Late last night it became official: Donald Trump is President Elect. This has to have been one of the most frustrating and emotional Presidential election cycles in a very long time. Neither major party had a candidate they could wholeheartedly endorse (except for the hard-core among us), and the issues at stake could not have been more significant. The pastor/theologian/philosopher in me is almost always aggravated at the lack of quality individuals to vote for (at least among those who have a legitimate chance of winning), and more and more of the electorate felt that way this year.
With every General Election, there comes the turmoil of winners and losers and what will happen next, and through it all the American Church is being forced into a position where it needs to learn a significant lesson. Learning it is the difference between thriving in the cultural shifts swirling around us and becoming indistinguishable from them.
Over the previous two Presidential elections much of what is called the Conservative Christian electorate has been forced to learn this lesson, and now the Progressive Christian needs to come to terms with it as well. As the returns became clear last night, the weeping and gnashing of teeth began. I understand. Though I have never wept over a Presidential election, I have felt deep distress and frustration.
The weeping came from the belief that Clinton was some form of cultural roadblock to disaster, and in some instances she filled the same role as President Obama did for many – cultural savior. For many she should have been elected because she is a she, and because she wasn’t we have even more reason to fear the ever-present boogeyman of hatred. She lost, so then, the reasoning goes, all is lost. Because the political winds blew drastically against the Progressive cause in this election, Progressives and their supporters don’t know where to go.
It is simply the case that those who place their hopes in politics, elections, and (God help us) politicians, have no place to go when their cause and candidate lose except the next election cycle or judicial nomination. There is, either in philosophy or in practicality, no greater cause than politics, no greater rule than political rule, and no hope beyond human beings. Conservative Christians have had to face this over the last decade or so because many in that camp were far too wed to political outcomes, placing the church within a political party and not creating a robust and culture-changing theology of the church qua church.
Now the Progressive Christian needs to learn the lesson: The Church is greater than the State.
The Church is not the State, and does not take the role of governing. This is not theocracy. This is a simple recognition of a reality played out over and over in almost every culture for the last 2000 years. States, empires, political parties, dictators, tyrannies, and democracies come and go but the orthodox church remains. The doctrinally adaptive church disappears. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, I am learning to be less and less worried about the impact of the General Election and more and more interested in the impact of Armageddon.
So, here is where you should go. You should rise to the heights of your inherited orthodox theology. You should learn how to lead with your doctrine and not your politics. You need to ardently resist the drift of culture away from your theology and learn how to stick out like a healthy thumb. You need to learn to put people and politics in their rightful place and come to terms with how small those places actually should be. You should go to church and double your prayers and efforts for the faithful perseverance of that local congregation as a place where you and your neighbors can become disciples of Jesus Christ.
These are the lessons I am learning. And in the learning I believe many of us are finding an unshakable bedrock of hope, justice, truth, and righteousness. Of course I want certain ideas and even some people to win elections – ideas have consequences for our daily lives and the lives of our neighbors. But that is exactly why I am reducing the size and scope of politics and the State in my scheme of things.
And the smaller those things get, the clearer the sky becomes.
Pic Link: http://thefederalist.com/2016/11/09/democrats-have-only-themselves-to-blame-for-trumps-victory/
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