“Concluding Thoughts on Electing Faithfulness”
“Why should a foreigner like me care about this country?”
“I promise I’ll completely tone down the political postings for the next four years, but I ask that you to pay attention to this”
I am very much indebted the sermon I heard this Sunday by Frank Sullivan. It reminded me that Christ is our hope and that it’s foolish to place our “trust in princes” whose plans come to an end and who’s power is but dust to God.
Sermon on Christ as our Hope
I am indebted to Greg Massey for reminding me that our prayers should not be (though too often are) directed on nationalistic terms, but Heavenly terms. He quotes Richard Hughes, who says, “According to the Bible, the kingdom of God and the nations of the earth embody radically different values and reflect radically different orders of reality. The kingdom of God relies on the power of self-giving love while nations—even so-called “Christian” nations—rely on the power of coercion and the sword.”
I am indebted to the legacy of the writings of David Lipscomb for opening my eyes to the nature of God’s Kingdom in relation to the world, and am disappointed that the legacy of George Benson took stronger hold in this region of Christian churches. I am thankful to contemporary writers like Corey Markum and Justin Bronson Barringer for their helpful outlook on ways of continuing to restore the spiritual kingdom paradigms of the ancient churches. I am indebted to writers like Grey Boyd, Shane Claiborne, John Howard Yorder and a host of others.
I am indebted to these and so many other examples who have helped guide me to not only appreciate but follow alternative ways of civic engagement from the standpoint of belonging in the Kingdom of Christ. It is from this understanding that I can understand those who choose to, example, vote for “third parties” on election day, and even those who choose not to vote at all conscientious abstainers. In fact, I can even understand, though with some difficulty, those who choose one of the primary options. More importantly, I can even have fellowship with them.
Most of all, I am fully indebted to the living, breathing Word, which I try to submit to and let guide me in all my walks of life.
I have a confession to make. I am actually a dual citizen in the United States of America. My citizenship is only temporary. I have another citizenship that is my primary and more permanent citizenship. I hope that doesn’t scare any of you, me being a foreigner sojourning in this land on a temporary pass and yet still being able to vote. I want to tell you American people that I am thankful that you allow me to participate in your civil process by lending you my voice. I know that many of you won’t like it, but I am glad you give me the chance to speak it. The kingdom I belong to is quite unlike this one, and you may find it very threatening. I know of others who have died for it. In fact, dying for it it part of our kingdom’s way. Unlike in your kingdom, we do not ask people to kill in the name of our freedom, but to be prepared to even so much as die because we are free. So keep that in mind when you see the funny ways in which I arrive at the conclusions I do when you ask me for my voice and my vote.
I understand that voting is not a duty. It is a right granted by this government. If a person is not informed of what is going on, I recommend they not vote. If a person in good conscience cannot support a given candidate, then they have the right to consciously refrain from voting. After all, a vote is but a small thing compared to our voice and our action. Our vote may choose a leader (and even that is not always certain), but our voice tells them who we are, and our actions show them what we are and what we hope others can also be. And if we vote for leaders without telling them who they represent, then they will never represent us.
I am also aware that because I belong to a way that is unpopular, and is rejected by much of the world, I should not assume that a leader from the world will come along that I can fully identify with. This does not cause me to lose hope, however, because the King of my kingdom is and always the same, and he is good. No matter what happens on earth, The Christ, the King, sits on his throne.
But because I am also a citizen in your country, dear Americans, I know I am in subjection to your laws, and because you have given me enfranchisement and many freedoms of speech, I am blessed to be able to influence your laws by lending my voice and voting for leaders. I will render to you taxes, custom, and honor, when it is due, not because you are good, but because you are a power of the world.
I have another confession to make. I “hate“ America. At least, compared to my first love. Oh, I love the people of this country (though I love people of others just the same). I love many facets of its culture (though others I don’t care for). I love the beautiful land (though I have seen glimpses of others beautiful also). I love many of the freedoms and blessings I have (yet you can find them in other places). But you see, I am in love with another Kingdom so much that in comparison my love for this kingdom might as well be hate. At least, I try to live that way. And so, you may regard me as something of a traitor, and you have a right to. I can’t but proclaim my full loyalty to someone who is not you: I proclaim my loyalty to the Christ. You have no reason to be threatened by this, because I have no intention of making you be like me. Still, you may regard me as a threat because I will not swear allegiance to you, and may potentially refuse to comply with your laws.
I will be honest with you, America. You are an empire. You are a kingdom of this world and function the opposite of the Kingdom I belong to. Therefore, there will always be tension between us. Here is the story I see: The God I serve did not intend for man to govern himself, but for man to decide for himself whether to comply with the laws of the Creator. Yet mankind rebelled and wanted to govern himself. The God I serve uses even your own self-governing rebellion as a ministry of his Creation. He ordinates yours and other kingdoms like pieces on a chess board to accomplish his will in ways beyond what you or I can see. He sends both blessings and curses on these kingdoms. He has allowed the dark powers to rule this world, but they take no action that he does not allow and ultimately judge. He lets kingdoms like yours rule this world not because you are good, but because he can work good despite your aims.
