by Kelli Ra Anderson
An old friend recently voiced her concern that I hadn’t voted for Donald Trump even though I am a Christian. She listed many grievances about the political left and concluded, “Your party stands for these awful things and your vote cheered them on!” Her assumption about my loyalties revealed a very real problem for many who identify themselves as Republican Christians or even Christian Democrats: dual citizenship.
The truth is, contrary to my friend’s conclusion, the Democrats are not my party. Neither are the Republicans. Nor, I am beginning to think, should I belong to any political party. Ever.
I am not suggesting I abdicate my responsibility to participate in the political process or that Christians shouldn’t be members of a political party. But just like scripture’s warning about the perils of wealth, maybe Christians need to be very, very careful. Party loyalty has its dark side.
To ally ourselves too closely as Christians to a political party or even to a particular form of government can create a kind of tribal identity that will ultimately call us to serve two masters. Once we identify ourselves as Christian plus American, Christian plus Republican, Christian plus free market capitalism or anything else, we will be conscripted at some point to defend our dual citizenship.
Jesus warned we cannot serve two masters in Matthew 6:24 in his Sermon on the Mount. If we do, he said, we will come to love and devote ourselves to one –the world’s ways of power through money. (And, I would suggest, politics.) Or we will despise or hate the other—the way of the cross.
Self-sacrifice for the good of others, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity which are untenable positions in the world of politics are derided as foolish, impractical, and weak. Distracted by a siren’s song promising to safeguard our ways and our tribe, we are likely to forget to keep our eyes fixed on Christ. We are likely to forget Jesus’ call to place one foolish foot after another on the stormy waters. And when we forget we begin to sink.
I think many of us in the evangelical church have been sinking these past four years. Maybe longer.
No form of government or political party is sanctioned by God. Christians are not called to be Republicans or Democrats or even capitalists. We are only called to find ways we can serve others which includes those who hate us and revile us and even those who are not American citizens.
So how do we determine who to listen to and vote for when we are, after all, not voting for a pastor in chief?
Key questions to uncover motives from our leaders (by author Kaitlyn Schiess) have helped me navigate this minefield by asking, “Is this person or source asking me to love and to serve others? Or to fear and to fight them?” And, “What is the ultimate motive behind the message? To protect and help me and mine? Or to change something for the good of others?”
If the answers to these questions are consistently about protecting my tribe, my wallet, and my rights, that is a potential red flag. There is nothing wrong with being sensible about safety. (Seat belts? I’m a fan). And I believe responsible foreign policy should be cautious about regimes that abuse their people and want to abuse others (Russia, China, North Korea, Turkey come to mind). And yes, we do have to have sensible border laws.
But borders don’t mean we have to be inhumane or even to think only about ourselves. Like the parable of the Good Samaritan, we need to consider whether a policy requires us to figuratively walk around, ignore and abandon those in need. As a Christian we are never called to ignore, blame, discount or make excuses for not showing mercy or finding ways to help the one lying in a ditch. That neighbor includes non-Americans, asylum seekers, the drug-addicted, the pre-born and the post-born, people impacted by poverty, non-documented immigrants, hard working farmers, victims of police brutality, over-worked police officers, prisoners–everyone.
Then there’s the challenge of choosing a political leader. Again, I think dual citizenship tempts us amid a perceived war of winner-take-all, to set aside the way of the cross and to choose the candidate most likely to win, regardless of personal character. Access to power, we reason to ourselves, is ultimately for a good cause.
But as history bears out again and again the fear of losing access to the power we sought to influence tends to silence those who believed they would keep leaders accountable. That has been true of people supporting presidents from both parties. The courage to speak truth to power melts away when politics becomes a holy war that requires us to protect “our” candidate at any cost, and to prove our loyalty by our silence in the face of corruption, cruelty, and deceit.
It is no secret that God warns us not to ally ourselves with leaders who lie, who are arrogant, who by their decrees shed innocent blood and who stir up conflict in the community. (Prov 6:16)
But what about our character? What is it that God requires of us? In Micah 6:8 we hear God’s simple answer. To act justly. Love mercy. And walk humbly with our God. When we consider leaders to vote for or policies to implement is there a spirit of mercy motivating us to consider the needs of those often overlooked? Are we motivated to support policies to correct injustice for those often denied it? Are our own words and opinions coming from a posture of humility and compassion? Or anger and defensiveness?
In the end, we have only one Kingdom to which we can belong and one King that matters. Dual citizenship is a dangerous option. The last four years, I believe, are a wake up call that testify painfully to that fact. The upsidedown way of the cross is still foolishness. But citizens of God’s kingdom are hopefully still willing to risk it.
Kelli is a long time journalist whose articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. The author of two devotionals, Divine Duct Tape and Life on the Spectrum, and a regular contributor to several magazines, she enjoys veggie gardening, long prairie walks and tasting the world through travels in her kitchen. Kelli is married to her best friend, Adrian, of 32 years, and lives with her two young adult sons, John and David, an 80 lb. golden-doodle, 2 cats and 4 laying hens in the far western suburbs of Chicagoland. You can learn more about Kelli by visiting her website, Kellira.com.