The strangest thing happened the other day. I know this may sound like a stretch, but Barack Obama actually visited my family to personally elicit our support for him. Let me tell you that the experience was otherworldly. The whole time I’m thinking why is Barack Obama visiting us? I live in a middle class neighborhood and don’t have any connections with rich and influential people. What’s Barack Obama doing in my house?
Two days later, another bizarre incident happened. After saying goodbye to an old friend that came to visit my wife and me, I looked outside and saw that our visitor had accidentally totaled my car while backing out of the driveway—and then fled the scene of the crime! The next thing I remember happening is I called the local repair shop and guess who answers the phone? Ron Paul! I actually haggled with Ron Paul on the phone for about five minutes only to find out that my car was irreparable. The whole time I’m thinking is it really that easy to get a hold of Ron Paul?
If you find these two stories unbelievable, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The universe is still shifting on its axis. For the record, the above incidents never happened—except for in my dreams—literally. I’m reasonably sure that the whole Barack Obama dream comes from a CNN episode I watched the night before about John McCain’s first run for congress where he literally knocked on people’s doors to solicit votes. Now as to why Ron Paul is working at a local auto repair shop and living in my aunt’s old house, beats me!
It seems like since the start of the Democratic National convention, and the Republican convention that immediately followed, politics has invaded nearly every area of our lives. No matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to escape! Watching bits and pieces of the conventions over the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but notice the glitz, the glamour, and the adulation that goes into elevating our political leaders to near godlike status—and how their star-struck fans so easily bask in the glory of their would be saviors.
John McCain’s adoring fans seem to believe that if only they can get their guy elected to the White House, righteousness and morality will be restored to the land, America will be spared the horrors of a left-wing socialist panzie—and how could I forget—evil will be defeated. Barack Obama’s adoring fans seem to think that all they have to do to end poverty, heal the nation’s racial divide, and save the nation from Bible toting war mongers is put a check mark next to a drawing of a donkey in November. Can it really be that simple?
Enter into human history, Jesus of Nazareth. One of the things I love about Jesus is how He refused to be awed by the powers that be of His day. I would love to have been around when Jesus called Herod a fox, or when He referred to the religious leaders—who held a similar position to modern day mullahs in Iran—brood of vipers. Even more, I’d love to have been a peasant in the crowd watching Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Author Shane Claiborne in His book Jesus for President compares Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to a U.S. president riding into the inauguration ceremony on a bicycle. If Claiborne is right, then Jesus was a lot more of a prankster than I’ve ever imagined Him to be. The question is why would Jesus go out of His way to mock power?
I’m not a psychoanalyst, but I’d be willing to risk a guess. I think that one of the reasons that Jesus came into the world was to crush the all-too-human tendency to look to political rulers for earthly salvation. When Jesus took up a towel to wash His disciples feet, His disciples were offended because they didn’t want their master behaving like a slave, but what they failed to realize is that was exactly Jesus’ point! In Jesus’ value system the powerless is superior to the powerful. Like His mother, Jesus embraced a value system that elevated the poor over the prince, where God puts down the mighty from their seats and elevates the humble (Luke 1:52). Rather than embracing political power to bring about earthly change, which is what Satan tempted Him to do, Jesus put His faith in the upside down Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that puts faith not in the power of the sword, but in the power of self-sacrificial love.
As tempting as it may be to be awed by the power of modern Caesars, followers of Jesus are never to forget that the Word of God tells us not to put our trust in princes (Psalm 146:3). Rather than trusting in the coercive power of the sword to effect moral change in the world, followers of Jesus put their faith in an otherworldly kingdom that rules not with the power of a sword, but with the power of a towel. As eloquent and sincere as they may be, neither McCain nor Obama are going to save the world, let alone America. True power flows from the cross, not from Caesar’s throne.