Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Can Christ followers be democratic leaders?

This article in Slate put into words a long-held conviction of mine: "In its wisdom, America has devised a presidential election system that actively selects for egotistical megalomaniacs: You simply cannot enter the White House if you aren't one."  

On the one hand, to be a serious presidential contender in America it's almost a neccesity to profess Christian faith.  But if you read the list of qualities that Christ said would characterize his followers in Matthew 5:3-12, you have to conclude that anyone matching that description wouldn't get very far in our political system.  I doubt that my brothers who are eager to "take America back" have really grasped just how peculiar a people we're supposed to be.  (My dad would be quick to point out that the word translated "peculiar" in the King James Bible means "specially chosen", not "strange."  But I would contend that if we're going to take seriously the teachings of Jesus we'll be peculiar in the most fullest and most modern sense of the word.)

I don't mean to suggest that our democratic system is any worse than any of the available choices.  In fact I personally would agree with Winston Churchill in choosing democracy as the least bad option in our fallen, broken world.

Nor do I mean to say that it's impossible for a Christ-follower to participate in politics.  In fact, I can think of two very good biblical models for Christian political leadership -- Joseph and Daniel. These two Old Testament rulers serve as examples for us for two important reasons:

1) Given the extent to which the values of the Kingdom of God fly in the face of the values of the world in which we live, it would take an act of God every bit as miraculous to place a Christ-follower in power in a democratic system as it did for Joseph in Pharaoh's Egypt and Daniel in Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon.

2) Once in power Joseph and Daniel had to exercise authority in one nation while retaining ultimately loyal to another nation.  They weren't spies; they were working to be a blessing in their places of power without betraying their own people.  A Christ follower in political office today would also have to navigate torn loyalties, to negotiate living and leading amid the tension of dual citizenship.

1 comment:

Zechariah said...

Constitution says that no man can become president without being born in the US.

I think that's half the problem. We're strangers and aliens here on the earth, and for a Christian to be effective as a Christian president, he would have to keep in mind his Heavenly country over his earthly one.