Since the beginning of September we have been running a worship series in our congregation called The Unelectable Jesus. In fact, this coming Sunday will be the final day of the series. Story by Gospel story we wove ourselves through the Jesus who would never be elected to public office. His ways are not our own. And because of that we both love him and are confounded by him. You don’t save anyone by being like them. Rather, you show, you demonstrate an alternative path. He surely does that.
Decision after decision, stance after stance, teaching after teaching, Jesus did exactly opposite what a present-day candidate would in order to win. Jesus was not about success or popularity or giving people what they want. He did not conform to the culture. He was not owned by people of power. He was not beholden to a base. To the contrary, he dished out a transforming vision of the reign of God that transcends any of our limited views.
It’s clear that Jesus was not a donkey nor an elephant. He wasn’t green, libertarian or tea party. He was none of those. And God’s realm doesn’t conform to our politics; it stands as judge of them.
In this election the rhetoric has been centered around jobs and the role of government, taxes and what makes for a just society, foreign policy and leadership. Those are important, especially as regards our social commonweal. But very little of what has been discussed reflects the core Biblical preoccupations – in terms of the doing the good, standing for justice, healing, building community, and compassion to the powerlessness. Most of the time the moral agenda is shrunk to two issues – abortion and gay marriage – as though those are the only or most important Biblical foci. At our worst the repeating narratives are driven by self-centered interests: what I can get for my benefit. At times we sound like spoiled, selfish brats, dismissive of how what benefits us will harm others. The moral edge of that knife is dull.
Instead of a that – a sharp moral edge – we hear, over and over we hear, false witness born against the neighbor, the opposition. We witness, over and over, attacks, lies and deception. And it is strangely believed that the more you tell an untruth the more it will magically change to become the truth.
I know, every four years we have the equivalent of collective emotional vomiting. It spews all over everyone. Some glory in it. I do not. The big money, lust for power and deception is disheartening. I feel like taking a long shower after it’s all over, like we’ve been tainted. Please pass the soap.
What this lacks is virtue. But when people evidence virtue they are destroyed for it, actions and words twisted. And what this also lacks is what we are now always lacking in our republic – a center, a center that is respected. We have to stop talking about the unwillingness to compromise. A viable center may not save us (only righteous people acting righteously can), but it would be a beginning.
This is why Jesus is unelectable. It is also why anyone who follows him – swims against the cultural current, takes unpopular positions, speaks truth to power – will also be dismissed. But it’s worth it. You know those public officials who have taken the hard stand, made the vote in order to do the right thing, knowing all along they would lose their seat over it. But they did it anyway. They did it anyway because they had character. And at this time, like every time, it is the unelectable prophet who is needed most, standing as a bellwether, a corrective, bringing the view from thirty thousand feet, willing to lose in order to give.
That’s who we follow. He is unelectable. And he has my vote every time.