Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Princes, Presidents, Ideologies and Theologies

Do not put your trust in princes,
   in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
   on that very day their plans perish. 
Psalm 146:3-4

We don't really have princes here in America, but we have some pretty good stand-ins.  We have presidents, and our current day presidents wield power Israel's princes could not even have dreamed of. But as a general rule, none of our presidents manage to do all that their supporters hope they will, and so the political pendulum tends to swing every so often.

Part of electing a president is trusting or liking a candidate, but part is the political ideology he or she represents. I'm never totally clear on just how this combination comes together, but somehow, we regularly place our trust in presidents and ideologies, hoping that they will guide us to a better place.

In the Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament, there is something of a conflicted relationship between faith in Yahweh and kings or princes. There are certainly heroic kings such as David who have a special relationship with God, but there is also an awareness that kings are a part of the way of the world. When Israel demands a king in 1 Samuel 8, God says, "They have rejected me from being king over them."

For Christians, Jesus re-imagines the figure of king. He looks little like David or Solomon, not to mention little like our presidents. And we would never elect or put our trust in a candidate who acted very much in the ways of Jesus. We expect our presidents to know all about wielding worldly power, about getting things done. Meek, humble, and lowly are not adjectives we want used for our presidents.

This sort of thinking often filters down into the church. Some of the leadership training offered to pastors mines the practices of successful presidents, CEOs, and other secular leaders to help pastor be better at getting the results they want.

In today's reading from Romans, Paul urges believers "to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect." Paul seems to think that figuring out what God wants of us, what we are called and meant to do, requires a wisdom not found in political ideologies or presidential agendas. It requires a total and complete giving ourselves over to God in which we are transformed and renewed.

Trouble is, we trust ourselves, or our ideologies, or our theologies (our ideas about what God is like) a lot more than we actually trust God or Jesus.

So who do you think we'll elect president in 2016?

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