In part 1, we are looking at the politics of the dragon and politics of the Lamb and began to ask how we might consider voting in this presidential election. In part 2, we will look at the two candidates themselves. In part 3, we will try to imagine what the politics of the Lamb might look like and how that might guide us this political season. The opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect the stances of any church or organization.
In American culture today, “politics” tends to describe the ways that Democrats and Republicans fail to work together. Historically, though, politics explores the ways that people can come together to make sure that we can pursue the common good, or the best ways of life for humanity living in a city (“politics” means the way of getting along within the city, or “polis”). Scripture is political, and the Revelation that ends Scripture is intensely political, as an exploration of cities. Revelation 17-22 focuses on two cities – Babylon and the New Jerusalem – and the armies of those two cities are the armies that will face off in the great wars of chapters 19 and 20. Chapters 12-15 explore the characteristics of those two armies and cities: What kinds of figures lead in those two cities, and what kinds of commanders will lead those two armies? How do those leaders relate to their citizens and warriors? How do they relate to the opposing armies? What kinds of weapons do these armies find most effective? What does power and leadership look like? What is the common good within these cities? What kinds of weapons do they fight with? In this sense, politics are central to Revelation. Without giving answers to the American culture wars or political battles, chapters 12-15 gives us strong clues for how followers of the Lamb should engage battles like these. Christians are inherently political people, and the trend of some churches to avoid politics is to give the city over to the armies of the dragon. But, Christian politics is not trapped within the dualities, lack of imagination, or tired issues of the politics of Babylon. We are political because we are citizens of the New Jerusalem, not of Babylon, not “those who dwell on the earth” (to use Revelation’s language). We worship a creative Lord, we serve under the High King, who really is ruler of all creation. Our politics is to make the New Jerusalem evident in Babylon, to make the future come into the present, to show the rulers and powers of earth that they need to worship and serve the One True King. This kind of political action may or may not have very much to do with what Americans call “politics”, but it rightly explores living the values, characteristics, and reality of the City of God, the New Jerusalem, in the midst of Babylon.
In this 2016 presidential election cycle, Christians are being asked to vote for one of two candidates: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Christian leaders have staked their positions: James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jr, David Jeremiah, Michelle Bachman, Eric Metaxas, Wayne Grudem and others have endorsed and chosen to promote Trump; Deborah Sikes, Jim Wallis and others have chosen to endorse and promote Clinton; and Russell Moore, Rod Dreher and others have refused to endorse or promote either. How does a Christian decide what to do? And, does Scripture give us any clues? Can we gain anything from a reading of Revelation? Scripture gives us many ideas about political action and Revelation gives us clues about how to think about this political season. Jesus, through John, through the book of Revelation, is telling us to reject ALL of the politics of the beastly empires and find a distinctly Christian way of engaging the world. Let’s explore that.
Chapters 12-15 of Revelation give us a pretty clear picture of the politics of the two cities (Babylon, the dragon’s city, versus the New Jerusalem, the Lamb’s), or the characteristics of the two armies (the army of the beast and the army of the Lamb). The dragon and its city are filled with lies and propaganda, it fights with violence, it coerces others, it invites and promotes false worship, forces a kind of coercive economics, and its way of life is necessarily parasitic and destructive. The dragon personifies evil and it finds ways of getting others to participate in its evil, through violence, deception, coercion, and destruction. Also, the dragon seeks out followers of the Lamb (in chapter 12 they are labeled “offspring of the woman”) to persecute and kill. Not a good dude. At its core, the dragon is a destroyer, opposed to the ways of Heaven, creation, and New Creation. The Lamb, by contrast, is aligned with the Creator. He serves others by seeking unity and promoting the goodness of creation. Instead of inflicting violence on others, the Lamb wins His major victories by suffering violence and overcoming it in redemptive obedience leading to New Creation. And He battles on the side of truth: true worship, true faithfulness, and true witness to the character of God. To sum that up: destruction versus creation; violence versus sacrifice; lies versus truth; coercion versus freedom; death versus life.
If those are the two camps in the true reality, in the Heavenly battle, then which American presidential candidate is on which side in Election 2016? Do either of our two main candidates have the character or base themselves in a worldview that is consistent with the politics of the Lamb? Some people seem to have Christian character but operate from a false view of the world, others seem to base their worldview in reality but do not have the character to act out of reality. As Christians, we pray for political leaders who both have character and live out of a true reality. And so, one of the big questions we have to ask is whether either Mr Trump or Secretary Clinton have the character or worldview to lead us in Lamb-style politics. We will look at that in part 2.