[Originally published on Circle of Hope’s blog before the primary]
Last week the Bernie machine rolled into town and thrilled a lot of people at the Liacouras Center. Jonny and Madi were out there getting people to tell them their stories and making friends — good for them!
Bernie was making a lot of friends with his unlikely social-democrat “revolution” — which Hillary Clinton says sounds like snake oil in the present political environment, even though she’s been working for the same kind of things as Bernie since she was an undergrad. Meanwhile her husband, Bill, was arguing against Black Lives Matter spokespeople that he was not the author of our present incarceration nightmare and the hyper-poverty at the heart of Philadelphia (like next door to the Liacouras Center!). Meanwhile, pundits were crowing over the weakening of Donald Trump’s candidacy and somehow missing that Ted Cruz is probably even more dangerous to their sense of propriety. Fun week for Philly, big week for Bernie fans.
I like Bernie, but I don’t have another king but Jesus.
The way our infotainment system works, one would think that the election of the U.S. president was the most important thing happening in the universe. We even love looking at ourselves perversely being interested in looking at Trump. The newscasters make news themselves by having tiffs with the Donald! The young people who are flocking to Bernie make news because they are supposedly making history by supporting a 74-year-old man who sounds more like Lyndon Johnson than some revolutionary. I sent in my absentee ballot, but, I have to admit, I did not even pray about it.
That’s mainly because I remember the crowd Pilate drew to his rally during the Passover feast in Jerusalem when the powers that be infiltrated an audience that would normally have gone for Jesus (and had just a week before) and got people to use the system to get Barabbas off and Jesus crucified. When Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to crucify your king?” they shouted, “We have no other king but Caesar.” Sometimes crowds get it right; but I am not trusting the vote to fulfill my hopes. They might not recognize the Son of God if he were standing right in front of them!
We are going to do some theology about elections on May 2 because even radical Christians react to U.S. elections like they are crucial to justice and world peace. Many feel, even if they don’t act, like the president (and whoever those other elected officials are) is even important to their faith. There are a lot of good historical reasons for that attitude, which has almost no relation to anything happening in the Bible, certainly not in the life of Jesus. The feeling of importance is hard to shake off when you live in the most recent preeminent empire, which loves to call itself the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth (see Bernie’s website, linked above). Living in it makes you think, that even if the 1% effectively own the government, your vote is going to start a revolution, you are just that special.
I am sorry I missed the rally. But I think I get the idea. It’s not like someone doesn’t promise a revolution every four years. I thought the last one was interesting. But since we elected Obama, the worldwide cabal that hides our wealth in Panama, or wherever, increased its power dramatically. These things are interesting, but not surprising. They make me glad I follow Jesus.
It would have been even more interesting if the church of Philadelphia (that could be like a million people), had given a clear message to the Clinton and Sanders road shows: “We have no other king but Jesus. Work that into your revolution!” Like Jesus said to Pilate we might have said to them, “Any power you have is derived from God and to God you will be responsible.” It is not the Constitution, not your vague spirituality and even vaguer morality to which you must answer, not even to the people or your own conscience or the invisible hand — all the real snake oil you are trying to sell us — it’s the King.