In a recent interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, captured the essence of the 2016 election and the Christian dilemma in less than ten words:
“There are a lot of Evangelicals who feel homeless.”
For the first time in my adult life, I feel like America is a place I don’t belong, and this election cycle has only facilitated that feeling. I witness the conservative movement lose their confession by fighting for a representative that is by no means conservative. I watch the liberal movement continue to undercut the value of human life at a biological, marital, and familial level. I see the church react in frenzy, panic, and compromise, moving hardly against one another (fight) or hardly moving (flight).
November 8th is only fifteen days away from the writing of this post. No more televised debates, thousands more political opinions for your online viewing pleasure. All that could possibly be said has been, and will be again. I hope to not add to the noise by telling you why I’m approaching voting a certain way, or how you should vote (though we can dialogue about that elsewhere). You’re probably beyond convincing at this point, anyway.
But I hope to bring you encouragement as you make a slower drive to the polling stations this year. This time around, the steps into the local school or library will feel much heavier for many of us. The weightiness of this election factors in the significance of such a pivotal moment for our country, but more so, we feel sorrow for the state of America and its leadership. We are grieved at the deep division of parties, people groups, and philosophies that make up this country; we may call ourselves the United States of America, a”land of the free,” but we are nothing more than estranged. Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and Lincoln agreed.
We evangelicals feel homeless. And thank God for it.
America is not our home, and it was never meant to be. It is not a Christian nation, and it was never meant to be. We have tied our religion to our nationalism, and it is time for that rope to be cut. The evangelical has been called to a new nation.
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Pt. 2:9-10)
Peter isn’t talking about the American Dream.
I love living in this country. I count it a privilege to live where i do, to have the opportunities I have, to see the things I can. I love America, and therefore, I want the best for it. I care about its leadership. I care about who we entrust the Presidency to. I care about the privileges and rights our forefathers, military, and first responders risked their lives to give me. But the moment I was adopted into the family of God, my citizenship was transferred. I still spend my days in America. But I belong to a new nation. That’s why Peter calls me a “sojourner” and an “exile” in the very next verse (1 Pt. 2:11).
In verses 10-11 of this chapter, Peter has called us both a people that belong and a people that don’t belong. How can this be? As an evangelical Christian, there are two major pillars of truth that I must come to grips with. They are often referred to as the “already” and “not-yet.” I am already a citizen of the holy nation of God, belonging to the people of God. I am not yet, however, experiencing what that means in its fullest reality. I am still a pilgrim, a “homeless evangelical” in this world, in this America, who is waiting to go Home. Living in the already-not-yet of Christianity can tempt us to emphasize one over the other. Either we minimize our “not-yet” and coast with our time in the world, or we minimize our “already” and lose hope with our time in the world.
Many have lamented the political situation we find ourselves in. I have, and continue to. But just maybe, through the thickets of despair this election season, we will catch a glimpse of the pilgrimage. And if this is what it takes for us to yearn for Home, so be it.
In John’s gospel, we see Jesus walking His disciples through the process of living an already-not-yet life as this holy nation:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (Jn. 14:1-3)
We belong to God and His people, yet a room awaits us.
The only winner in this election is the Christian who remembers the everlasting, enduring kingship of Christ. I would also add that we “win” this November when we are starkly overcome with the reminder that we Christians pledge allegiance to Christ alone, and to the Kingdom of which He builds, one holy nation under God, inseparable, with grace and justice for all.
Our only hope this election season is that Christ retains His white throne. And He does.
In light of our already-not-yet pilgrimage in this world, one key question remains:
How should we then live as a people of God who are not Home-less, but homeless in this world?
That’s next week.