Being a Christian that is actively engaged in the realm of politics can be a constant state of frustration. Constantly you see your Savior used as a mechanism to convince people to support a wide array of policies. You see your Savior used to justify actions that he passionately stood against. You see men and women claim your Savior’s name just to win support from soft minded people. As Dr. King describes it, “Few people have the toughness of mind to judge critically and to discern the true from the false, the fact from the fiction. Our minds are constantly being invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and false facts. One of the great needs of mankind is to be lifted above the morass of false propaganda.”(Strength to Love)
It is this false propaganda that seeps into the walls of our churches. It is this false propaganda that stirs us to accept false identities and promote a false Jesus to a nation that cares more about belonging to a club than the facts of the matter. Because what seems Christian and what is Christian takes a “tough minded” people to distinguish.
When I saw the president of one of the largest Christian institutions in our nation champion Donald Trump as the Evangelicals “Dream President,” my first response was deep sorrow and shame. The Bible describes Jesus as a man who liberates the poor. As a man who welcomes the foreigner. As a man who heals the sick. As a man who turns the other cheek. As a man who calls us towards humility and loving relationships. Could we say “Evangelicals best choice in the election?” We could try and have that conversation. But “Evangelicals dream president?” This demands rebuke. How could our Savior’s good news be equated to anything that resembled the constant bad news of what Donald Trump is doing in our nation? How could followers of Jesus so dangerously miss their Saviors mission for the world?
Perhaps we don’t understand Jesus’ views of the Roman Empire. Perhaps we don’t understand the severity of His call to love our enemies. Perhaps we think He meant something else when He taught us to aid the least of these. When we seek to interpret the types of leaders Jesus calls us to be, it’s hard to ever imagine a politician, let alone a president, fitting the bill. But perhaps we are looking for the wrong things. Perhaps we’ve got the wrong checklist. We back individual issues rather than leaders who will move us towards a universal reconciliation. Sometimes we choose kingdom issues over Kingdom. Other times we choose certain identities over the work of Christ. We look for Republican or Democrat, or we make sure that the candidate identifies as Christian even if their policies are less Christ-like than their non-believing running-mate. What kind of President would work towards building the kingdom Christ described? What traits could we hope to find?
1. I would look for someone who promotes plans; not identities or empty promises:
I no longer trust a politician that pins the word “Christian” to their jacket. I need more than that. In my “dream president” it wouldn’t matter if they identified as Christian, it would matter if they promoted the virtues of God’s Kingdom here on Earth. (Mark 9:40) The promise of ending abortion means little towards creating a prosperous future that takes care of that child and their mother. Not being a Democrat does not equate an ability to tackle the needs of this hour. Many Evangelicals did not show up for Mitt Romney in 2012 simply because he was a Mormon. To forsake values you agree with because someone has a different faith than you is absurd. Are we searching for names or love? People who believe differently than you are still capable of building futures we long for. Take the three steps forward even when it may mean one step back. My dream President would be Christ-like even if that meant he was packaged in labels that don’t define me.
2. I would look for a leader that held all power accountable; especially themselves:
If the Authors of Scripture and Jesus did anything, it was hold the powerful accountable. Perhaps the oldest tradition of the people of God is being prophets towards oppressive systems. Where are our prophets today? We glorify King David as “a man after God’s own heart,” but who would he have been without the rebuke of the Prophet Nathan? (2 Samuel 12)
I would look for someone who wasn’t afraid to go against the wealthy and the puppeteers of our nation. Who in their greed keep their wealth and pay their workers mere crumbs of the profit. I’d look for someone who would look towards the needs of the people over the influences of the powerful. (Matthew 21:12-13). Who wouldn’t allow the powerful to create a system that leans towards them, rather one that would do whatever for the least of these. (Matthew 25).
“Doom to those who pronounce wicked decrees, and keep writing harmful laws to deprive the needy of their rights and to rob the poor among my people of justice; to make widows their loot; to steal from orphans! What will you do on the day of punishment when disaster comes from far away? To whom will you flee for help; where will you stash your wealth?”
3. I would look for someone who didn’t give me blind optimism but true hope:
Rather than make an optimistic list of things that they believe will be accomplished in the next four years, my dream president would invite us into the pits of all that needs to be healed in our nation. Who would not champion their personal ability to succeed, rather our ability to suffer together to create a more hopeful future for following generations. They would be someone who could draw us into a nation that owns our evil, not neglect it for false nationalism. They would call us to a higher character. A character that doesn’t lie about our difficult path ahead but promotes the beauty on the other side.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”-Romans 5:3-5
4. I would look for a President that would desire restoration over retribution:
When I read the story of Jonah, I see a man whose nationality got in the way of bringing mercy and love to another nation. (Even in the context of past crimes.) Jonah wouldn’t go to Nineveh because they were the enemies and he didn’t want them to be shown God’s mercy. Again from Dr. King, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” We claim too often to not have the means to aid the least of these in our society, yet over half of our annual budget goes towards defense and creating more conflicts. I look for a leader who desires a reconciliation of all things; including the divisions of our nation. Someone who seeks out unity. Not by demanding people come to their side, but by willingly crossing over to the other. (Philippians 2:6) I desire a leader who models what they ask of others and heals the war-field of our disagreements.
5. I would look for a pro-life president on all fronts:
Someone who understands that life isn’t just about the womb. That acknowledges that our nation is disastrously violent. Someone who would lead us to see the barbarism of the death penalty. Our idolatry of the gun. Someone who would own the injustice we have caused in the Middle East and in our communities of poverty. Someone who wouldn’t just support Biblical nations out of loyalty, but would call those nations to embody the light designated them by God. Someone who would make every effort to encourage a more redemptive society at home and abroad. Who would fight for the mother as much as the unborn. Who would fight for education, racial reconciliation, the immigrant, the refugee, the planet, the Muslim, the Native, the LGBTQ, because they actually believe that all lives matter. And that all lives are in need of an abundant beautiful existence. That no person is beyond redemption and wholeness. I would desire a president that would call us all to contribute to the betterment of the whole body. That would instill in us a love and care for those who historically have been marginalized. That would work to educate the next generations in the opening line of our Declaration of Independence. That all of us are created equal. (Galatians 3:28)
While we may champion some leaders, may we realize our support of any power is a statement about who we believe Jesus is and what we believe He desires for us.
When we champion leaders who work to keep others out and others down we are saying profound statements about who Jesus is. When we are more concerned with our well-being than others, we exemplify that we don’t understand Jesus’ essential teaching of loving our neighbors as ourselves. When we celebrate the drop of a bomb we miss the entirety of Christ’s good news. We miss the point of his victory over the grave brought on by Imperial destruction. We show others that we don’t have the hope that our gospel beautifully declares. We forsake restoration. When we champion someone whose sexual past is so against what we have been promoting for generations, we communicate that power is more important to us than our truth. When we vote for a “pro-life politician” who demeans other classes of people with gross generalizations and has an uncomfortable interest in our nuclear arsenal, we are depicting a very twisted view of the life we are inviting people into. When we call this kind of character “our dream,” we deny Jesus. We reveal we never knew him.
So to my Christian brothers and sisters who identify as Evangelical. May we have better dreams. Dreams the capture the good news of Jesus the Christ. Dreams that lead us towards the reconciliation of everything. Not the promotion of ourselves. Instead, the laying down of ourselves for the promotion and liberation of others.