Your Blog Steward

My photo
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidential politics

I was reading a favorite blog the other day ("Missional Shift" by Steve Knight) where some pretty good theologians were asked to comment on what was the "chief political concern of the Bible?" The answers were varied, given the ranging theological interests represented, but many came down on some version of working for God's kingdom, or justice or righteousness, especially for those on the edges of power and respect. All well and well, and nothing too surprising to me as far as I could see. Everyone seemed to have taken the question seriously, responded appropriately out of their tradition, and gave short, succinct answers. The first comment about the post, however, noted that the answer, at least according to his reading of all the theologians presented, was how God must be against abortion. That's the theological version of what I call "presidential politics."

Presidential politics, unlike normal everyday, run-of-the-mill politics is always, Always, ALWAYS reduced to a soundbyte that has little to do with the questions being asked or the answers being given. Just as the commentator on the blog had reduced the greatest of God's vision to one subject, so too these days, we tend to reduce whatever the Presidential candidates say or do to whatever little thing we think is memorable or sentimental enough to capture attention. I have often spoken about my generations' distaste for presidential politics because we came of age during the Nixon administration. You can not imagine what it was like to go to junior high civics classes and watch the President have to resign. No teacher was prepared to help teenage minds comprehend that. So we gave up. As I have talked over the years to people who were in junior high learning about government for the first time by watching Nixon we all respond the same way: they're (Presidents) all the same, they'll all say whatever they want and do whatever they do. Presidents don't matter. Find me anyone born into this country between 1961 and 1965 who doesn't believe that...and he or she will be the first person of those years I've met who believes Presidents matter. (I understand there are other issues, and the sample matter is small and peculiar--but I want you to know where I am coming from here.)

What's interesting to me is that presidential politics differs greatly from Jesus' "politics" (such as it is, and in this case it is something like "kingdom of God.") Jesus, regardless of how you think he falls politically, never made things easy. He was good for soundbytes, but always to confuse and obfuscate, never to sentimentalize or make simple. Even his "simple" parables are so complex they boggle the mind. For example, how is "mustard" the greatest shrub when it's a weed to be burned? Following the politics of Jesus is never easy, always hard, and probably not reducible to a blog post. And for me, Jesus Christ matters way more than any President...I'll take difficult and confusing any time over sentimental claptrap and social-issue fearmongering.

So I suppose we have another few weeks of reducing everything to the absurd. That's presidential politics. And probably not the kingdom of God.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

No comments: