Politics & the Kingdom of the World
Instead of aligning any version of the kingdom of this world with the kingdom of God—as is common in American Christianity—kingdom-of-God participants must retain a healthy suspicion toward every version of the kingdom of this world. This is especially necessary regarding one’s own version because that’s precisely where we’re most tempted to become idolatrous (see post on making America an idol).
However good any particular government may be by the world’s standards, it is nevertheless strongly influenced by fallen principalities and powers. Consequently, no kingdom-of-God citizen should ever place undue trust in any political ideology or program.
However good any particular version of the kingdom of the world may be, it does not hold the ultimate answer to the world’s problems. It may indeed be better in certain respects at maintaining law, order, and justice, for which we should be thankful. But the kingdom-of-God citizen knows that the world is not going to be fundamentally transformed by the use of the sword. We know that love, peace, and justice will not be experienced on a global scale until the kingdom of God is permanently established.
In fact, the kingdom-of-God citizen should know that, far from holding the ultimate answer to the world’s problems, even the best versions of the kingdom of the world are part of the world’s problem. The fundamental problem in the world is that fallen people trust coercion rather than love. Because we are in bondage, we tend to preserve and promote our self-interests with force. Far from resisting this coercive tendency, even the best versions of the kingdom of the world have to capitalize on it.
Every version of the kingdom of the world defends itself and advances its cause by rallying the self-interest of its citizens into a collective tribal force that makes each citizen willing to kill and be killed for what it believes to be the good of the society. It survives and advances by uniting and motivating its subjects around their distinctive collective identity, ideas, self-interest, and desires for security—over and against any individuals or governments whose own tribal identity, ideals, self-interest, and desire for security might impinge on or threaten their own.
To this end, every version of the kingdom of the world demonizes its enemies when necessary to generate the motivation to go to war and to convince those who must spill blood that their cause is righteous.
This “us-them” mindset makes conflict inevitable. As long as people are willing to advance their self-interest by force, and so long as their sense of identity, worth, and security is rooted in their national, ethnic, religious, or political distinctives—there will be violence and injustice.
Until the kingdom of God transforms the entire globe, conflict is inevitable. This is not in any way to suggest that the kingdom-of-God people should not pray and strive for peace in the world, for we are called to be peacemakers (Matt 5:9). Though we are not “of” this world, we are “in” it. But we must also remember that the essential problems of the world, including its inescapable tendency toward violence and conflict will not be finally resolved until human nature is fundamentally transformed by the complete coming of the kingdom of God.
And the only way for kingdom-of-God citizens to move toward this ultimate goal is for them to exercise love rather than coercion. This only happens as the mustard seed of the kingdom (Matt 13:31-32) grows through individual and corporate replications of Calvary.
—Adapted from The Myth of a Christian Nation, page 55-57
Image by Stephanie McCabe via Unsplash
If you really want to defend the poor from Caesar, shouldn’t we use the political means that exist? It’s easy to make your argument when you are in a position of privilege.
Question: I’ve been reading your blogs for a while. I’ve read multiple texts written by you and it’s difficult to listen much longer as someone in poverty. It’s easy to make your argument when you are in a position of privilege. The Church doesn’t have the power and resources to help the poor everywhere. Christians…
I watched a 20/20 special the other night on politics in America. The show explored the “growing political divide” in our country. Here’s some of the information found in this program. * Since the early 70’s Americans have become increasing polarized in their political views. Communities that once were pretty evenly split politically are now…
As it has since the fourth century, the Church today for the most part operates with a Constantinian (“power-over”) paradigm. Because of this, most socially concerned Christians are inclined to define the Church’s mission as adjudicating between and tweaking political options “in Jesus’ name.” We accept Caesar’s definition of “power” as the ability to get…
How involved should Christians be in secular politics? Throughout history, Christians have embraced a number of different perspectives on this issue. These perspectives can basically be broken down into three groups. First, some Christians believe that one of the church’s jobs is to transform and ultimately control politics. This view has often been labeled the…
While God condescended to working within the violent-prone, fallen framework of his people in the Old Testament—as I argue in Crucifixion of the Warrior God—the OT is also full of references to how God worked to preserve his non-violent ideal as much as possible. He did this by continually reminding his people not to place…
Rachel Held Evans posted a blog today on the stir created when Democrats booed the passing of “an amendment to the party platform reinstating language that identified Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel and that referred to people’s “God-given potential” in its preamble.” Of course this fed into the belief that if you’re a…