I want you to be blessed with Shalom, with peace and plenty, but I cannot and will not support you or any other nation becoming more powerful. America must decrease so that my Lord will increase.
So, because the God I serve can use your own powers to prevent you and other earthly kingdoms from swallowing up the earth with drunken power, he bestows upon you authority to execute your laws, justly or unjustly. When a man named Paul wrote a letter to Christians in Rome, he spoke of these things. But in the wider context he spoke to us Christians about how we are different than your kingdoms, in that we are “not to be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good“. So you see, you may wonder why I do not try to take advantage of your power. Well, it is not the way I follow (though some do try such a way). But when I engage in your civil talk and lawmaking, I must reflect my faith, and then see to honoring your charters.
It is now that I mostly address fellow Christians. Non-Christians, you are welcome to follow along to learn more about how we participate in your kingdom. It may be that you have come to regard me as something of a traitor to your empire because of what I have said. I understand that fully. So be it. But I beg of you to seek the promise of a better kingdom, because I think you know the one you’re a part of ultimately isn’t very satisfying, and won’t last for long.
Knowing how I walk in my faith, and knowing how this empire works, I know that a victory for God’s kingdom will not come from the results of this political election. However, I do know that whatever the result of this political election, Christ is still King, and God’s will is going to continue to be done in the world regardless.
You can see, then, why many of us Christians choose not to participate in this process. Rather than partisan, Christians ought to be prophetic. The issues we concern ourselves with should be more important than the parties discussing them. Unfortunately, some of us will hear a pulpiteer speak of “voting a Christian world view”, only to covertly express a party platform and guilt members of the flock into following that platform. But if we understand what a Christian worldview means, we know that if any candidate fully endorsed the Sermon on the Mount, they would never be elected in any earthly kingdom. You may hear a pulpiteer choose his two favorite issues and use those as criteria for voting for a candidate as one’s “duty”, demonstrating a lack of knowledge for the sum of the Word. It is likely you will find that their particular rendition of “Biblical values” is narrow.
We must remember that we are members of one Kingdom given the privilege of advising another. Our vote should not represent us gaining power over others in that kingdom in order to martially bend them to our will. Rather, if we choose to vote, I submit that it should represent us granting earthly kingdoms a gesture of our preference based on how we understand the wisdom of our own King and the nature of two very different kingdoms kingdoms. But because we see through a glass darkly, and because men are untrustworthy, let us each be convinced in his own heart, and choose for the right reasons, or be convinced not to make such a decision at all.
In other words, we are saying, “I am not of your kingdom, but if you desire my opinion, I would suggest you go with _________,” or we are saying, “I am not of your kingdom, and I therefore cannot recommend any of your options, but only invite you to enter my kingdom.” Perhaps we can even say both. It is hard to pinput precisely, considering we are merely pressing a button or pulling a lever. I would hope that our speech and action outside this booth says much more.
That being said, this year I am deciding to cast a vote. John Quincy Adams said, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
A vote is not wasted unless a) you voted for something you didn’t really want, or b) the person you voted for turned out to be something other than what you thought he/she was. It doesn’t matter if what you vote for isn’t popular enough—if you spoke, you spoke. So speak your peace.
That being said, I have another confession to make. Until this post I have strongly suggested that my choice is to vote a write-in for Ron Paul, knowing full well he is not running. However, I have learned that in Virginia write-ins won’t even be tallied, but discarded, unless the person has registered as a candidate. Since my vote was functioning symbolically for a man I believe is much more fit to lead this nation than the two main candidates, I am defaulting to a vote for candidate Gary Johnson.
I believe that Gary Johnson is similar enough to Ron Paul that I can do this in good conscience, though have disagreements with him as well. Also, Paul himself seems to be endorsing Johnson himself (though he has not revealed who he is voting for). If my vote won’t even be counted, then perhaps it is wasted after all. My vote is for Gary Johnson, because I can suggest him for this nation in good conscience and I want to help demonstrate the dissatisfaction with the system growing numbers have, in hopes of spurring more change in the system itself in this nation.
If you are like me, and your state will not count a write-in for Ron Paul, you can look into the differences between the third party candidates Virgil Goode and Gary Johnson. This chart may not be completely accurate or explanatory, I warn you.
I have laid down my reasons why previous for this third way in posts which you can revisit:
1) I have found that I can neither turn to the right nor to the left, but must consider a third way of participating in your process that is more compatible with my Faith.
2) I believe it is philosophically better to endorse a statistically hopeless cause than a likely-to-succeed false cause. I cannot in good conscience support an idol of hope or a “lesser evil”.
3) Ron Paul is the closest thing to a candidate who respects your own country’s charter and plans to uphold it.
