Given our propensity to get wrapped up in the political process this time of the year, endorse a candidate we believe will fulfill our present hopes, and devote endless time to watching FOX or CNN, here are some sane and centering words from Scot McKnight, in his Kingdom Conspiracy—
“Politics is a colossal distraction from kingdom mission.” Maybe we should read this again, only slower—Politics is a colossal distraction from kingdom mission.”
I believe he is right. Politics is necessary, and politicians are an essential part of society. But we can get off center. They can distract us from our mission and diminishes our kingdom message. As he notes, “we have to turn our gospel-drenched message that focuses on Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection into acceptable, common-denominator language and vision. Instead of talking discipleship and a cruciform life, we talk about values and soak it in the pretentious ‘Judeo-Christian ethic.”
We seem to ignore the harsh lessons of a church that 1700 years ago sought to find its power and identity in political rule. Constantine helped bring about Christendom, and the wreckage is still evident across Europe. The church became impressed with power and with state partnership, and it has led to a culture today that is alienated towards Christianity, indifferent at best. Vivid in my memory are bike rides through villages in Holland, where church buildings tower over the public squares, but most are museums or shells converted into restaurants, tire warehouses, or mosques.
When I hear commentators talk about the “evangelical vote”, I think of people still looking to the state to put into law and policy the kingdom story. There is a sense of victory when a candidate wins or when a law passes or a policy is reformed. And yes, we should pray for a godly chief justice and a godly President.
But McKnight’s warning is worth hearing: “I speak directly now: we kingdom people don’t need the state, we don’t need the majority, and we must refrain from equating victory in the world with kingdom mission…the culture war is not the kingdom story, and it is idolatrous when Christians equate the two.”
Amen. It is noteworthy that Jesus equated His kingdom—not with regal governments or presidential power—but with seeds and leaven. If we are to transform the world, it will not be through grabbing the reins of government—but in the quiet, ordinary moments, when we sow the seeds of the gospel and live it out in our neighborhood and our place of work, while devoting ourselves to loving God and His church.