Which Way do we go, George?

Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill in "Nort...
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I’m aware of this hypocrisy within myself.  I am intolerant of wedding politics with following Christ, when the politics are at odds with mine.  I think I’m quite a bit more tolerant about it when the politics being married to Christianity are political beliefs I already agree with.   To put things a bit more specifically: If somebody says that you have to be a Republican in order to follow Christ, I am the first person to cry “foul.”   However, I’m much more likely to be quiet if the implication is that you ought to be a Democrat to follow Christ.

Much of this is worth repenting over and working on.  And I am working on it.   But I think we need to be careful.   You know those bumper stickers, the ones that say “Jesus is not a Republican” and “Jesus is not a Democrat.”  I believe that they are right.  But this doesn’t mean, that Jesus is (in the broadest sense) apolitcal.

I believe that Jesus has strong opinions on many political issues.  The sense in which he is apolitical is in that his opinions do not fall along party lines.  I suspect that his opinions are that both parties are asking the wrong questions in the first place, in many cases.   Given that we are called to unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and also that we are called to speak the truth in love, we are presented with a tension to navigate here.

I guess I’m trying to navigate this tension by writing this post.  And by proclaiming a truth.  The truth is that Jesus’ kingdom is something we must progress into.  It is not something that we should regress back to.

I heard a person speaking the other day.  She used the refrain “We have to get back!”  And I found myself wondering, “Get back to what?  Get back to when?”

If she meant getting back to the intimacy with God that we lost in the Garden of Eden, I agree with her.

If she meant getting back to the 1950’s, then I have to say I don’t want to get on board that train.

It boggles my mind, the way people look back to that era as some sort-of golden age.  There were good things about it.  But there were also terrible things: racism, fear of the unknown, materialism, soul-crushing conformity, sexism, ageism…

I tried to suspend judgement.  Eventually though, she very briefly hit on a hot-button political issue.   A recent legal change.  She mentioned it very briefly.  I wonder if she meant to mention it all.  But it made things pretty clear to me, just what she wanted to get back to.

I don’t want to unleash a rabbit trail discussion about the specific topic she mentioned.  Maybe she’s right about it.  Maybe she’s not.  In a world full of evil, it’s a pretty small potatoes thing to mention, especially if you’re only going to mention one thing.

This is not a rant against this person.  She is doing amazing work for Jesus.  There was real value in some of the other things she said.  This is a meditation on a really important divide in Christianity.

Interestingly, I recently also heard the passage in the bible where Jesus asked Simon Peter what people were saying about him.  Simon says that the people are comparing him to what went on before.  When Jesus asked Simon what he (Simon) thought of him, Simon proclaimed that Jesus was something unique in human history.

The relevance here is this: We have this temptation to want to retreat safely into our individual and collective past.  We have a tendency to define our new experiences in terms of the old ones.  But we can’t put this new wine into old wine skins.

We’re called to march into a new kingdom, a place we’ve never been before.  Revelations does not describe the tranquil garden of Eden.  We’re not going to edit out the whole of human history.  Instead, we’re going to use and redeem what we have done, and where we have been to bring us to a place that is new and different from what has gone on before.

And if people are trying to bring us back to where we were, then they are not leading us into Jesus’ kingdom.