How Does Identifying with the Kingdom of God Affect Our Political Participation?

This is not a partisan political article; it promotes no political party and no candidate at any level. Rather it raises the question of how our being part of the kingdom of God influences our voting and political participation and whether being part of the kingdom of God should even matter in our positions on political issues.

It is about five weeks until the polls close on the the national, state, and local elections in the United States. We will be voting to place persons in important decision-making positions, and many of us will vote on state and local initiatives as well.

As we move toward this event, we all know our personal opinions on candidates and issues. The question is: do believers approach issues in the same way as other citizens do, or are there principles of the kingdom that cause us to be different in any way?

I believe there is a difference. However, I can only speak for myself; I cannot dictate to anyone else.

Seek first the kingdom of God

By ΙΣΧΣΝΙΚΑ-888 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Two Kingdoms

Believers are members of two kingdoms at the same time. Secondly (first comes later), we are citizens of the United States of America (or another country)—equal to all other citizens of our country. As such, I think we have a responsibility to be good citizens—no, we should be model citizens! We should do our part to help the nation to be successful and to become better in its responsibilities. Yet, as people of the kingdom of God, I don’t think we can give national concerns our first priority.

Our ultimate allegiance is to the kingdom of God and its principles; so we are, FIRST, citizens of the kingdom. The goals and objectives of the two kingdoms are not the same. While the nation has a duty to keep order and use its power to develop and enforce laws to further the interests of the nation and its citizens, the kingdom of God promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation (with people, with God, and within ourselves) on an individual level. And it does so without coercion and without any force or political power at all.

Sometimes the interests of the nation and the kingdom conflict, and when they do we must follow the principles of the kingdom. Fortunately, in many of today’s societies our religious commitments are protected. But in other societies, both today (think of China) and particularly in the past (think of the Roman Empire), these conflicts often result in severe persecution and martyrdom.

3 Ways Kingdom Principles Impact My Political Participation

I think identifying with the kingdom of God and its principles can impact our voting and political participation in several ways. Here are some ways it impacts me.

Treating my opponents with respect

Citizens of the kingdom of God should follow peace, justice, and reconciliation. A major way we do this is to love other people—all other people. We should treat everyone with empathy, compassion, and care. And this applies even to those who oppose our positions; rather than demeaning those with whom we disagree, I think we should treat them as people whom the Father loves—because he does.

While we can disagree and point out problems with opposing viewpoints, I don’t think believers ought to participate in castigation and hatred. Our opponents are not our enemies; they are fellow humans and fellow citizens.

Following policies of peace, justice, and reconciliation

Our nation is a nation of peace and justice. However, we are far from providing peace and justice to all citizens. There remains a tribalism among us that wishes to elevate our own group above other groups and to deny justice and rights to those who are not of our tribe.

So supporting the rights of all people is important to me. No racial, religious, or political group in America should restrict the rights of others. We should support others and be reconciled with them so far as it is within our ability.

Refusing to impose my religious beliefs on others

The kingdom of God does not impose itself on others by force. The kingdom expands all over the world person by person. Identification with the kingdom is totally voluntary. And even if believers are in the majority, it is an atrocity to impose kingdom principles and interests on others. This runs counter to the entire teaching and practice of Jesus.

We cannot impose our beliefs or our ethic on others.

So which Party Best Aligns with the Kingdom of God?

No party represents kingdom principles. Every party has the same goal: to further its own interests and gain the power to impose it on the rest of the nation. The national and secular objectives of political parties are different from those of the kingdom and involve many issues that are of no concern, or very secondary concern, to the kingdom.

As a citizen of the nation, I have an interest in the well-being and justice of the nation; but I cannot subscribe to the emphases or platforms of any party because they cannot reflect the priorities of the kingdom. I participate as an independent voter because I am allowed to vote in this nation, but if that were ever taken away I would accept it—that is how it has usually been for believers in the world.

So I have a question for you: Does being part of the kingdom of God affect your voting and political participation? Should it?

***

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33 Responses to How Does Identifying with the Kingdom of God Affect Our Political Participation?

