I have some American family members who are, well, typically American and Christian—which means that despite the constitutional separation of “Church and State” they are very much in favour (notice the “u”!)of a God fearing pres’dent.
“Bring it on!” is what I’ve heard. I happened to mention that Barak Obama is a God-fearing president: “Pshaw! Methodist!” or that Bill Clinton went to church every Sunday. “Fornicating jack_ _ _.” Sigh.
Being the minister of four little United Churches in Eastern Ontario in the 2010s has taught me a lot about the end of Christendom. What is Christendom, you ask? Well about 1,500 years ago, the Roman emperor Constantine mandated that Christianity would be the official religion of the empire, and that was it. After that edict, the Church began to become the focus of everything from politics to economics.
However, about 200 years ago, we (Western civilization) began to pull away from !CHURCH! and thus began the decline of Christian influence in many things. Oh, sure, we’ve had a good run, and it still “seems” that the Church has a lot to say and do in the world. But from where I stand, church is not very powerful.
So, what is this post all about? Is it about slamming American Christians for being enthusiastic for certain ideologies or candidates? Is it about shaming certain candidates for their views on the hot button issues of the day: immigrants, homosexuality, Cuba?
Nope. It’s about what we (who identify ourselves as Christians) do in light of all this. Namely follow Jesus. I’ve been reading a lot about atonement recently, that’s the idea about salvation. And there’s a bit afoot about this idea. The main theory, which goes back 1,000 years to a man called Anselm of Canterbury, states that Jesus came to “satisfy” God’s holiness for our sins. It’s a legal understanding of salvation. We sin and should die for it, Jesus (the pure and Holy One) is the only one who can overcome our stain, dies for us and stays God’s wrath.
It’s a bit chilling when you consider all the implications—but it’s been the dominant theory for over a thousand years. Another theory, which actually was the dominant one before Anselm is called “Christus Victor” and it holds that what Jesus did was win the fight over the devil and the powers of the world. And that our salvation is not a legal transaction, but rather a “freeing.” We are held, like hostages, to evil, but Jesus frees us.
And one of the proponents of this idea, Greg Boyd, an American pastor and professor, suggests that if one wants to know what the Kingdom of God looks like, we should look at Jesus. So then—What would Jesus do—when it comes to Hilary or the Donald?
* Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
* And Paul tells his young friend, Timothy (1 Timothy 2: 1-3) - to pray for those in authority.
If we believe that Jesus is Lord, and we try to live like him, then we need to pray as if it actually means something. We need to pray for Barak and Justin, for Vladimir and Raul, for Donald and Hilary. Because our prayers are important and powerful. I don’t pretend to know what happens in prayer, and like C.S. Lewis, I’m not sure if my prayers will change God’s mind, but they change mine.
I am afraid that many of the candidates in the U.S. presidential race use Christianity as one uses a hammer, or a joke, or a crutch, as a tool, a way of getting votes. The funny thing is that Jesus was crucified by the government for being Godly. I’m not sure if that will get much airtime this election season. And after watching some of the TV and internet coverage I think the most effective prayer is “God help us.” Amen.