I thought it was a joke when a pastor at a church I attended said that he was starting a “God and Guns Club.” When he announced it from the pulpit during Sunday morning worship, many in the congregation laughed. This was the same pastor who declared his plan to take over Maine’s Fort Knox, a granite fortress on the Penobscot River, should the church ever need to defend itself against a hostile government.
Defend itself? Was he crazy? Although I shared my concerns with the pastor, I attributed his offhanded remarks to swagger. He was, after all, a former Marine. Surely, he couldn’t be serious. And no one else in the audience seemed alarmed, so why should I be?
This month’s events at the Capitol provide a chilling answer. While it would be a mistake to blame people of faith for the actions of an unruly mob, some gathered outside the Capitol that day carried crosses and waved flags with Christian messages. Many surely came to pray, but using religious symbols to support a political cause raises alarms.
When I read the Bible, I find a message of hope built around a spiritual kingdom, not a political one. Scripture clearly states that we are to pray for all people – including those in government. Why? Not so that we can rule the world and bend political powers to our will, but so that “we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity” (I Timothy 2:2 NLT).
If anyone had a right to revolt against a godless government, it was Jesus. Born during the Roman occupation of Israel, he and other first century Jews were treated as second-class citizens in their own land. Yet, instead of trying to overthrow Israel’s oppressors, Jesus went out of his way to heal a Roman officer’s slave (Luke 7:1-10).
When Jesus began preaching, it was to establish his Father’s kingdom, not his own. Shortly after choosing his disciples, Jesus “began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). This kingdom, which is open to everyone, represents the rule of righteousness – or God’s grace and governance – on the earth. It is a kingdom where the poor and marginalized receive justice. Where people are set free from sin and selfishness. Where disease and death are destroyed. And where all of creation is ultimately restored.
No matter which political party we choose, it is essential for followers of Christ to remember that we are first and foremost called to represent this kingdom. For some, that call includes working toward peace through political service. But today, as we mark the inauguration of America’s 46th president and of the country’s first female vice-president and first vice-president of color, may we pray for those in authority. May we follow the example of the One who went out of his way to love his enemies.
And may we remember that we are all equally in need of God’s grace. “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus,” the apostle Paul wrote in I Timothy 2:5-6. “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.”
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Backward Easter Egg Hunt and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.