Christianity and Nationhood

As I watched all the muscle flexing and prideful posturing of both candidates for President during the debates, a quote from one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermons came to mind:

“God’s victory means our defeat, our humiliation; it means God’s derision and wrath at all human pretension of might, at humans puffing themselves up and thinking they are somebodies themselves.  It means the world and its shouting is silenced, that all our ideas and plans are frustrated; it means the cross.”

It is important to remember that as Christians we are holding out for a radically alternative vision for this world.  It’s God’s vision that we work to make manifest and neither Obama nor Romney cornered the market (so to speak) on promoting God’s vision.  Although some Christians bemoan the fact that we are no longer a Christian nation and others push for us to become a more faithful Christian nation, I doubt that we ever were or ever can be.  In fact I think the notions of Christianity and nationhood are mutually exclusive.  Christianity is about an utter reliance upon God not upon the economic and political systems of this world.  The way of the cross is about eschewing our power for the sake of the powerless, not flexing our muscles to intimidate our opponents.

Jesus teaches us not to shore up our defenses to protect what we own but encourages us to make ourselves vulnerable enough for love to transform the heart.  “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth where thieves break in but store up your treasure in heaven where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is there your heart will also be.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)  These are not words taken seriously by a nation stockpiling weapons and beefing up border fences.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t take our citizenship seriously and work for the candidate that best approximates our Christian values.  But maybe we shouldn’t have gotten so distressed over the recent election, remembering that we will still find ourselves in the same boat as the people called to give voice to an alternative vision for how to live and be in this world.  Whether under Obama and the Democrats or under Romney and the Republicans, our country would still be a country that needed the corrective vision of the Gospel to encourage community and curb consumption, to seek more peace and make less war, to attend the struggling poor and challenge the insulated rich, to create fairer immigration laws and tear down walls of division and hate.

The church must remain removed from political alliances, for certain, but it must not keep itself insulated from political issues, especially those that impact “the least of those among us” whom Jesus calls us to serve.  May the American church find her prophetic voice again and may that voice call us ever more faithfully away from our muscle-flexing pride towards the humility and love necessary to live well for the sake of this troubled world.

Rev. Will Burhans

November 7, 2012

Will Burhans is the Minister at the Charlotte Congregational Church in Charlotte, Vermont.