The two political conventions are behind us. Americans and the world have heard what hope Republicans and Democrats offer for the future of our nation. And they offered about the same thing. Jobs. Economic prosperity for all, but especially the middle class. And of course a restoration, resuscitation, rediscovery, or just re-tread of a laundry list of American values that each party believes the other has squandered, ignored, attacked, or otherwise diminished.
With 60 days, more or less, until the election both parties have handed Christian leaders the greatest opportunity to preach the gospel they may ever experience. Because based on the party speeches and the party platforms that will dominate public discourse until November we can expect no real hope to be offered to the American people. All we’re going to get is promises of more money, more national security, and more national pride. A trifecta of idols offered for our national worship.
And that may be good. When politicians offer an American paradise so clearly rooted in material consumption and personal security they leave plenty of social space for Christians to talk about how completely different God’s Reign is from an election year American dream. They make it easier for us to see that Jesus didn’t come to save the middle class from economic decline, or the poor from insecurity over health care and education, or the rich from the clawing hand of satanic socialism.
He came to save us from our estrangement from God, from the isolation created by our ever more personalized idolatry, from the despair of shallow lives and empty deaths. And this reconciliation, the communion, this hope is the Christian gospel.
Jesus healed, he didn’t reform health care. He fed the hungry, he didn’t reform welfare. He cast out demons, he didn’t reform law enforcement. When he died on the cross his resurrection was not a re-election to reprise past policies. It was a pioneering, path breaking, return of humanity from its self-inflicted death to eternal life in fellowship with our Creator. And that is the foundation of God’s Reign.
The rest: the deep concern for the poor and marginalized, the demand for repentance and conversion by their oppressors, and the restoration of human communities that is the central task of the Church flows from Golgotha and empty tomb, not to it. We mistake our chronology if we do not notice that the mission of Jesus moves toward the cross, while the mission of the Church springs from it and is empowered by our freedom from Sin and the presence of the living Christ.
Without that power; without the cross, the resurrection, and outpouring of the Spirit the Church has nothing to offer beyond the dull and largely empty promises of our political parties. They have laid out their platforms, and on those shaky foundations they offer to build a new America. May I suggest that we have something more solid to offer in Christ?