Monday, March 29, 2010

Zealotism is Never Good: Why It's Important to be a Better Christ-Follower than Republican (or Democrat!)

"Zealotism" is a term that originates with a first century Jewish group who believed--essentially--that the Messiah was first and foremost a political figure who would usher in political liberation from the Romans. As such, this group was sorely dissapointed when Jesus built the Kingdom instead on service and suffering. At its most repulsive stage, the result was the selling of Jesus for a slave's wage in an attempt to force His hand at political domination. At every level, Zealotism is antithetical to the Gospel. Unfortunately, this is a fact many American Christians have forgotten.

Don't get me wrong. Followers of Jesus in a free and open society like ours have a responsibility to apply the Christian worldview to their politics, contend for righteousness in the public square, and vote their conscience under the Lordship of Jesus. To do any less in the context of a democratic republic is to abdicate one's responsibility. The problem comes when we begin to think that our "agenda" can be accomplished by buddying up to one political party, one Political Action Committee, or one candidate. Many Christians today would readily admit that the Gospel is the only ultimate answer to all that ails us. Yet far too many simultaneously make more noise (positive or negative) about the most recent topic covered on FOX, CNN, or MSNBC than they do about Jesus. Many seem more concerned about being good Republicans--or good Democrats--than good Christians.

To truly follow Jesus, one must be willing to play a prophetic role, and often that role will involve speaking against BOTH political parties. At the end of the day, both are Machiavellian to the core, and will thus say anything to their respective continuencies in order to retain power. Regrettably, Christians often assume this same power-seeking posture, functioning in a way that betrays what they truly think: that societies problems aren't solved by the Gospel, but instead by prostituting onesself out to a political party. It truly makes me wonder if we aren't assuming the same posture as those first century zealots who also believed that the answer was to simply seize political power.

To illustrate my point, I've listed several categories below . . .categories toward which Scripture speaks clearly . . .and shown how both political parties have positioned themselves against Scripture. Admittedly, many of these statements are generalized and thus do not apply to all Republicans and/or Democrats. Nevertheless, it is often the extremes of a party that best point out why such approaches are not the correct approaches in extending our Savior's Kingdom on earth.

Democrats forget that God granted us dominion over the earth. Republicans forget that this dominion is for the purpose of cultivating and caring for a planet that belongs to someone else!

Democrats refuse to value unborn life. Republicans deny a societal responsibility to care for human beings after they are born.

Republicans don't realize that race matters. Democrats don't understand the reason that race matters.

Democrats love to punish hard work. Republicans love to reward excess, greed, and overconsumption.

Democrats don't understand that "homosexual marriage" is a metaphysical impossibility. Republicans don't understand that "marriage" has a much deeper definition that just "a man and a woman." BOTH need to recognize that marriage is not a "right." It is a status of privilege.

Republicans need to stop calling America a "Christian nation." We never have been, never will be, and the suggestion that we are sends a perverted message of what the Gospel is to the rest of the world. I grow tired of doing missions in other nations and having to explain that the message of Jesus is not materialism and porn. Democrats, by contrast, need to deal with the fact that 1/3 of the electorate in this country is "Christian" and thus we are not a totally "secular" country either. Christians in America have had great influence.

Democrats should actually be proud to be American. Though not perfect, our nation is a great one, and we should not be ashamed of where we are from. Republicans should acknowledge that America is not perfect, and has made its share or mistakes in history, including an occassional display of "arrogance." Nations in the Bible are both commended and condemned, including Israel, whose nationalistic tendencies did not protect it from idolatry, or keep it from God's judgment. America, like every other great empire in human history, will one day come to an end. If not before Jesus returns, then it will certainly cease to exist at that point as the Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. As a Christian, my first allegiance is to that coming Kingdom.

I'm quite certain that after reading this, those committed to the left AND right will be angry with me. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, you should examine this anger and try to determine where it is coming from. Why does it seem we are more concerned about a political party than God's Kingdom? Why does it seem that so much energy gets expended--quite naturally--debating the recent health care bill, but so little energy seems to go toward talking with equal passion about our neighbor's need for Jesus? Why do BOTH sides seem so caught up in debating the principles of a temporary kingdom instead of seeking to instill the values of an eternal Kingdom? Could it be that we have made an idol of our political ideologies? Have we cast Elephants and Donkeys in the same gold as Aaron's calf?

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