  1. Well stated – I love this article. I appreciate your last section. Too often I observe clergy and seminarians attaching all of their hopes to one political party. They get locked up in the us vs. them of politics and give their political party a pass when it or its party officials are being unjust or unrespectful. Politics is about power – getting it, using it, and preventing others from getting it. I have seen too many clergy be used by a political party and then tossed aside when the party has deemed the clergy is no longer useful. Sometimes I wonder if some in the clergy have confused political party loyalty with the kingdom of God – I see too many place salvation in a politician or party. This is a huge mistake. I often wonder if it would serve the clergy better if clergy registered non-partisan so they wouldn’t feel so much attachment to either party, stop using the rhetoric of that party, and would focus more on preaching the Gospel of Jesus as opposed to the gospel of partisan politics and party. Saying all this doesn’t mean we stop participating in the political process. What I am saying is to ensure that our priorities are in the right order.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Luther, I really like your statement: “Politics is about power – getting it, using it, and preventing others from getting it.” I think this is a great (and accurate) insight. And I don’t believe it is our place as citizens of the kingdom of God to do this; it is contrary to God’s purpose for us. And I think we compromise our integrity as followers of Jesus when we allow political partisanship to take the place of kingdom principles.

      But I also agree with you that this “doesn’t mean we stop participating in the political process.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: How Does Identifying with the Kingdom of God Affect Our Political Participation? — Jesus Without Baggage | Talmidimblogging

  3. Myra says:

    I really enjoyed this post Tim, thanks for your thoughts and for provoking my thoughts on this topic and many other topics.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve says:

    The main thing I try to keep in mind is that Jesus taught servant leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eric says:

    Being part of the kindom (the g removed on purpose) doesn’t influence my vote or participation in politics directly. Politics is the business of running a country, and Jesus taught about how to live. So I look at the candidates and decide which of the corrupted, oligarchy-focused, ego-driven choices (in most cases) will govern in a way that most closely aligns with the ethos of Jesus. Then I vote, and when it’s done I get back on with fulfilling my personal responsibility to make the world a better place, and I don’t depend on politicians to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Eric, I can agree with everything you said. I do vote for fairness and justice but, like you, get back to my kindom responsibilities–which is the most important thing.

      Like

  6. newtonfinn says:

    To get to the heart of this issue (and it’s a most painful but necessary journey), the best resource I’ve come across is a new book called “Resisting Structural Evil,” written by theologian Cynthia Moe-Lobeda. Below is a link to the book’s website. BRUTALLY HONEST, INCISIVE, AND COMPREHENSIVE. Take a deep breath before you begin.

    http://resistingstructuralevil.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, ‘Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological and Economic Vocation’ looks like a really good book. Thanks for sharing it with us!

      Like

  7. Kevin says:

    Thank you for your perspective on this! I agree completely. To answer your questions at the end, being apart of the Kingdom of God most certainly impacts how I look at candidates and who I end up voting for. I think the inescapable reality is that being a followers of Christ means that our approach to voting has to take into account what Jesus has called us to, especially when it comes to the care of those who need it most. If our vote fails to take into account what matters to Jesus (which, as His followers, naturally becomes what matters to us), our claim to be Christians is, at best, nothing more than fancy wall coverings, and at worst, a lie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Yes! Yes! “The inescapable reality is that being a followers of Christ means that our approach to voting has to take into account what Jesus has called us to.”

      Kevin, I don’t believe our politics should push our religion on other people; but we must be guided by kingdom principles as taught by Jesus rather than seeking political power.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert Wilkerson says:

    A GREAT ARTICLE. kEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !

    Liked by 1 person

  9. anniejoebarnes says:

    Tim, I just love your posts. I also appreciate how you are never divisive or disrespectful, and you teach others to be loving and gracious too, even to those we don’t agree with. More of that is needed in the world. This time of year especially, so often when I turn on the TV, go on Facebook or read blogs and comments, I hear political castigation and hatred. I like how on this blog I don’t need to worry about that, from your posts and from the people who comment. It is very rare.
    I don’t know why Christians feel such a need to participate in the hatred too, as if God were some sort of weapon to be used to beat others into submission. Using “God” to bully one’s way into power is especially frightening.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anniejoe,

      I do try to maintain civility; this is very important to me, and I am very lucky that I don’t have very many seriously uncivil commenters. There were two a couple years ago that I asked to stop commenting on my blog, and they both stopped voluntarily. I didn’t have to ban them.

