….paid for by Emmanuel Mennonite Church, through its TypePad subscription (about $5 a month). It is political in that it has to do with our public, as well as personal, lives. Any other similarity to the recent political events in either Denver or St. Paul is either unintentional or rhetorical. It is brought to you by a party that will not, and cannot, be represented on this November's ballot. Any party or politician who tells you otherwise, overtly or subtly, is either lying or sincerely mistaken. That party is the Kingdom of God, and its standard bearer is Jesus of Nazareth. No human political party, no worldly government, and no office holder, however noble, honest and self-sacrificial (and there are many) can fully represent the platform of the Kingdom of God, nor take the place or do the job of the Prince of Peace in bringing us true justice, security and peace. Yet we of the Kingdom of God party applaud and support the efforts of any party or politician who seeks honestly to do so in ways similar to those of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. But do not let the mythic, almost messianic, language emanating from either Denver or St. Paul, or from any other political convention this year, fool you into thinking otherwise.
The platform of the Kingdom of God party, as stated by its standard-bearer, is “to preach good news to the poor….proclaim freedom for the prisoners….recovery of sight for the blind….to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4: 18-19) until God makes “all things new” and the “kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” Jesus of Nazareth, our party's standard-bearer, has already won the election by voice vote outside Jerusalem, when he rode humbly and peacefully into town on a donkey, to the acclaim of the poor, the powerless, of children and infants. He was enthroned in the glory of self-sacrificial love on the cross of Calvary, was coronated by God at the empty tomb, and took his throne at his ascension to heaven. We're awaiting the final inauguration celebration when he returns, at which point, we expect all human governments to give way to his.
In the mean time, we of the Kingdom of God party declare and demonstrate our primary loyalty to Jesus and his government by living and loving as he did. While some governments may consider this primary loyalty to be treason of the highest sort, the expression and fruits of this loyalty should give no government or leader any reason for fear, unless their rule depends upon our acquiescence to, or participation in, violence and evil. In which case, we will resist and witness to the kingdom of God by continuing to live nonviolently in love, peace and justice, whatever the cost to ourselves.
As for all the other human parties and politicians, we wish them well inasmuch as they seek to align their policies and platforms with those of the Kingdom of God, even while we understand and expect that human institutions can only approach the platform and policies of God's Kingdom in the crudest and most conflicted ways. Why should they do any better than we who claim this allegiance? And why should we, who claim this holy allegiance, expect the world to do our jobs? To them we offer our prayers, our blessings and a loving respect that is identical for the most powerful president to the poorest pauper, a loving respect which is based not on ideology but on our common humanity, as creatures made in the image of God.
To all parties and candidates we issue also this warning: Do not invoke the name of God without also genuinely seeking to do the will and the work of God (see the Kingdom of God platform above). Otherwise, you are using God's name in vain, a commandment with a terrible price for breaking (Exodus 20: 7). In the spirit of the prophets of ancient Israel, it would be better to be secular and godless in your rhetoric, while seeking to do justice and mercy, than to use religious and pious rhetoric, while seeking war and exploiting the poor.
As for the ballot this November, we issue no endorsements, knowing that our candidate and his policies can never be fully or fairly represented by any human political institution. We will simply pray for all the parties and persons involved, and, after the election, will respect, love and pray for whoever takes office. We will also cooperate with every policy and platform that conforms with the Great Commandment, to “love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31),” and will take any such law and regulation as the starting point of our obligation to love our neighbor, and not the end of it. But be fully aware that, for us in the Kingdom of God party, the neighbors whom we are to so love includes our enemies.
We will not expect of any office holder or government the full measure of things which they and their parties have promised, and which only Jesus has demonstrated the ability to deliver. We accept, with some sorrow and grace, that all efforts to do good within our worldly kingdoms, however much they accomplish, are also fraught with bedeviling blindness, dilemmas and contradictions. We all are only human in a fallen world.
Therefore, we will trust your choice, and each other's choice, when it comes to dealing with the difficult dilemmas of whether to vote, and who to vote for, this next November, and will not limit our citizenship in this or any other nation to the pulling of a lever on Election Day. Instead, we will strive ever “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8),” every day, before and after November 4, 2008. That is our political platform in this time of transition, between the day of Christ's ascension and the day when all the world, and even his enemies, have become his footstool.
Mathew Swora, pastor
Emmanuel Mennonite Church, St. Paul, MN