4) The proper stewardship of money is of great importance to me as a Christian. Although I do not believe in Capitalism, I am tolerant enough of it, particularly Ron Paul’s nuanced version of it, which critiques both Big Government and Bog Corporatism. He has given specific ways in which he would bring the US out of debt. [Here is Paul’s 11-point plan as described by the Huffington Post (a notoriously liberal journal)]
[Here is his conference from last year on restoring America’s budget]
5) I am committed to Christian peacemaking, and I cannot endorse your empire’s war-mongering. I believe in “turning swords into ploughshares”, and Ron Paul understands why US foreign policy must drastically change.
6) Ron Paul is a consistent advocate for the civil right to life for the unborn class.
7) Ron Paul, himself a doctor, does not want a government beaurocracy or a Corporatist machine to continue to damage our healthcare opportunities.
8) Ron Paul knows there is something wrong with the “war on drugs” and plans to challenge it.
9) Ron Paul truly plans to end No Child Left Behind and reform public education so that power is back in the hands of states.
10) Ron Paul at least a decent understanding of the comprehensive immigration reform, marriage regulation, energy and environmental policies, and unconstitutional practices (such as torture).
11) On top of these reasons, there is the matter of Dr. Paul’s personal integrity and honesty as a statesman that I believe makes him stand out from most other politicians. It is also for this reason I’ve found I can adequately trust who he himself recommends as a worthy candidate.
Ron Paul doesn’t complain about others. He is an incredibly civil and fair politician. He sticks to his principles and allows his supporters to grow based on his voting and speaking record, not his attacks. He hasn’t even said much in critique of Obama. It’s worked so well, he’s gaining a signifigant number of supporters who are former Obama-ites. As a Christian, I find this quality highly important. A leader should not be one who gains a position by slandering others. Though he should point out flaws in another’s methods when the time calls for it, his own principles and decisions should speak for themselves. If you look at Romney’s and Obama’s ads, they both have told multiple lies about one another. This makes them perpetual liars. How does this make them fit to be leaders? How do I know I can trust a single word they say about their own promises if they have been known to explicitly lie to the American people in their campaigns?
Congressman Paul doesn’t mind at all that other politicians adopt his platforms. “That’s how politicians operate,” he said, “they reflect people’s views.” He’s not about himself running, but the ideas that he is running with. The problem is that even this year not enough people took on enough of his ideas.
Ron Paul didn’t target the media for ignoring him (not just the “liberal media” but Fox as well—by the way, Fox is not as fair and balanced as it claims). “I don’t take it personally,” he says, “I think a lot of people don’t understand what I’m talking about…that’s what I work on the most, trying to refine my message.” The media has greatly ignored him, but he is not blaming the media, only proving it wrong. His campaign has grown virally, on the grassroots level.
Ron Paul prefers to manage his campaign by taking money from individual donors than from interest groups. He has more individual donors than any other candidate. People are not buying him out. Rather, individuals are choosing to pay for his campaign because they support him. Romney and Obama receive contributions from Goldman Sachs, a shady global investment firm that deals mostly with big-name clients.
Ron Paul is not so much a politician, but a statesman. A politician seeks his own glory and posturing himself according to the tastes of the interest groups, media groups, and voters in order to gain votes. A statesmen means to serve the community, the spirit Constitution, and the people of the state. Ron Paul is not pandering to anybody just to gain popularity. He is relying on the popularity of his values and policies, even if it costs him votes. Obviously, it costed him the nomination this year when he tried to woo the Republican party.
This video is a compilation of some of Congressman Paul’s statements during last year’s Republican debates:
I’m always skeptical of these types of videos, because anyone can take sound bites and news clips out of context and build them up with dramatic music, but I’ve found one that I think does a decent job demonstrating Ron Paul’s persistent success last fall despite media neglect. This is a reminder that the entire process is prejudiced against non-establishments movements rooted in a commitment to values.
I need to apologize now for leading people to believe that I “believe” in Ron Paul, that I “believe” in this American, Western, European Enlightenment idea of liberty, in some kind of deeply spiritual or Messianic way. I only believe in Christ and the freedom he offers in such a way. Though my commitment to these posts has shown a passion for these issues, it is not rooted in a passion for voting, but in a passion for Spiritual Kingdom living and for carrying the message of its light to others and helping them choose leaders who will do the same.
I will always believe that my voice is far more powerful than my vote, and that my actions should be compatible with my voice. Compared to my vote, which is swallowed as a small number in a rigid choice system, I believe that the voice I’ve given in this series has contributed far more to the hope I believe in for the Kingdom of Christ in its relation to the kingdoms of the earth. I hope I have helped others, and I hope that what I have said was good and fruitful. Although I would like for this discussion influence future elections, I much more hope that this discussion influences the ways of Christian Churches for tomorrow.
We must remember that after Tuesday all that happens is that another kingdom numbered among others in the dust will make another miniscule transition leading up to its inevitable passing, compared to the resting of Christ on his eternal throne.
God bless America. And every other nation and people on this earth.
[on to the epilogue]