"As soon as Christ's kingdom comes to terms with the world, Christianity is abolished."
- Soren Kierkegaard
It's safe to say that mostly everyone is up in arms about everything today. In most cases, it's for good reasons. I only have to mention single words and you'll know what I'm getting at. Trump, for example. What about racism? ban? or refugee? My goodness, even the word wall evokes emotions of anger and kicks off vitriolic arguments for this or against that. Honestly, I've felt sick as I've seen all the bad news and terrible arguments. I'm sure you have too.
For quite some time I have felt the need to write something that responds to all the anger and disagreement flying around lately, but to date I have failed to materialize anything substantial. Every time I start something I can't finish. I want to say something meaningful, something that matters, but the second I start writing I am so overcome with despair and anger that it all becomes nonsense. So, I stop writing and go back to reading my books telling myself that the research I'm doing is more worth my time and effort. Today, however, my thoughts and feelings have fermented enough to help me arrive at a point in which I have a moderate grasp of what I want to write. And rather than directing it at the world in general, it is directed towards people who refer to themselves as Christian, because that's who I feel called to address at this point.
As someone who identifies as Christian, I would like to extend an invitation to other Christians: stop expecting politics and the state to solve whatever problem it is that you think needs to be solved. You might think and believe that identifying with and arguing vehemently for the left or the right is the best way to establish God's Kingdom on earth, but the last time I read the gospels, it seemed clear to me that Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Or, "'The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you," (Luke 17:20-21). Or, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God [...]? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade," (Mark 40:30-32).
Yes, I am aware that you have extracted principles from the Bible and would like to see them applied decisively in our society by whichever state happens to be in power, but you are not alone in that desire. In fact, it's precisely why the other Christian you're arguing with and judging is arguing with and judging you. All of us, myself included, have ideas about how what we encounter in the Bible ought to be applied in the world. But then, Jesus appears and tell us: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you," (John 15:18-20).
Ah, you say, but people do hate me because I'm a conservative in the name of Jesus! Ah, you protest, don't you understand!? Isn't it clear that Jesus was a revolutionary liberal and I'm only pointing that out to the others who hate that truth? To both protests I would answer, here's a radical idea put forth in scripture: if Jesus thought leaning right or left—i.e. being political in the way that it is conceived of today—was going to solve any of the problems he came to solve, then my guess is that he would've started building a political empire on earth by force, and in the process, given in to the last temptation presented to him in John 6:15. But he didn't. Instead, Jesus operated outside the political system of his time and resisted its moralities and goals in both word and action; asked only twelve people to follow him and do the work that needed to be done (one of whom betrayed him to the political authorities); and, he ended up being crucified outside a city, with all its political parties and structures, that rejected his message and mission.
Wait a second. Does this mean you're saying Jesus wasn't revolutionary? That's exactly what I'm saying if being revolutionary means what it means today according the words and actions of many Christians (i.e. status posting alt-right garbage or re-tweeting your support for this or that liberal initiative because you think the church needs to follow rather than resist the current of history). But if being revolutionary means preaching and living the sermon on the mount to the point of being nailed on a cross as an enemy of the state and the church, then yes, I am saying Jesus was and is revolutionary. But only that kind of revolutionary.
Does this mean that we do nothing as we watch everything people take for granted—democracy, truth, justice, equality, freedom, and all the other socio-political ideals we are coming to see are emptier than we thought they are—be shaken at its foundations ? No. Actually, it means we do something, but do it in the name of Jesus. Not in the name of a political party. Because, that Christendom revolution you're hoping for? If achieved, it might actually signal the death blow to rather than the flourishing of the faith that you claim to so proudly and profoundly represent here and now. For, as Soren Kierkegaard points out in Practices in Christianity: "As soon as Christ's kingdom comes to terms with the world, Christianity is abolished."
I just finished reading a book today, and I'll end by quoting a passage from it that I think communicates the other-worldly, Kingdom-oriented-ethic, I'm putting forth here. It's from Jacques Ellul's A Critique of the New Commonplaces, and my guess is that it'll challenge you like it challenges me:
"There is no violence that liberates: all violence enslaves. The growth of the state does not result in freedom, but in greater dictatorship. Any method today that destroys a single [person] in [their] body or in [their] soul, though it liberates a million others, will never do anything but reinforce the slavery of the million [people] you are trying to help."
What if we stopped waging constant war against others we think have it wrong, and instead, viewed them as people who are just as existentially afraid as we are (Matthew 9:36)? What if we stopped thinking and acting as if violence and anger is redemptive (Matthew 5:21-23)? What if we recalled that it gains us nothing to gain everything and lose who we are in the process—adopted children of God who have no other justification than the One who justifies us (Mark 8:36)? What if we remembered that the way in which we judge others determines how we will be judged (Luke 6:38)? What if we reflected on the mandate that the principle fight of the disciple of Jesus is not firstly one that is physical and against material things, but firstly one of prayer against destructive powers (Ephesians 6:12)? What if we constantly repeated the beatitudes to ourselves and asked God to give us the strength to live them out today (Matthew 5:11-17)?
Then, only after we genuinely contemplate and struggle to live out each of these truths as individual and gathered Christians, we might be able to construct practical solutions to the problems we're encountering today. But then, once that happens, my suspicion is that Christians will recall who they really are, and in the process, they'll stop looking to the state, politics, and violence in any form as solutions to such problems.