful. empires fall; the kingdom is eternal.
so my confession is this: i voted for empire.
i set aside things i know to be true and thought, maybe, focusing more on america than on Christ, i can help this one country suck a little less in some ways. i willfully voted for one version of empire against another version of empire.
though i feel somewhat dirtied by this knowledge, i console myself with the thought that in casting my vote perhaps i simply gave to caesar what was caesar’s. and i will let that be that. there is a larger calling to the Kingdom which i hope i am answering.
and perhaps i come now to why i feel so down about this election. we the church operate in the world, in the ‘forgotten corners of empire’, and yet operate using very different ways and means than the empire. or we should be doing so, anyway. i don’t think we are called to use the tools of the empire for some attempted good, but act rather in the unconventional ways of Christ. but this is very hard. and i’m afraid that many of our brothers and sisters – both democrat and republican in their own ways – see their first duty to some christian fantasy version of this country, and this country as their hope in place of the Kingdom itself. supporting leaders who talk on our preferred side of a handful of issues, we imagine we’d be a more godly nation if such things were forced upon everyone. which, of course, doesn’t make any sense if we are also talking about everyone having freedom.
this is folly. in spite of what is said about the religious foundations of this nation, it has always been a version of empire and is hardly in accordance with how Jesus directed his disciples to act. we irresponsibly pair the idea of freedom we have in america with some kind of moral buffet plucked from half-remembered misconceptions about the bible and suddenly an empire becomes the tool of God. though it is not unprecedented that God uses empires to his own ends, i have trouble believing that america is God’s way to bring about His Kingdom. from slavery to the genocide (and continued oppression) of native peoples to segregation to wars to proxy wars to businesses that put profits before people to institutionalized racism, and on and on, at which point in america’s history did it really reflect the call of Christ to love our neighbors and our enemies as ourselves or teach and make disciples and work to bring the Kingdom here on earth?
if some are trying to make america into a ‘christian’ nation through forcing policy, how can they read the parable of the good samaritan on sunday and then vote to make sure no more syrian families fleeing war can come to this country on tuesday? the answer to this and other dilemmas is that there is more than one response. There is a fearful empire response that has to do with control and a response that hopes to see widows and orphans cared for no matter the personal cost. is there a way to reconcile these responses? should we even try to? how do i reconcile the part of me that longs to follow Christ and the part that is an american? can i even do so? perhaps the Kingdom invites us beyond such dichotomies. and perhaps those of us who get too bogged down in using politics to regulate elements of Kingdom ideals will be someday accused of holding the keys but not letting others in and not entering in ourselves.
my point is that the empire (america, in this case) cannot bring about the Kingdom of God for it is and will always be concerned with the things of the empire and the maintaining of the empire in a very earthly, worldly sense. to focus more on the Kingdom would mean giving up all that makes it an empire and thus it would cease to be. the people of america, high on ideologies about freedom and liberty, are not ready for this and probably never will be, no matter how much of a ‘christian’ nation it becomes. following Jesus, as we see in the scriptures, looks nothing like american capitalism. how can those of us who strive to be like Christ live and die for a set of faulty ideals written by man? how can we settle for anything less than the Kingdom?
so i gave my vote. i gave to caesar what was caesar’s. and though it is not an issue of salvation if we choose to cast a vote or use politics to help what we believe needs to be helped, lets just remember the government of america is not the Kingdom of God.
some are saying whatever the election results that God is still in control. true. but let’s remember that He is in control in His own ways and not in our worldly, fallen, human ways. and our job is to follow Christ and work to bring the Kingdom, which often means subverting any oppressive worldly power, seeking out the forgotten, and setting aside our own desires.
if you need a little pick-me-up this week, future of forestry just released a new album and it brims with hope and is often musically stunning.
and if you want to understand more about where i am coming from when i say all this, you could ask me about it. i’d love to talk. and because i have only poorly said what others have said well, you could also check out these books:
the politics of Jesus, by john howard yoder
Jesus for president, by shane clairborne, et al.
that holy anarchist, by mark van steenwyk
the theology of the book of revelation, by richard bauckham
searching for sunday, by rachel held evans
also the book of revelation.
and especially read the gospels.