The election is over. Now what? Democrats took control of the House while Republicans retained control of the Senate. President Trump, who, despite his claims to the contrary, was not on the ballot, remains in the White House. Many celebrate the return of divided government to Washington, D.C. Others do not.
Having exercised your right to vote, what comes next? As Christian Citizens, what is our obligation now?
Increasingly for me, the final two stanzas of W.H. Auden’s poem, “The Garrison,” neatly encapsulate what it means to be a politically engaged Christian in all seasons. Auden writes:
Whoever rules, our duty to the City
Is loyal opposition, never greening
For the big money, never neighing after
A public image.
Let us leave rebellions to the choleric
Who enjoy them: to serve as a paradigm
Now of what a plausible Future might be
Is what we're here for.
Our duty to “the city”—the place of our political belonging and civic obligation—is not profit or fame but loyal opposition. Our purpose is not to seek access or influence for its own sake but to express our opposition, loyally. We are not here to be rebellious for the sake of rebelliousness. Others can fill that role. Rather, we are to serve as a paradigm, a model, a foretaste of what a plausible future might be. Our purpose is to demonstrate what life might be like if only guided by different standards—those set by God.
Repeatedly the world rejects these standards. As such, our opposition must be clear. Loyally, yes, but opposed nonetheless.
Each Sunday in worship, Christians pray for the coming of God’s kingdom—for that time and place in which God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. This is not some pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by prayer pining for a reality we will only know after this life. This is praying for God to interrupt the present with the reality that will be, and for us to be participants in the process by which this interruption occurs.
The fact that we may say the Lord’s Prayer in a rote and even perfunctory manner does not drain this prayer of its power to reorient us in our present reality and circumstance. If you pray for the coming of God’s kingdom and think, even for just one moment, what that means, your life is no longer bound and determined by the powers and principalities in this world. Rather, your life is liberated and guided by the powers and purposes of the world that is to come.
Be opposed, loyally. Be opposed to the plans and purposes of Democrats and Republicans, loyally. If you are a member of one of these political tribes, or another, or a member of no party at all, be opposed, loyally. As a Christian, how can you be anything but? Do the Democratic or Republican party platforms or party leadership fully and faithfully represent the aims and claims of Christ and his kingdom; are they rooted in and reflective of the fruits of the spirt—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? Of course not.
No party platform or political leader will adequately embody the precepts and principles of Christ. As Christian citizens, we must be among those who call whatever party or political movement we are part of to the higher standard of God’s love, justice and mercy. Be engaged. Be involved. Be one who improves the political association of which you are a member. At the same time, be loyally opposed whenever those associations fall short of call and claim of Christ.
Curtis Ramsey-Lucas is editor of The Christian Citizen, a publication of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.