Too many times, Christians read my political writings and quickly retort, “Well, I disagree with your position,” or, “That is just your opinion.” Others immediately dismiss what I have written and begin listing all of the arguments they have grown up believing to be true.
I believe most people are trying to be sincere in their faith. But I also believe they are being brainwashed by well-meaning religious leaders, preachers and teachers who care more about the United States government and the United States political system than honestly trying to follow in the way of Jesus and then working to advance his counter-cultural kingdom.
You know the old saying, “It takes one to know one.” Well, the reason I can identify this problem so easily is because I was part of the problem.
Admittedly, I used to have the same understanding and view as those who believe that Christianity and the American governmental and political system should be inseparable and that their fusion is absolutely essential.
I was the conservative Evangelical guy who believed that Christians needed to take back our country for God, that we needed to elect conservative Christians to restore our Judeo-Christian principles and values, that the United States was the “shining light on a hill” and the only source of “good” in the world and that all of our military endeavors were against the enemies of “good” and approved by God.
I was the guy who bought into the marriage of Christianity and politics hook, line and sinker. I was the guy who believed that it was absolutely essential that the Church be politically active.
I was the guy who believed that prayer ought to be in school, that the Ten Commandments ought to be outside the courthouse and that a “Christian worldview” was the only thing that was going to defeat atheism and evolution and save the next generation.
If those values and beliefs were so ingrained in me and comprised the core of my being, how in the world could my perspective change so radically?
The simple answer is that God began to completely destroy me. And the destruction left me shell-shocked. Everything I had believed. Everything I had trusted. Everything I had put my faith in … leveled to the ground.
God completely obliterated and annihilated the foundations upon which I had built and resided my entire life. God shattered the lenses through which I viewed reality, the world and other people. God eradicated my inferior allegiances, my inferior value systems and all the worldly wisdom in which I had placed my hope, faith and trust because they were all completely antithetical to, and opposed by, the way of God perfectly demonstrated in the Christ.
Little did I know that it would take this kind of demolition for something new to be built up in its place. It was something more beautiful, more liberating, more peaceful and more inclusive. I began to see the beautiful, alternative, present reality of God’s reign (which Jesus called the kingdom of God) and how we, as his followers, are supposed to give our lives, our pledge and our allegiance to it only. That is how God took my heart captive and changed my heart’s every desire.
So when I write about how the preoccupation of the follower of Jesus ought not to be that of governments or politics but rather that of the kingdom of God, I do not write as some wild-eyed anticonformist but rather as a former conservative Evangelical whom God saw fit to completely decimate and reconstruct as an ambassador for his alternative, upside-down and beautiful kingdom.
I came to the realization last week while mowing that there was a good reason why Jesus only talked about the kingdom of God in parables. By speaking about the kingdom of God in parables, it keeps people from turning those stories into a formula for salvation, steps that must be taken to ensure eternal life or laws and rules that must be followed to be a good Christian.
We, in the religious realm, certainly have a track record for trying to create new religious laws and protocols and formulas for “who’s in and who’s out.” And that is the real genius of Jesus preaching the Good News of the kingdom of God in parables and sayings. He completely short circuits and circumvents our tendencies toward controlling people and cheapening God’s grace and forgiveness.
However, there is also an unfortunate downside to speaking of the kingdom of God only in parables. As our Western minds long for a more pragmatic faith that is achieved by simply following rules and taking the “right steps,” we have completely stopped “asking, seeking and knocking” to discover the riches of the kingdom of God. Despite the fact that the Good News of the kingdom of God was the reason Jesus said he was sent and was the focus of his parables, we have completely stopped (or maybe never even started) looking for the kingdom into which Jesus was announcing and inviting us.
I am afraid that many people today are in that place as well. We are significantly lacking in the kind of humility that recognizes the reality that we will always be students in this lifetime and that our learning from the Great Teacher will never end. We have stopped seeking to discover greater breadths and depths of truth because we believe we have already discovered all truth.
We have ceased asking to have the eyes and heart of God because we already believe that we see everything clearly and that our hearts are fully aligned with God. We have stopped knocking at the door because we believe we have fully arrived at our spiritual destination.
And too many Christian hearts are closed off to the kingdom of God. That is why, I believe, so many discussions about the government and politics are so fruitless among Christians.
Brandon Andress of Columbus is a former church leader who still occasionally teaches at local churches. He is a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He is author of several books. He can be reached at his website brandonandress.com.