One of the few universally affirmed statements of Christian political theology is Christ is King. Christian political engagement must be informed at ever step by this affirmation. This is not the only doctrine that carries import for Christian political engagement but it certainly is primary. Every political stance a Christian takes must be congruent with the statement “Christ is King.” If it is not we tacitly affirm something or someone other than Jesus is actually king. My goal is to urge my fellow Christians on both ends of the political spectrum to seriously consider the contemporary political implications of the kingship of Christ. Here are a few as I have been reflecting on them.
If Christ is king… the make up of the Supreme Court and the 2020 election results are relativized. At best, they can be marginally important. Many have urged support of the two-party system for the sake of swaying a deeply divided court to the left or to the right. Leaving aside the question of whether or not that has actually worked as it was predicted, the make up of the Supreme Court has no ultimate bearing on the Kingdom of God. Whether or not Roe v Wade is overturned in the US will not appease God. That is, God cannot be “bought off.” We ought to hope, seek, and work for a repeal of that verdict, but Christ reigns regardless of what direction our nation or any nation goes. True justice comes not from Washington D.C. (It never has and never will.) True justice comes on Calvary. True justice comes where sin and righteousness are imputed to another’s account. True justice comes where sin is cosmically punished. If Christ is King, we need better reasons than preserving or changing the make up of the Supreme Court to vote for a particular candidate.
If Christ is king… all earthly kings are under his domain and accountable to HIS laws and regulations. And the case against them can and should be made. Obama, Trump, Bush, Lincoln, Washington, etc. are all worthy of criticism. There is no class of leaders exempt from the responsibilities given by God. All stand under the judgement of God as rulers of this nation and stand condemned on their own. The Old Testament prophets spoke truth to power. Paul’s statement in Romans 13 that Caesar receives his authority from God is entirely consistent with this OT prophetic tradition. The reading of the prophets makes clear that all in authority are accountable for their stewardship of that power. Our Founders will stand before God and reckon with slavery and racism. Nazi train engineers and concentration camp guards will reckon with their complicity in the Holocaust just as Hilter and Himmler, et al. There is no qualified immunity before the judgement seat of Christ. “Just doing my job” or “just following orders” will be finally recognized for the hollow self-justification it is. And it will be condemned as much as the one giving the orders. If Christ is King, the same moral standard that applies to individuals applies to collectives, including governments. The Law condemns but the Spirit gives life.
If Christ is king… there can be no other “anointed.” The acceptance of the messianic title is eerily similar to the beast with blasphemous names in Rev 13. Our rulers are locked pawns with no hope of being anything more. When Paula White claims that Trump is “anointed by God” she blasphemes and subjects the church to the nation, but not even generally, the whole church is subjected to our specific nation. There is no attitude less Christian. When politicians like Obama promise “hope” if only you’ll vote for them. Our leaders are shown to be blasphemous pretenders to the throne, and unfit for duty, incapable of rendering proximate justice. The promise is for salvation. A weak economy, threat of war, limited access to healthcare and education are purported to be the enemy from which we need a savior. When Trump stands in front of a church for a photo op holding “a Bible,” he toys with God seeking to manipulate the church into giving him power for four more years. This is the epitome of taking the Lord’s name in vain. God will not be a means to anyone’s end. If Christ is King, the goal/terminal point of history carries with it the destruction of earthly governments. “From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Rev 19:15-16
If Christ is king, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, therefore go and make disciples teaching and baptizing” not forcing and manipulating. The Kingdom extends to “all nations” not through top-down political liberation, legislation, and enforcement but through bottom-up proclamation of the Gospel and administration of the sacraments, themselves a visual proclamation of that Gospel. Justice is is indeed mandated by the Gospel. But whatever else may be said of justice, it certainly entails right worship or it itself becomes a grave idolatry. The Biblical means of extending the the kingdom are entirely consistent with justice. Teaching and baptism are our marching orders straight from our king and they preserve the dignity of his subjects. People are bearers of the image of God and not animals and therefore the kingdom cannot be extended by force. The kingdom is not brought to earth through public policy but through the life-changing proclamation of the Good News. Caging people like dangerous animals only to be let out if/when deemed “safe” does not extend the kingdom. Sometimes we must incarcerate people when their actions were particularly animalistic, rape and murder for instance. But if Christ is King, cages are not the solution to drug problems and other forms of idolatry. If Christ is King, the war has already been waged and won. The culture war is not worth losing sleep over.
If Christ is King, all other allegiances must be provisional, at best. The pledge of allegiance should only be recited in so far as its ideals are consistent with the ideals of God’s Kingdom, and more over insofar as the description is true. Liberty and justice for all? That’s certainly consistent with Kingdom values, but does that truly reflect our nation as it is today? I’m not confident of that. There are many who reflect on their own condition or that of their own social demographic and determine the status quo to be something less than liberty and justice for them. Many law enforcement officers (LEOs) feel as though there is a cultural war being waged against the thin blue line. Many LEOs feel that something less than justice is given in the court of public opinion against them. Many LEOs believe their liberty to do their jobs is being restricted by calls to end qualified immunity and calls to defund the police. Likewise, many within the black community feel that something less than justice is at work when “fitting a description” is the the cause of many encounters with LEOs. Many within the black community feel as though something less than liberty is afforded to them when they can not go for a run through their own neighborhood without fear of the police being called because they don’t fit in with the demographics of their neighborhood. When we cannot even imagine a scenario that justifies kneeling during the national anthem or understand why some would fly the thin blue line flag in place of the actual stars and stripes, I suggest our allegiances to our nation or community are absolutized and therefore idolatrous. If Christ is king, we must compare our communities to his righteousness to see our deficiencies.
If Christ is King, power must be rethought in light of the Cross. Power is not force and manipulation. Power is not prestige or money. The Gospel, that is the person and work of Jesus especially on the cross but including his vicarious life and his resurrection, is, as Paul says, “the power of God unto salvation.” Power is self-control. Power is service. Power is self-sacrifice. In short, power is agape love. The power that God exercises for salvation is the power of self-control, the power of restraint, the power of forgiveness, the power of self-giving sacrifice. The power that God exercises in judgment is the pure and perfect form of what we often think of when we think of power. It is judgment according to the Word which is sharper than any double-edged sword dividing even soul and spirit. It is therefore a precise execution of justice with no collateral damage nor any injustice remaining. It is good news for those of us in Christ, we will be vindicated. If we have the promise of being vindicated we can relinquish our grips on the halls of power and stop striving to maintain top-down influence on public policy.