From the Summer 2017 “Good News” (St. John’s newsletter):
I recently read some reflections from Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, regarding the current political climate in Great
Britain and Brexit. One statement is worthy of our reflection: “As trust in conventional politics goes down, expectations of messianic leadership go up.”
Without doubt the last few years have seen a dramatic drop in confidence in our political process and at no time in my experience have we had greater “messianic leadership” expectations. Whether a Trump supporter, a Clinton supporter or even a Sanders supporter, there seemed an irrational conviction that only the chosen candidate could “fix” our problems and save the future.
One may debate which candidate was the best option, but what worries me more is the messianic expectations. The notion that any politician will “save” us is truly dangerous, for several reasons. It should be obvious to any thinking person that no candidate would have all the answers. To believe so leads to the sad situation we have now where supporters of a chosen “messiah” can neither acknowledge the “messiah’s” faults nor the opponent’s successes. Too much of our political discourse has become about defending one’s chosen horse, not dealing honestly with the situation before us.
More troubling to me as a pastor, is that it turns our focus from our own responsibility as Christians and citizens to some other person or group. There is only one Messiah worthy of our complete trust. But within the life of this world, we each need to own responsibility for our common life. The way that we will address the problems we face as a society, a nation, and a global community is together, not by expecting some individual to fix it., nor by dividing “us” and “them”.
There is a well known story from the life of Jesus involving paying taxes. It made the so-called “triple tradition,” meaning that it is found in all three of the synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, telling us that the early church considered this to be an important and defining moment. (See Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26)
After being presented with the quandary of either supporting paying taxes to the Roman government, thus angering his fellow Jews, or rejecting paying taxes, risking trouble with the Romans, Jesus responded with the famous “give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We have a legitimate obligation to be an engaged part of the life of the community.
Whoever you voted for, remain engaged. Pay attention. Take time to understand the issues that are at play. Don’t just believe what you see in your Facebook feed, or on partisan internet sites. Read broadly enough to develop a reasoned, fact-based opinion. But most of all, do not despair. You are secure in God. Finding our security in Jesus rather than the vagaries of this world, we will be far more able to embrace those who differ politically. And remember, whether your candidate wins or loses, whether the cause you support carries the day or not, you remain God’s beloved child, just as much as the one on the other side of the isle!
Fr. Eric Turner
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