“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…”
Galatians 1.3 (NIV)
I’ve been writing sections of a book discussing Paul and his political views. I can’t help seeing the relevance to both the US (my home) and Hong Kong (where I often work).
At home, the evangelicals have finally stood behind Donald Trump out of their fear and disdain for Hillary. I’m going to lay aside whether Hillary is a fit candidate or not and discuss purely the many evangelical Christian responses. The typical response I see on social media has a very simple logic that goes something like this. You’re obligated to vote for Trump if you’re a true Christian because the alternative is evil. The logic speaks to a popular utilitarian mentality. It’s basically saying that since we live in a flawed system, we have to choose a route that “works for us.” In this alternate universe of evangelicalism, obligation is either to a candidate or a political process.
The ten seats of the Hong Kong legislative election is also part of the political discussion. These ten seats are for the Christian leaders and they’re essentially picked by drawing lot. Many are clamoring for those seats from the large denominations. Some would go as far as saying that participation in this fraud democracy is at least better than not participating. Again, the obligation is for self-serving utilitarian reasons.
When Paul spoke of Jesus as the Lord, he placed all believers under the obligation to Jesus. By making the candidate or the political process the thing to which we feel obligated, we have essentially made them our gods. In Paul’s world, “obligation” is something people owed to a superior overlord. The ultimate obligation of a believer isn’t to a human being or a process. What if none of this works?
There’s a real possibility that our best effort will fall flat. It’s happened in history repeatedly. What then? I’d say that in our case, we have replaced our integrity and faithfulness with utilitarianism, our self interest, our agenda and our heroes. Obligating ourselves to candidates who blatantly hold anti-Christian values isn’t faithful. Obligating ourselves to a political lie that pretends to be a democratically elected process is even less faithful. If we strip away all our utilitarianism, our self interest, our agenda and even the heroes we worship (be it Trump, Hillary or Bernie), what do we have left? I don’t think we will have integrity and faithfulness left. When we replace God with a process or an idol, we’re in a dangerous place. So what if we succeed? Without integrity and faithfulness, our success is nothing other than rubbish.
Lately, in many church circles, there’s been a call for a new kind of Reformation. In fact, I just saw this morning someone was talking about that in HK. Before we can reform anything, perhaps we need to reform ourselves, our lost conscience and our idolatry. When it comes to politics, Christians tend to put their hope in politicians and the political process rather than God. Perhaps that’s our biggest problem at the present time. The only person we’re obligated to is Jesus Christ. Otherwise, “Jesus is Lord” is a mere cliche.