      Like

  10. “We should treat everyone with empathy, compassion, and care. And this applies even to those who oppose our positions; rather than demeaning those with whom we disagree, I think we should treat them as people whom the Father loves—because he does.” I really agree with this statement! Being Christians shouldn’t just influence whom we vote for or which party we align with, but how we participate all along. When I read the “news” about the candidates, so much of it focuses on which candidate has the most “scandal” or hint of scandals around them, and very little on their policy differences. It’s mean-spirited and sensationalistic. We so seldom treat candidates, especially the ones we oppose, as fellow citizens who are trying to be civil servants in the way they see best, let alone as people “whom the Father loves.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Karen, I am glad you appreciate my statement on treating everyone with empathy, compassion, and care. As a fundamentalist and then an evangelical, I used to judge and condemn a lot–I could be rough. But then Jesus’ teachings taught me better.

      I like your evaluation of common negative politics. If I had to do that in order to participate, I just wouldn’t do it. I don’t think there is a place for that among believers–though I see it a lot anyway.

      Like

  11. robstanback says:

    We render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s when we act as good citizens.To the extent that we, in a democracy, govern ourselves, we collectively become Caesar. But when we fail to protect the weak from the strong, the few from the many, we become no better than the Caesar of biblical times. At its best, politics is the means of guarding against tyranny, at its worst it is the means to tyranny.

    Tim, the three ways Kingdom principles impact your political participation — “treating your opponents with respect”; “following policies of peace”, “justice, and reconciliation”; and “refusing to impose your religious beliefs on others” — seem to me fairly libertarian at first glance. Yet, each ideal you express can yield antithetical results depending upon one’s viewpoint. For example, one person sees peace through pacifism and/or isolationism while another envisions protecting peace by projecting military strength. For one person, justice is allowing people to keep the all the fruits of their own labor, while for another, justice means requiring people to share and share alike. If one person believes in gay marriage, which violates another’s religious beliefs, then who bakes the wedding cake? Should Peter be forced to pay taxes to Paul to pay for Mary’s abortion?

    Still, the principles you propose are good ones, but only if, (for example) when my idea of justice conflicts with yours, we at least begin with the assumption that each of us is seeking justice. “Treating your opponents with respect” is more than just being polite; it is acknowledging that we can begin with like intentions and arrive at opposing views.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Rob, you raise some very good points. And you are right that the three principles I mentioned can be interpreted differently. But these principles are what I understand concerning Jesus’ teaching; other people might understand these same words differently, as you say. I can’t dictate how other believers should understand the principles of the kingdom, though I will say that some believers don’t seem to abide by kingdom principles at all.

      I found your comment about my 3 kingdom impacts seeming fairly libertarian to be quite interesting. Libertarianism is quite diverse, so there may be some who think similarly about those three items; but some Libertarians hold views that would be opposite to kingdom principles, including Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged and in her philosophical writings.

      One sad thing I have witnessed very clearly is that, since the 1980’s, many Christian conservatives have aligned themselves closer and closer to the Republican party. They began doing so in order to push an agenda of forcing their religious beliefs on everyone (they called it the moral majority). But now they seem to have adopted the entire ideology of the extreme right-wing element of the party.

      I cannot see ANY influence of kingdom principles in this process of gaining public power.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Tim, Rob has identified something important here, because we think that we know what justice is, but as he has pointed out, it can mean different things to different people, with the possibility that these viewpoints can even be in conflict. It raises the simple question: What is justice, and should this be the same in the Kingdom and in secular matters? Any thoughts?

        Liked by 1 person

        • robstanback says:

          Chas, Your question of whether justice is the same in the realm of Kingdom and in the secular realm is insightful. To simplify, I will narrow the topic to criminal justice. If we are wronged, Jesus asks of us to turn the other cheek, but can a society survive with a criminal justice system based on this principle? Perhaps not in the absolute, for anarchy would ensue without laws and consequences for breaking them. But perhaps Kingdom principles can inform our criminal justice system. That might mean a smaller emphasis on punishment and a greater emphasis on rehabilitation, along with providing better help with re-entry into society.

