In Canada, we are now a week away from an election – and with that comes a lot of taking sides, criticizing of other’s viewpoints, and …. the inevitable “Christian” support of certain candidates that “take a stand” on moral issues the church “should” care about.
While I definitely will vote and have a certain bias, what troubles me is how easily we, as the church, can get distracted by, so-called, issues that cannot or will not ever play a role in the eventual governance of our country by any of the parties involved. This week, for example, saw the re-emergence of an “issue” that does not play a role in any of the three major party’s platforms – abortion.
Listening to the discussion makes me wish more people had the chance to read the following excerpt from one of the more life-changing books I have read, titled “Myth of a Christian Nation”:
To illustrate, consider the highly charged and divisive issue of abortion … Because all kingdom-of-the-world issues come in complex political packages, numerous complex considerations will affect how one votes on this issue.
There are … a host of … complex considerations that will affect how you vote. For example, how does the party or candidate that most closely reflects your view on abortion fare on other issues you deem important: concern for the poor, economics, foreign affairs, war, the environment, and so on? How much weight do you put on each of these convictions? Also, what do you deem attainable at the present time in our culture? Is it more efficient to work to outlaw abortion outright, or is it better to minimize abortion by, say, voting for the candidate and party you think will best help the poor, since there is a demonstrable link between the rate of poverty and the rate of abortion…? Even more fundamentally, do you think it more efficient to hold an uncompromising stance on this issue, or is it better for the unborn, and for society as a whole, for you to work with people who have different beliefs than yours to overcome our present polarization and find a middle ground? What do you believe is the best way to create a culture in which abortions are as unnecessary and rare as possible?
How one answers all these difficult and important questions affects how they vote. But kingdom people need to understand that none of these questions are distinctly kingdom questions. The polarized way the issue is framed in contemporary politics is largely a function of various groups trying to gain power over each other for what they believe to be the good of the whole, and while we … have to consider these questions before we can give an informed opinion (a vote) when asked, there’s no reason we—as kingdom-of-God participants—should allow this political way of framing the issue to define our approach. Jesus never allowed him- self to be defined by the political conflicts of his day, and neither should we.
The distinctly kingdom question is not, How should we vote? The distinctly kingdom question is, How should we live? How can we individually and collectively come under women struggling with unwanted pregnancies and come under the unborn babies who are unwanted? How can we who are worse sinners than any woman with an unwanted pregnancy — and thus have no right to stand over them in judgment—sacrifice our time, energy, and resources to ascribe unsurpassable worth to them and their unborn children? How can we act in such a way that we communicate our agreement with Jesus that these women and their unborn children are worth dying for? How can we individually and collectively sacrifice for and serve women and their unwanted children so that it becomes feasible for the mother to go to full term? How can we individually and collectively bleed for pregnant women and for unborn babies in a way that maximizes life and minimizes violence?
We answer these distinctly kingdom questions not with our votes but with our lives. And, note, we don’t need to answer any of the world’s difficult political and metaphysical questions to do it. The unique kingdom approach to abortion isn’t dependent on convincing ourselves and others that we have “God’s knowledge” about highly ambiguous questions. It’s based on our call to love as Jesus loved. There’s a scared woman; there’s a growing life inside her, which … is a miraculous creation of God. And the only relevant question kingdom people need to answer is, Are we willing to bleed for both? Voting and picketing costs us little. The kingdom approach costs us much. But it is precisely the costliness of the kingdom approach—which looks like Jesus dying on Calvary for those who crucified him—that makes it a unique kingdom approach. And because it manifests the beauty of Jesus, it glorifies God and has a power to change the world in a way that kingdom-of-the-world strategies never could.
Rather than buying into and then fighting over the limited, divisive options of the kingdom of the world, we need to be the one tribe on the planet who thinks “outside the box.” We need to be a peculiar people who live in the otherwise unasked question—what can we do to bleed as a means of manifesting life? While others posture and holler, we are to be a holy people who, knowing we are the worst of sinners, simply live in the question—how can we bleed for others? How can we sacrifice for and serve the gay, lesbian, and transgender community in a way that communicates to them their unsurpassable worth? How can we individually and collectively bleed in service to the homeless, the poor, and the racially oppressed? What does “power under” service look like to drug addicts, battered women, pregnant women, children in sexual bondage…?
The distinct kingdom question is not, How do you vote? The distinct kingdom question is, How do you bleed?