Something that has invariably been flooding everyone’s news feed as of late is the constant stream of politics – “Ten Reasons to Vote for Hillary Clinton,” “Five Ways Trump Could Actually Make America Great Again,” and “Innumerable Explanations for why the United States Seems Headed for Disaster.” Admittedly, I have never been the most informed political observant ever, but something about this particular presidential race is troubling. Not only has this specific election threatened the unity of Americans in how they perceive themselves and those around them, but it is also common to see disunity among brothers and sisters in the Church, and this latter point is what draws my concern. In as measured and equitably as I can manage, I’d like to make a few cases for how our faith has been trumped by our politics and why we mustn’t let this be the case.
A popular approach to politics for quite a while has been the tactic of “mudslinging,” or the tarnishing of an opponent’s reputation. The ammo ranges from policy scoffing to personal insults, and it is, in my eyes, a decidedly un-Christian maneuver. I recognize the naïveté in trying to apply ideal Christian standards to a staunchly secular arena, but my point is that we as brothers and sisters have partaken in the mudslinging. Many times, I’ve witnessed brothers and sisters discrediting one another’s intelligence – even faith – for their political position. So I ask: is this in keeping with what we as Christians believe? Is this what it is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” as described in Ephesians 4:1-3? There is something deeply disturbing about how Clinton-supporting and Trump-supporting brothers and sisters, once so eager to say “Judge not” and “Speak the truth in love,” now jump at the chance to exercise their bookkeeping of either candidate’s (and possibly the candidate’s supporters’) sins. It’s almost as if we, who are desperately sinful and in great need of grace, believe that our choice of presidential candidate rests on the less sinful person! As Christians, we seem to have been leaving our theology on the doorstep of political debate instead of seeking first the kingdom of God.
Now, it may seem like seeking first the kingdom of God, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, is both taken out of context but also ill-fitting in regards to the present context. After all, one might argue, Jesus isn’t making a political statement when He’s saying that, or else we as Christians would have to want a kingship instead of a democracy. Yet why is that so objectionable? Is not the Kingship we seek (denoted with a capital K even!) a higher and richer governance? Even the Israelites of old had the desire to be ruled by a king, and it is not without considerable weightiness that we call our Lord the King of Kings. Yet it seems that we, in our desire for self-preservation, our longing to be heard, and our pursuit of what we think is just, have chosen to extol the virtues of a system that reflects, in part, our relationship with Christ. This is not a knock on our system of democracy or this country; those who know me know that even while in Canada, I missed my well-beloved United States of America. However, what I am getting at is that taking our political system as fundamental to our beliefs over and above how we ought to walk in our faith, which I hold to be ideally fundamental, is problematic. In a submissive relationship between a perfect and benevolent King and His obedient servants, it is clear whose will is to be carried out, for there is only one will – that of the Lord. But if we treat our relationship with God as we treat our politics and come before God with a list of requests that we demand to be met, if we approach Him believing that He ought to honor our perceptions of what is just and what is fair, if we elevate ourselves to seeing eye to eye in terms of governing our own lives here on Earth while claiming to look ahead to the next life with Him, have we not indirectly affected our proper view of Himself as well? I ask these questions to draw nigh to what I think is part of the proper context of Matthew 6:33; it is a matter of anxiety. In our anxiety about the present situation and the future terrors, we as Christians have, I believe, lost sight of the kingdom of God. This is manifested in our heated debates with believers and non-believers alike, how we think about people when they reveal who they’re supporting, and all the other avenues in which we could be choosing instead to seek first the kingdom of God. I am choosing to be so bold as to say that who we vote for will not affect the kingdom of God at all. How we treat one another, if we consider the set of believers to be citizens of the aforementioned kingdom, does affect the kingdom of God.
So, in closing, I’d like to encourage us to reflect on the boundaries of our faith in light of politics. Have we been cordoning off how seek the kingdom from how we practice politics? Are we treating one another with grace, despite heavy disagreement? Are we allowing the human construct of politics to compromise the way we walk before one another and the world? Certainly it seems like our political future is at stake, but so is our testimony as Christians. There’s a lot to be said about the fact that we as believers can’t stand united on the topic of presidency; we don’t even need to necessarily all believe that one candidate is the right candidate. However, we are failing to even relate to one another in love during the process, and I am strongly persuaded that it is because we don’t seek the kingdom of God through and through – we only seek it when it’s convenient for us. Let’s learn to love deeper and put anxiety aside during these times of political turmoil; let’s seek His kingdom and His righteousness in full confidence that our tomorrow is in His hands.