Election Day is just around the corner. In this battle ground state of Ohio, we are inundated with campaign messages. During times like this we become aware of the many different causes and people and ideas that compete for our support.
Many of these are important issues that directly impact our lives and those around us. We who are U.S. citizens are given choices between various political options and we try to make wise decisions. People of faith must also consider the question, “What does the Lord require of us?” (Micah 6:8) as we make these choices.
As a self-identified Christian, I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior and have committed myself to continue his cause here on earth as it is in heaven. These are important faith commitments. They are also important political commitments; not only because they inform how I engage our national political process, but also because they direct my allegiance to Christ above all else.
The Christian scriptures include the 10 Commandments; the first of which is, “You shall have no other God before me.” The second commandment is, “You shall not make for yourself an idol… you shall not bow down to them or worship them.” The Protestant reformer Martin Luther once defined an idol as “whatever the heart clings to or relies on for security” (other than God).
I wonder, is this intense emotional reactivity which has come to define our current political discourse an indication that we have put too much hope and trust for our security in that which is not God?
The people of God have always lived within the push and pull of things on earth that compete for our allegiance and attempt to dethrone God from God’s rightful place in our lives. This has been the case since the beginning of the church.
We Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate, the Messiah, sent to save the world and to bring peace and hope to all people. We call this good news. The interesting thing is that those words and phrases were used of Caesar Augustus before they were used of Jesus. Augustus was the leader of the world’s super power at the time Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. Those within the Roman Empire claimed Augustus was savior, that he was god-manifest, that he was the benefactor of all humanity and that his birth was the beginning of good news.
The early church chose language that was first used in reference to Caesar to convey the message of what we now call the Gospel. When we Christians today evoke churchy-sounding words like “savior,” “lord,” and “good news,” we are speaking politically every bit as much as we are speaking faithfully. To say that Jesus is Savior is to say that Caesar is not. Every time the church gathers to worship the One we consider to be Lord of the Universe, we declare our ultimate allegiance.
It seems we Christians have forgotten our higher political calling. Instead, we have replaced it with a partisanship more befitting the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry than the Christ in whom there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female … black or white, rich or poor, Democrat, Republican, Green, or Libertarian, citizen or immigrant (Galatians 3:28).
The degree to which we no longer eat at one another’s tables, listen to one another’s views and values, or even trick-or-treat at one another’s houses, then surely we have created our own self-legitimizing images of God.
At Toledo Mennonite Church, where I am pastor, we feel compelled to take seriously our allegiance to God above all else. We have joined a movement of 700 churches in all 50 states to declare that whoever is elected president on Nov. 6, Jesus Christ is still King. Election Day Communion is taking place across our nation at 7 p.m. on Election Day to proclaim our true allegiance and celebrate Christian unity which has primacy over partisan politics.
We cannot vote Jesus for president. The only way we can vote for him is by laying down our lives and taking up our cross to follow him. Whichever political party we identify with and whatever causes we are passionate about, I invite us all into a moment of introspection. I particularly invite my Christian brothers and sisters to do this and to consider an alternative platform that runs deeper and wider than any party, candidate, or country.
May our Election Day Communion gathering be a small step in that direction. All are welcome.