          This overlap between the two realms seems appropriate to me, but one must ask, what if one person’s religious belief is superseding another’s beliefs? Perhaps that other person believes that a thief’s hand should be cut off. I think it is desirable that religious beliefs should inform our secular decisions, but inevitably such beliefs will conflict. Politics is the only method we have for resolving such conflicts. Is there a better way?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Chas says:

            Rob, the first part of my comment was to ask what justice is, because your post showed me that it could be interpreted in different ways. Even the dictionary is vague as to what justice is. Having thought about this more in the interim, it seems to me that the concept of justice can only be recognized as the putting right of a wrong, or injustice, and even in this case, it might require that the victim of the wrong or injustice is capable of imagining a situation in which the wrong or injustice was no longer there. As an example, we might think of an enslaved people who look significantly different from their oppressors. Unless the idea of freedom was handed down from the first captive generation to their offspring, the later generations would have no idea that their situation might be different. Then only if someone could imagine themselves in a different situation would it become possible for the slaves to discuss this new concept.
            I agree with you that our justice systems should focus first on rehabilitation, but we also have to recognize that there are people who cannot, or will not, comply with our wishes. We have to ask what we should do with such people, since they seem to be incorrigible. If they always cause suffering when they are out of jail, then we owe it to innocent people to keep these incorrigible people apart from them permanently. An alternative idea is that anyone who is incorrigible in this way must be mentally ill, because normal people do not behave in this way. However, we would then have to ask how we could treat such people humanely. Even if we have drugs that lessen their tendencies, we would find it necessary to impose the taking of those drugs, so that it was an involuntary treatment for the victim.

            Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas and Rob, I am really enjoying your excellent conversation! Chas, I will add my two cents worth in answering your question about whether justice should be the same in the kingdom and in secular matters.

          My opinion is that they are not always the same; the nation has its responsibilities and the believer has his/her responsibilities, and they are not identical. However, I will support an initiative in the nation that supports my kingdom understanding of justice, so long as it does not involve imposing my religious views on others.

          An example is capital punishment. Capital punishment is within the right of the nation, but if there were an initiative to limit or eliminate capital punishment, I would support it. It does not impose my religious views on others because in this case my kingdom view would be similar to the secular view on the injustice of capital punishment.

          Like

          • Chas says:

            Tim, I too am against capital punishment, but I have recently seen two programs about young men in US jails who are serving the rest of their life in jail. It could be argued, and maybe some of them would argue, that they would suffer less if their lives were brought to an end, rather than face so long a time without any hope of release. Only people who wished to maximize their suffering would want them to go on to their natural end. There is also the point that those without hope of release will see no reason to moderate their behavior, and so be a greater danger to other inmates and the guards.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            This is an interesting observation, Chas. Perhaps the decision should be made by the prisoner; they are the only ones to evaluate all the factors.

            Like

          • Chas says:

            Tim, and maybe the same choice should be allowed for people who are terminally ill and suffering. Only they can know if going on is becoming unbearable.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I have believed this for a long time. I think one problem people have with it is they think suicide is an unforgivable ‘sin’. It is also interesting that many of the same people who adamantly oppose assisted suicide are all FOR bombing our ‘enemies’–even if there are collateral deaths.

            Like

      • robstanback says:

        Tim, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism shares with libertarianism an affinity for individual liberty and a belief that laissez-faire capitalism is the best means of achieving its goals, but objectivism goes further to include the idea that rational self interest is the moral path to follow in life. In other words, objectivism and libertarianism share political and economic ideals but differ regarding personal behavior. As I see it, a libertarian can be an objectivist or a Christian, but not both, for I believe rational self interest is antithetical to Christ’s teachings.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Rob, I really like your final statement that “A libertarian can be an objectivist or a Christian, but not both, for I believe rational self interest is antithetical to Christ’s teachings.”

          There is a lot I can agree with in some Libertarian thought, but I am very unaccepting of the principles of self-interest espoused by others. Jesus tells us to love others in a genuine way; this is far more important than acting only in our self-interest.

          Like

  12. michaeleeast says:

    Tim. I think of Jeremiah 29:4-7 In the welfare of the city (Babylon) is your welfare. I don’t see a lot of conflict between being a citizen of Australia and a citizen of the Kingdom. Although we have little real power.
    George W. Bush (a confessed Christian) could have acted like a Christian after 9/11 by turning the other cheek and returning good (aid etc.) for evil. But instead he had to play the tough guy and involve us all in disastrous wars. A conflict of values I think.
    The Kingdom of God is not really a homogeneous thing these days there are a lot of branches. But if you count them all it adds up to quite a lot. There is a Lot of multi-faith work being done.
    I think of the prayers for peace in Germany and Pope Francis 1. Perhaps the Kingdom is growing. I hope so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Michael, I like your application of Jeremiah 29 to followers of Jesus relating to their host nations; we should not try to isolate ourselves. There does not have to be a lot of conflict between the government and the kingdom, but often there is, as different principles and concerns drive them.

      Like

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