Now that we have our presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, America as a whole is in a state of unrest. As usual, I am hearing and seeing the same things I have heard when every election cycle rolls around: “Well, I may not like it, but I’ll just have to vote for the lesser of two evils.” “I really don’t like ______, but he/she is WAY better than ______.” (I know faithful Christians on both sides of the aisle).
I also see a lot of disappointed or disaffected people who are refusing to vote for one of the primary nominees, and are instead planning to abstain or vote third party. To this, others are saying things like, “Not voting or voting for a third party is just a vote for ________! You can’t let that happen! We have to do whatever we can to keep him/her out of the White House!”
I see a few problems with this (I disagree that a third party vote is thrown away, for example). But I want to address something different. Since the mid- to late-20th century, the Republican Party has, in general, been the party of Evangelicalism. We’ve seen the rise of the moral majority and the religious right. We have associated the revival of conservative Christian values with voting for the right party and the right person and then – maybe then – we will build a society that is just and good and blessed by God.
When Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, he taught using parables. He spoke of fields and farms, seeds and planting. Even in Jesus’ world, this would have been subversive. The Romans brought “peace” and their kingdom by the sword. They were a political machine, the likes of which had not been seen at that point in history. They were efficient and ruthless.
And then Jesus comes along saying things like, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” And, “[The Kingdom] is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” And again, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
It seems to me that Jesus, among other things, is trying to make a pretty specific point about how the Kingdom of God is made manifest in the world. Leaven takes time to work through flour, planting seeds and waiting on them to sprout requires patience and hard work, mustard bushes were essentially considered weeds in the ancient world, and took over whole areas if left unattended.
Perhaps these parables can speak to us today. What if the Kingdom of God doesn’t come by force or might (or, dare I say it, even by democracy!)? What if the Kingdom of God comes by the slow, faithful actions of those who follow the way of Jesus? Maybe Christians ought not vote for the lesser of two evils, because in the end, it won’t matter – what will matter is whether we joined God in building the Kingdom the way Jesus described the it.
Do not relegate your participation in the building of the Kingdom of God to voting in the general presidential election every four years. The more subversive act in our American culture that prides itself on democracy and freedom of choice and individualism is to transform the community around you by being a good neighbor, giving to those in need, supporting those who are hurting and helpless, and doing the sweaty, ugly, brutal work of building real relationships with real flesh and blood people.