May 31, 2012
By Frederick Schmidt
Christians today act as if they don't realize that the circus of human politics is trumped by the reality of our life in God.
When I worked at Washington National Cathedral, I occasionally had a friend comment on how daunting it must be to preach in front of presidents, senators, United States representatives, and Supreme Court justices. Truth be told, Cathedral canons preach to the last three, but mere canons are never invited to preach to Presidents. Having disabused friends of that impression, my reaction was always the same: "It's a little surreal at first, but if you really believe that you are preaching in front of Almighty God, the Lord of heaven and earth, it's all pretty much downhill from there."
I really did and do believe that. In fact, I am convinced that if we don't believe that and if Christians don't act like they believe it, then the church is lost and irrelevant. So, I am always deeply disturbed during the silly season of presidential campaigns (which is pretty much all year, every year now), because there is so little evidence that we really do believe that the circus which is the human practice of politics really is trumped by the reality that is our life in God.
The so-called Erastian notion that the church is subordinate to the state runs deeply in Protestantism. So deeply, in fact, that there is often no sense that there is a difference between Christian conviction and the "right" kind of politics. Only the notion of what constitutes the right kind of politics differs. The church's leadership jockeys for photo ops alongside the candidates. Christians gush when someone running for office takes a position that they believe corresponds closely with their own interpretation of the Gospel. We act as if the choice of a President has cosmic and apocalyptic significance for the future of the universe. We confuse political arguments for theological justifications and we blur the language of church and state in a way that renders the Christian contribution to our national life all but irrelevant.
Frankly, we don't look like people with a word from God. Instead, we look like desperate children screaming out an ingratiating, "Me too, me too, I think that too!"...