Since the horrific events of last Wednesday played out, I have wrestled with how to make sense of them and what to write about them. Instead of writing in the heat of the moment, which would've been anything but thoughtful, I wanted to heed the biblical command to 'be swift to hear [and] slow to speak' (James 1.19). Though I am still thinking things through, here are a few thoughts from what I hope is a reasoned Christian perspective.
Americans, perhaps especially American Christians, have an idolatry problem. Nearly 500 years ago, in his Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote, "Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god." Across the political and denominational spectrums, it is clear that for many Americans, their god is politics. Both on the left and the right, Christians talk and act as though the dawn of the Kingdom of God is just one election away and hinges on the fate of America.
If we can only elect this woman or that man, our shepherd will lead us in the right direction. If we can only pass this or that piece of legislation, then righteousness will permeate the land. If we can only get this or that judge nominated to the bench, then justice will prevail in our great nation. How often have we heard (or said) something akin to these statements? Christians on the left have hitched their wagon to the ideals of justice touted by the Democrats while those on the right have wedded themselves to the historic values proclaimed by the Republicans. Any honest reflection is bound to result in disappointment from both sides.
But God works through means, including politics, you might say. I completely agree! Yet, the fervor and passion with which we discuss politics and place hope in our political system demonstrates that our faith in them far surpasses the roles outlined in Romans 13 to the point where we act as those they are the means by which the Kingdom comes. We would do better to temper our trust in such institutions and keep in mind the counsel of Psalm 118.8-9 and Psalm 146.4. "It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes." After all, ultimately both Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and all others in their place are Caesar. We must render to Caesar what is due but nothing more.
As we saw last week (in the Narrative Lectionary) and will see tomorrow (in the Historic Lectionary) from Luke 2, like Mary and Joseph, we are looking for God in all the wrong places...this time, in politics, rulers, and earthly authority. Let us repent of our idolatry, turning away from the god of our political system (as great as it truly is) and place our faith in God, who alone can save us.