Thursday, August 6, 2015

Politics and Religion Do Mix

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration—that moment when the face and clothes of Jesus, who was accompanied by Peter, James, and John, shone with the brightness of the sun. Described as the “culminating point of his public life” by the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, this mountain-top experience gave these disciples confirmation of Jesus’ full identity as God among us. In the bright shining, Jesus’ divinity was revealed, and his right place as the expectation, fulfillment, and completion of the law and prophets is confirmed by the presence of Moses and Elijah. Unlike all the other claims for messiahship, which had been made by would-be pretenders, Jesus was the real thing. He is the one pointed to by the law and prophets. And the voice of God the Father confirmed it all by declaring him as his beloved son.

Well, today is also the first presidential debate, and, as this election cycle kicks into high gear, I’m wondering something: if Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and prophets, which is to say the ultimate expression of the public life of God’s people, when will our public life look like God’s kingdom? Sure, I know that, in part, the answer is when Jesus comes back. But Jesus didn’t come to earth simply to tell us that someday things would be better—that someday things would be different. He came to earth to usher in God’s reign—to break through the human-dominated power structures in order that God’s ways would be established now. As followers of Jesus, we are agents of that kingdom. We called to be advocates for change. Like it or not, Jesus was a highly political figure, and, as his disciples, we are called to bring our faith into our politics.

“But politics and religion don’t mix,” you might say. “Our country is founded on the separation of church and state.” How naïve! As the Transfiguration reminds us, politics is the perfect place for religion. Where else should we express the values that we hold most dear? Many are already doing it, and they are dominating the political conversation. As I read in the Christian Century the other day, when we say “religion and politics don’t mix,” what we really mean is “their religion and my politics don’t mix.” Are the religious voices in American politics representative of your religion or your politics? Maybe it’s time for us to accept that our commitment to Jesus Christ and his gospel has implications for our public life. Maybe it’s time for us to insist that our understanding of God’s reign break through into our political life.

How will your faith and politics mix in this election cycle?

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