Monday, February 11, 2008

the messianic character of american politics

so...there's a group of guys from my church that gather together every wednesday night at a local pub near tower grove park and we drink and smoke and talk shit. all the guys that currently comprise the group are also in the small group that i co-lead with my wife and another guy. this past week we were rehashing some political talk that we had been tossing around during our small group. earlier that day i had been thinking about christians and politics and whether or not we should even be involved at all...this is my theory: the expectations placed on politicians are messianic. and thus idolatrous. by participating in the process christians run the risk of being idolatrous themselves.
i realized that this theory is problematic for a number of reasons, but this is what is driving my thinking. it is not simply secular liberals who have a messianic expectation of politicians, but christians do as well. what do i mean, messianic expectation? "if we could just get so and so in office, such and such would be changed." "the only way our country can be healed is to have so and so elected." these kinds of statements and millions more like them which are made every day, by christians and non-christians alike speak to the messianic expectations we place on politicians. this is in short a form of idolatry. i fear that christians, unless we simply back out of the process, will continue to be caught up in this kind of thinking. at the very least, we need a moratorium on political involvement and then use that time to rethink what it means to think christianly about politics and what that means for our involvement.
it has been said before, and by far more articulate folk than me, but the church has sold its soul for the lure of political power. we have replaced gospel suffering with political maneuvering. in attempting to get a seat at the table of politics we have sacrifice our prophetic voice in the culture.
politics stands alone as a unique danger area to christians, because the basis of political action is power. and power is in fundamental opposition to new testament ethics. what i mean by that is power consistently eschewed by the figures of the new testament. we are not to pursue it, we are not praised for having it, it gives us no advantage in the economy of the kingdom. what does this mean then for political involvement in the here and now? what about our responsibility as citizens? what does it mean to render to caesar?
so...i threw out this messianic expectation thing on wednesday night. i came home to read this about obama. and then i saw this today. it would be easy to say that obamamania captures everything that i am talking about, and it does, to be honest, represent messianic expectation more clearly than anything i can remember in the past twenty years of electoral politics. but it does not stand alone. it is only the most recent, and the most extreme example of our tendency to deify those who we place our hopes in.

1 comment:

Will K said...

To really capture it, you should have made the image of Obama a little bit bigger, maybe twice as big. Maybe more. I mean, he's a messiah. Go big. Really big.