I must start this post with a confession. I am not a fan of politics. One might even say I despise it. But I have come more and more to engage in them the last couple years of my life. The cause of this new interest may be on account of a book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. If you have never heard of this book, you have now. If you have never read this book, you MUST. One may not agree with Shane’s take on everything, but everyone will be forced to hold a mirror up to your own beliefs and make you think. I must also note that one of the reasons that I find politics detrimental to the life of Christians, is that we put our hope in something other than Christ crucified. And when we do this, we will most certainly be let down. John McCain will not usher in the kingdom of heaven anymore than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. And yet every four years, we think it will be different this time around. That ‘our’ candidate is not like the ones in the past. But we are all tainted; nobody escapes original sin.
I came across an article in Christianity Today entitled, “Faith Is Not a Freak Show.” The article first probed the role of one’s religion in his/her campaign for president, beginning with George Bush getting elected in 2004. Among Democratic strategist circles, there was a feeling of missing the boat. They had thought throwing one’s religion overboard would attract more votes than displaying it on the mast. So, as we have entered into the season of another presidential election (or did we do that back in 2004?), religion has played a role. We have all heard of Romney’s ties to Mormonism, Jeremiah Wright has become a household name, and who could forget that Mike Huckabee was a Southern Baptist minister? And yet, religion has seemed to have a negative effect on the candidates if anything. Many evangelical Christians were skeptical of Romney’s religion. Huckabee’s relationship with Southern Baptists may have won many evangelical Christians votes, but also created a barrier from a number of groups. If anything, candidates have tried to distance themselves from endorsements whether it be Obama from Wright or John McCain from John Hagee. There was a brilliant quote in this section that summed it up: “While generic religiosity brings life, particular religious connections risk political death.”
The article went on to discuss the idea of civil religion, which originated with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Civil religion involves a set of shared values that harness religiosity towards a common good, somehow bringing together people with fervent faith and people with no faith. Although civil religion is typically neutral on whose religion to find a value system, America’s civil religion can be linked to Christianity. The article goes on to talk about the creed of American civil religion is just three words: God, America, and Freedom. The quote following this creed in the article, in my opinion, tends to reflect the thoughts of a majority of Americans (correct me if I’m wrong). “It doesn’t really matter whom Americans call God, so long as that God is for freedom and for America.”
This quote undoubtedly led me to begin a course of questioning. Is American freedom that freedom that we are called to in the Bible? Are America’s dreams God’s dreams? Can one pledge allegiance to the United States of America and still pledge allegiance to the kingdom of God? Can we live the American Dream and be a Christian or are they in conflict with one another? Is patriotism idolatry?