Jesus was always upsetting the people in power. He would hang out with the publicans and sinners and prostitutes, which upset the scribes and Pharisees and “respectable people.” Then he would hang out with the scribes and Pharisees — who were in some ways his natural affinity group — and the downtrodden would feel left out. He had a zealot in his inner circle, and everybody thought he would lead a revolt against the Roman authorities, which upset the Roman authorities. And, when Jesus was crucified, his closest disciples scattered, thinking the movement that Jesus had started was over.
The Book of Joshua tells the story of an appearance of what many have thought to be an angel.
Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?” He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Josh. 5:13-14)
The stranger came as “commander of the army of the Lord.” It is never a question of whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side. The battle is God’s, not Joshua’s.
Similarly, St. Luke tells the story of John coming to Jesus complaining that the disciples had seen someone who was not a part of Jesus’ 12 casting out demons — and in Jesus’ name. John, expecting Jesus to defend the prerogative of the 12 as the “in crowd” with Jesus, was surprised to have Jesus say to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50).
On Election Day, we do well to remember this biblical principle. Jesus is really on nobody’s “side.” He was not on the side of the scribes and Pharisees, the publicans and sinners, nor on the side of the Roman authorities. As the Narnian books say about Aslan the Christ-figure: “He’s not a tame lion.”
As Christians we are first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of God. Jesus was never too cozy with those in authority. He was in nobody’s pocket. We are called to be good citizens (Rom. 13:1), and we should exercise our civic duty by paying taxes, voting, serving on juries, and so on; nevertheless, regardless of who is elected as President and all other offices down ballot, we do not lose heart.
Certainly those in the Anglo-Catholic stream of our tradition recognize that at its most faithful, the Church has never been too cozy with the state. The Church is really an alternative to the state, partnering where possible, but not subservient to it. Indeed, John Henry Hobart, the third Bishop of New York, never voted because of his views about the separation of Church and State. As Christians, we trust in the sovereignty of God. I keep reminding myself of the hymn “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
So, go cast your vote — or not — as your conscience dictates; but please do not lose any sleep about the outcome; and be gracious to those who do not share your brilliant insights on Election Day.
And, yes, I will be watching the election results.