During election week in 2004, I stood in front of a student named Jason — a nice guy, a good student, and a year or two older and a bit more mature than some others. He was in the National Guard and was a Baptist. Everyone would have considered him to be an upstanding young man, with good behavior, Christian beliefs, and military service to his credit.
Jason asked about my voting (none of which there was, or would be — because of conscience, not apathy). I said something about not voting because “this isn’t my world.” Jason was shocked, and I had the sense that he felt betrayed as a fellow Christian. Others were listening, so I didn’t go into it, but I probably should have pursued it privately with Jason later.
You know how the Christian right tends to think that every believer ought to “stand up and be counted” and “stand for righteousness”? My general feeling is that Christian-types who preach “standing up for our beliefs” are often more interested in changing a temporary system than in giving allegiance to a lasting one. I resist the idea that we must seek to change this world’s beliefs and practices. First off, I think it can be offensive to non-Christians. Also, simply put, it is based on a non-sequitur: simply because we happen to be citizens of a democratic republic doesn’t necessitate involvement in the running of its affairs.
I don’t believe it’s either imperative or logical that everyone should vote. This position, I’ll admit, is somewhat related to my distrust of, and disinterest in, governmental systems. But at least 75% of it is based on my scruples about the nature of the kingdoms, the dominions, the worlds. This physical universe and all its systems, I’m convinced, are destined to pass away. Life here is temporary, and eternal life is beyond this world and its politics.
Yes, I’ll probably check a few election results tonight and tomorrow morning, but I’m not persuaded that the results will make much difference for the coming 2+ years, and the results absolutely won’t make any difference eternally. Two kingdoms stand in contrast to one another, and the eternal one is my primary concern.
If you were left aghast or appalled or a-feared or affronted by the above, please just read the quotation below. This quotation is inserted here, between other essays on a different topic, because it’s election day.
From now on, heaven has come to earth. There is now overlap. Intersection. Invasion. The kingdom has arrived. The kingdom has come and is now on the loose in our very midst. It is at hand, within reach, very near to each of us. For what purpose? To begin what God had promised from the beginning: the reversal of what has become of the created world since its fall and ruin in Genesis 3.”
– Greg Finke (via Roger Thoman), Missionary.”
Greg Finke’s is a kind of voice that deserves repeated hearings among Christians. (His voice would be lost on non-Christians, although some of them might appreciate it if believers meddled less in this world’s affairs, trying in vain to create another theocracy.) Note that Greg does not suggest head-in-the-clouds waiting for the glorious “over yonder,” as some of the gospel songs suggest. One could actually use what he said to encourage political activity if one were of that mindset. And, the more I read it over, the more I think he is likely suggesting a physical, eternal kingdom along with the spiritual one. That is a presupposition I do not share, but the main point is really not what we do, or don’t do, in this current world-system; the point is that there is something bigger than this world. From the Incarnation onward, we view the lasting kingdom as the one that matters. Its arrival in this temporary, world-sphere means a new set of imperatives that have eternal significance.
For once, let’s lay aside the anxieties (I have them, too) about ISIS and the global & U.S. economies and all the messed-up political systems. Let’s pay less attention to fear (I have it, too) about the societal effects of abortion, the ever-pressing, encroaching homosexual agenda, and general, moral decline that creates a world-system we don’t want our children and grandchildren to experience.
Let’s rather realize the everlasting nature of the Kingdom of which believers are citizens. Let’s rather “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” The Prince of Peace offers a peace not of this world. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He said, without reference to wars and persecutions and standing up and being counted in elections of this world. He said our hearts shouldn’t be troubled because He had overcome the world. I need to hear this myself. I need to pay more attention to Kingdom thinking and Kingdom philosophies — and to resultant Kingdom behavior.
Finke’s inspirational thinking is of a type all its own. Be it premillennial or not, it is not heart-candy with spiritual high-fructose corn syrup at the top of its ingredient list. No, this kind of inspiration is both grounded and eternally moored. It is about something beyond this world! I feel like creating a word. . . .
Let’s label this kind of voice basileic (click the link for the referent).