During the last election seasons (Fall 2004 and Fall 2006), I was living in Vienna as I taught in Lipscomb’s study abroad program. I wish I were there now and blissfully ignorant of all the rancor, sniping, and despicable comments. And not so much from the candidates themselves (though they cross some lines) but from their supporters, bloggers, and media outlets.
It is particularly distressing to see Christians taking snipes at Palin during her speech and it is equally distressing to see Christians using insulting language towards Obama. It is almost as if loving our neighbors is not applicable to the political arena. The kingdom of this world–and its political brawls–in such cases trumps the kingdom of God. The language of Ashdod–the political rancour of attack–replaces the kingdom invitation to mutual forbearance and the search for mutual understanding.
The election cycle deChristianizes us, I fear. It puts the kingdom of the United States at the center rather than the kingdom of God.
I recognize the need and value of policy debates, just as I recognize the need and value of Christians wrestling with how to be Christ-followers in a broken world and even disagreeing about how to do that. But the debates and disagreements do not undermine the kingdom call to season our speech with salt and speak lovingly with each other.
Despite all the unpleasantness, I celebrate that both parties have broken ethnic and gender barriers in their own respective parties. I celebrate that an African American can run for President on a Democratic ticket (which is quite a change from Democrats sanctioning slavery and passing Jim Crow laws in the 19th century). I celebrate that a woman can run for Vice President on a Republican ticket (which is quite a change from Republican opposition to women’s suffrage in the 19th century). These are historic moments.
I celebrate them for what they represent to my mind. I celebrate them because it reflects a movement toward something greater than the United States of America. It is a movement toward the embrace of the values of the kingdom of God where ethnicity and gender are no longer barriers to full participation in community. This is a positive moment in our history as a nation. It represents something better and greater than who will actually become President or Vice President.
Our nation, of course, is not the kingdom of God…far from it. But it is redemptive for our nation to embrace the kind of diversity that welcomes women and African Americans to our nation’s highest offices. The election of Palin or Obama will be progress on that count. If there is any “joy” in this Presidential season, this is the joy I experience.
Unfortuantely, for me, this joy is overshadowed by the malicious attitudes and words that fill the political air. Even in this moment when our nominees point us to the kingdom of God in terms I have just described, at the same time kingdom people are so emeshed in the kingdoms of this world that their speech is more like Ashdod than it is Jesus.
I find myself even more entrenched in Lipscomb’s worldview as I hear the sounds of hatred, insult, and personal vendettas rather than of peace, love, and mutuality. Perhaps Lipscomb was right….people cannot involve themselves in the kingdoms of this world without at the same time losing something of the kingdom of God in their lives. Maybe he was right…I certainly see empirical evidence of that in this election season.