When I was little there was a popular CCM song called “Jesus is the Answer.” Maybe you remember it. The chorus went, simply:
Jesus is the Answer
For the world today
Above him there’s no other
Jesus is the Way.
The song became something of a rallying cry for the burgeoning post-Jesus Movement evangelical right, with implications for both saving souls and enacting righteous legislation. Yes, Jesus is the Answer for every down-and-out lost person who needs to get saved. And he’s also the Answer for a country that is going to hell in a hand basket with all its pro-choice, pro-gay, anti-gun, anti-captialist, anti-Christian legislating. Jesus is the one who can get the sinners – and especially the sinners in Washington – back on the straight and narrow.
But here’s the problem: Jesus-is-the-Answer logic, when applied to US politics and legislation, works off the assumption that some level of theocracy in American government is both possible and desirable. In other words, if Jesus is the Answer for changing all these laws and enacting all these new ones and getting Christians in the right positions of political power to make godly and righteous decisions for our nation, then this is nothing other than the dream and the delusion of Christendom. It is the myth that America was at some point , and should be again, a Christian nation.
And the logic of the new religious right with respect to things like gay marriage and the recent Arizona bill (protecting business owners who refuse service to gay people) is based on the same Jesus-is-the-Answer, theocratic, Christendom premise. In fact all the furor over threats to religious freedom, or a fundamentally anti-Christian agenda in Washington, actually springs from a deeper belief that Christianity deserves privilege over other cultures and religions in our country. It is not about equality – it is about theocratic superiority.
But what if, when it comes to US politics and legislation, Jesus isn’t the Answer? What if, instead, the dreaded “pluralistic society” is really the answer for the world today?
I’d like to propose that the more Christians powerfully pursue a state-sanctioned refusal of equal rights to legitimate cultural, religious, gender, or ethnic groups based on identity alone, we have ceased to be in any way a kingdom of God people and have instead become an empire people.
Now, I’m not advocating for separatism or agnosticism when it comes to US politics and legislation – not at all. And I’m not even saying that Christian ethics can’t inform how we vote, what programs we support and participate in, and, perhaps, even how we run for office. Instead, I’m saying that we must do all these things from an underlying belief that America is not, nor should be, nor ever shall be, a Christian nation. [Tweet This]
It should not be a place where Christian privilege and theocratic superiority are sanctioned by the state. Thus, Christian ethics of peace, fairness, protection, and equity for those of all cultures, religions, genders, and ethnicities in a pluralistic society must be the driving force behind these choices. Not particular (and often debatable) Christian ethics of sexuality, sociology, belief, etc.
In this way, the distinction between the kingdoms of this world, including America, and the kingdom of God is kept firmly intact. The separation of church and state is held to with the utmost commitment. And the temptation to pursue power in the name of God, which always corrupts the transformative mission of God, is avoided at all costs.
Because through the church, living for the sake of the whole world, Jesus is still the Answer.
But in US legislation and politics, the answer is a peaceable pluralistic society.