I have a confession to make. This is not the sort of confession that stems from secrets and lies and hidden things; I’ve already confessed all that stuff.
This one, in some senses, is far more dangerous, a sword that cuts both ways.
You see, I don’t believe that God blesses your, or anyone’s, politics.
So why would I see this as a dangerous confession? Because, generally speaking, patriotic fundamentalists are much scarier than religious fundamentalists, but the most frightening are those who are both.
There are many wonderful and good things about the United States & Canada (which is where I originate, though I’m a dual citizen now), but beneath the thin layer of civility and civilization of every nation lurks a beast. To be clear, I am not discounting that good people enter politics for good reasons and that even political machinery can accomplish good, but let us not confuse nationalism and patriotism with the kingdom of God.
We have substituted Jesus, the suffering servant, with the ‘Christ’ of Western imperialism.
Even though we might never be so brash as to declare that God is American, we Americans continue to act as if that were true.
God is not an American. Nor is God a Serbian, or French or any other human-erected political or social identity. Since God indwells us and we are all God’s children, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that God is all of these; that God has dwelt within our political avatars in order to connect, participate and protect us?
Political identities do not originate in God.
It has been an age-old presumption to establish deities, local & geographic, with territorial agendas providing special treatment for the chosen and justifying the conquest of the outsider, in the ‘name of God’. We have even seen Biblical prophecy as validation for our existence and actions. Are we not the ‘city set on a hill?’
An essential part of maturing as a human being is beginning to realize that our god was a local deity, largely fashioned by my own needs to try and control or manage an uncertain world. Sadly, this has often given us permission to justify and vindicate our own violence in word and deed and then re-write our history through the lens of victor and oppressor.
God is not about separation and division, not about building walls and excluding, not about domination and power. These all find their source in our chosen darkness, largely fueled by greed, fear and the drive to establish security and certainty.
Let’s face it. We are afraid! And since trusting God only seems helpful in the long term (eternity), we rely and give our allegiance to something we think is more tangible, more immediate and presents itself as powerful enough to protect me and give me what I want. We would give our fidelity and loyalty to an obviously broken humanly originated system than to take the risk of trusting an invisible God.
Even more grievous is that many men and women have sacrificed life and limb to protect our local political deities; good people who have suffered the inhumanities of war trying to help the oppressed, victimized and abused. Even as we work to find a way to disengage from violence as a solution, we have no right to judge those on whom our nation-states have extracted such a heavy personal toll.
It doesn’t take much to reveal that politics is not a solution.
New Guinea, the land in which I grew up as a child, has over eight-hundred unrelated language groups. Tribes, separated by rivers, mountains and swamps, had completely different dialects. This is an anthropologist’s dream world, but a political nightmare. One of the first attempts to ‘civilize’ the tribal communities was to introduce a two-party system. They split the tribes by giving half umbrellas and the other half sweet potatoes. It worked great until the first rainfall and the umbrellas failed miserably. Everyone then joined the sweet potato party and consumed the entirety of their political divisiveness.
While humorous, this also reveals an unrelenting tension that exists between the kingdom of God, which has NO political alliances or agenda, and the kingdoms of this world, which are always established in bloodshed. Left wing policies express the same blindness and lust for power and control as does the right.
If we are so bold as to identify ourselves with the kingdom of God, which is supposed to be an alternative to the kingdoms of this world, then everything about what we do and why, must also change—including all of our allegiances.
Government is not something that was instituted or originated by God. We built it.
If you want to find the roots of political power, look no further than to the book of Genesis and to Cain, who had just murdered his own brother. Even then, it is God who comes with an open invitation back into relationship and reconciliation. Instead, Cain turns his face completely away from God and leaves to follow an independent and destructive destiny. He establishes the first city named ‘new beginnings’ (Enoch), after his own first born son and begins to build empire. Within five generations, Lamech is wielding ruthless political power, taking women as property and giving his own daughters names that reduce them to objects of physical attraction and objectification. Humanity was off to the races, competing for territory and power regardless the costs.
Every nation state on the planet exists because of the bloodshed of brothers.
Every human being bears the imago dei, the image of God. What is birthed out of murder cannot be ultimately justified, no matter the hymns and praises written to its glory. The only option to the insanity of political empire is the kingdom of God.
Only a kingdom that changes us from within will deal with the fear, hate and control that continues to express itself in nationalism and patriotism.
We are afraid. We don’t need new powers to defend and protect and divide and conquer. We need healing. Peaceful resistance then becomes the path that changes the world without becoming absorbed by the systems. But it will cost.
Everything costs. Look at what our commitment to self-centered greed, self-righteousness superiority and territorial fear has already cost us. But perhaps the more worthy cost is the one to engage a violent world from within a borderless kingdom that is other-centered and self-giving.
Thankfully, we belong to a kingdom in which violence is never an expression of allegiance. If you think that ‘turning the other cheek’ is the coward’s way out, may I suggest you have never tried it.