Phlebotomic is a blog experiment that seeks to gather multiple perspectives around a common prompt, which is provided weekly.

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This week's prompt is "Path"...

17 January 2009

Blue: America

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th president, and the latest major realignment of American politics will have begun. Battered by political scandal and accusations of incompetence, the red elephants have lost their hold on the levers of power, and will be replaced by the equally scandalized and incompetent blue donkeys. If it weren’t so familiar, our political system would seem pretty absurd.

Normally, I would preface this post with a disclosure of my background – the biases and political proclivities which underlie and undoubtedly influence my thinking. That I’ve decided not to do so highlights a very important point on the subject: politics makes people crazy. Aristotle called Man a political animal, and given the visceral hatred and baleful passions fomented by Man’s politics, this is an apt description. Be honest – you hate your political enemies, don’t you? We often harbor a deep seated animosity toward our political foes. Personally, I want to destroy my enemies, kill their children, and salt their fields. Metaphorically of course – as civilized men we find more subtle ways to channel this hatred. How else to explain the popularity of Cable News?

Scripture reminds us that God has His own policy initiative aimed at fixing all of America’s problems. It’s called The Kingdom of Heaven, and it reduces poverty, fights crime, strengthens families, brings justice, and ensures the peace – all without adding to the tax burden on America’s small businesses. I think most Christians are aware of this initiative, but they quickly discount it as impractical when girding themselves for a political fight. When the political moonbeams are breaking through, otherwise godly Christians are transformed into werewolvian partisans.

Many have begun to question the fruit borne of Christian political alliances, and there seems to be a hunger to embrace the Kingdom of Heaven rather than any particular political ideology. Shane Claiborne has spoken to this in his recent book, Jesus for President, and the indomitable C.S. Lewis continues to exemplify Christian engagement in the difficult moral questions of the age, without resort to political hackery (Clive’s writings vehemently opposed tyranny and despotism, but saw in most other ideologies elements of moralistic natural law which were in agreement with revelation).

It should be noted that Jesus did not walk the earth during a period of political calm. Palestine was occupied by the Roman Empire; the region seethed under Roman oppression and chafed at the imposition of Hellinistic culture. One of the apostles, Simon The Zealot, appears to have been a Jewish radical bent on the overthrow of Roman rule. Jesus himself was the object of Roman scrutiny, for fear He might incite yet another Jewish rebellion. Suffice it to say, Jesus was undoubtedly aware of political realities on the ground. And yet His politics are limited exclusively to a declaration of the Kingdom of Heaven, a call to repentance, and a promise to forgive sins.

Two particular events concerning the life of Jesus are instructive. First, there is the third temptation of Jesus in the desert, as described in Matthew 4:8-10:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

Have you ever considered that “all the kingdoms of the world” included not only the tribes, kingdoms, countries, and empires of that day, but also the nations which were to come? In other words, have you considered that the United States of America, as a kingdom of the world, is under the power and dominion of Satan? Jesus was offered the ultimate political victory – absolute control over every political system on the Earth. Imagine what He could have done with that! In a word: paradise. There was just one catch – this political victory would require a little devil worship. If Jesus refused to compromise Himself in order to obtain political power, why should we as Christians not follow His example?

The second event concerns Jesus’ interaction with the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:5-13:
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” * * * Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

This conversation must have been very distressing to Simon The Zealot, and probably to most of Jesus’ disciples. If Jesus refused to fight His political enemies, but rather offered them the Kingdom of Heaven, why should we as Christians not follow His example?

When I lived for a short time in the UK, I was absolutely enthralled by British politics (I still try to catch C-SPAN broadcasts of Parliament when I’m at the gym, though it is often difficult to convince the staff to change a channel to C-SPAN). The really delicious thing about British politics came from being an outsider – I had no preconceived notions of “good” and “evil,” as they are defined by the natives, and I was free to simply observe people without assigning ideological labels, and subsequently discounting these people based on my own prejudices.

I think our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven gives us that same freedom. As the world around us descends into serious conflicts, contentious disputes, and – let’s be honest – petty squabbling, we can rest in the political stability of Heaven (an eternal, benevolent dictatorship), draw strength from our infallible leader, and share His message of hope and transformation. Now that’s change I can believe in.


  1. i have an often overwhelming urge to control my own destiny, to number my own steps.

    it is my condition, the human condition, which allows me to believe that i can do things apart from his will.

  2. Great post. You have most definitely captured the essence of our paltry politics and their true influence. I wish Christians would donate half as much time to Kingdom work as they do to political work. What would happen?