The Choice Before Us

With so many donkeys kicking up dirt in the public square, Balaam's Ass has been sitting on the sidelines for 10 months. But it is now time to publish another hee-haw. At one time, watching a Presidential debate was a civic duty — to prepare to cast an intelligent vote. It now feels like voyeurism — watching a tawdry soap opera, moral mud bowl, or an episode of a reality TV series.

Followers of Christ may feel revulsed over the choices in the coming election. We do still have a democratic vote. For Jesus’ sake, God commanded the early Christians to honor and submit to unelected rulers who governed them. (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-14). We should remember that the good news spread rapidly under Nero (Roman emperor AD 54–68) who murdered his own mother and executed Peter and Paul. The church grew under Diocletian (Roman emperor 284–305) who launched the last “great persecution” of Christians in AD 303. Neither was freely or democratically elected.

The major choice Christians face in November is not between a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or None-of-the-Above candidate. The positive and hopeful choice is to learn to live as God’s people, resident-foreigners who bless a dark world and our rapidly decaying American culture and declining international reputation. There is room for intra-mural Christian debate about how to do this. Two choices:

  • The Kuyperian model (for Abraham Kuyper, Dutch theologian, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, 1901-05): Christians serve in the public square and forge common-grace alliances that improve society’s morals, social justice, schools, universities, press, non-profits, business, industry, and the arts.

  • The Benedictine model (for St. Benedict; the Benedictine order): believers form wholesome communities that become salt-and-light models to preserve culture (cf. Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization — the monastic preservation of culture at the descent into the Dark Ages).

These are not mutually exclusive. Individual believers can be Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) and exert public leadership and positive influence (recall William Wilberforce and the abolition of British slave trade). And congregations can become hospitable communities, colonies of heaven (Philippians 3:20), kingdom embassies filled with observable righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17) … not partisan political bickering.

There is one option that must
not be chosen: the Constantinian model (for Constantine, 4th century Roman Emperor who favored Christianity over other religions). Followers of Christ can no longer look to politics or government to protect, patronize, or promote the church’s beliefs, values, and mission.

“As sojourners and exiles … abstain from the passions of the flesh … Keep your conduct among the nations honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God…” (1 Peter 2:11-12)