Walter Brueggemann said this at a Justice Conference some years ago. I'd add that no governmental system has ever enjoyed the blessing of the Gospel.
This country we live in has never - not for a day - resembled the Jesus story. No government has. It's not the role of government. Government's goal is not benevolence. Government always ends up being ran by the brand of men (with few exceptions I do mean men in the exclusive of women sense) who love power and accolades. At very least, they love having consequence. And so they also draw to them the false prophets. They draw the folks who know how to find the pieces of religion that support empire and tell leaders what they want to hear. When you have someone telling you that the Almighty God of the Universe agrees with what you're doing...and maybe many who are saying, "No, actually God's not on your side here..." It takes a mountainous amount of spiritual discipline and maturity to listen to the latter. And, most likely, if you've spent your life pursuing higher offices in politics, you probably haven't had the time and space to develop robust spiritual practices or maturity. If you've made it to the final round of the governmental popularity contest, most likely you've had to transgress your ethics at some point to get there. Not always, I'm sure. But very often, I am also sure.
So, I'm not here going to dive in to how broken this government has been from day one. It;s a long story. At this point, either you know it well and are convinced, or your heart is closed to it and I won't be successful in convincing you. I don't currently have the time to invest in that. If you somehow have missed your opportunity to understand that, there are many resources. A People's History of the United States of America by Howard Zinn is a possible starting point. Google could probably help out too.
But the simple truth is that we've never been a country that resembles the Kin-dom of God. Sometimes we are closer than other times. But we've never been that and I'd hazard a guess, without feeling even a little cynical, that we will never look exactly like the Kin-dom of God.
Jesus sort of ignored the Roman government. "Give them their money," he said, and then essentially "the rest is God's." Contrary to what seems to be a rising belief, he wasn't a good law abiding citizen. He followed Spirit wherever she led. And eventually, She led him to being murdered by both the government and his religious leaders. He didn't follow their rules all the time because Spirit is a wild woman - maybe a nasty woman, but far too big to fit in any pant suit or even a nation of them.
Paul was a Roman citizen. If you watch him closely, he used that when it served him and ignored it when it didn't. This is what our citizenship in earthly kingdoms (and I use the G there where I omit it with God's Kin-dom because, earthly kingdoms are certainly about kings even if we call them politicians) should look like. Use it to guide any given kingdom to look more like the Kin-dom. And ignore it when we can't.
Voting for Obama caused us to get healthcare for most. I believe investing in the health of our neighbors is a part of the kin-dom. I believed he'd lead us to more peace than the other options. I believed he'd lead us to more equality. More care for one another. More kindness. An end to state sanctioned torture. So I voted, caucused, cheered, prayed...And I knew he would not be Jesus himself leading the country. He was deeply harmful for immigrant families and for all the countries we dropped drones on. I supported him as the best option given for this kingdom; but never for a moment thought he represented the Kin-dom.
Voting for Hilary was my hope for us not to follow an overtly racist, sexist, ableist, xenophobic self-absorbed man...and keep that healthcare. Alas. Here we are. This kingdom is veering from the Kin-dom.
But I cannot expect this kingdom to be the Kin-dom. I cannot despair and give up when it does not. I cannot hang my only hope in that maybe our government will change.
Like Paul, I will use my US citizenship to hold these leaders' feet to the fire. I will protest. I will write letters and make phone calls. I will vote. I will hold a whole voting party at my house.
But I can't let this gigantic step back into shadows to cloud my vision of God's kin-dom. There is enough to share. Our hearts are wise enough to share. We can care for one another. We can stand up for one another. We can put our bodies in the way of the government harming others. We can seek environmental wellness.
A government leaning into the Kin-dom sure as heck would help! There are many things my imagination is too small to see being repaired without the aid of government. Our healthcare system is such a mess that local fundraisers can't pull people back from medical bankruptcy. It's hard to imagine that Seattle landlords are going to start saying: "Hey, I know I could charge you more, but then you can't live. So, let's just let these rental prices cool their heels." I don't see how these things turn around without the government.
But that doesn't change the fact that my primary citizenship is in God's liberating kin-dom of liberating love and justice for all people and all of the non-human world as well. No government will ever lead us there. All I can do use my citizenship to the best of my ability to participate in building a community of liberating love and justice, radical welcome, and mutual care.
Rev Dr Martin Luther King tells us "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." Attorney General Eric Holder reminds us: it only does so "because people pull it towards justice. It doesn’t happen on its own.”
Like Paul, I'll use my citizenship to pull on that arc. But the arc belongs to God. Love and justice never have found their life and breathe in the state of American politics but in the working of Spirit in diverse hearts in every corner of the world and especially in the margins.
Siblings, let's not get lost in the constant tossing sea of what outrage happened today and what we have to stop - like a cartoon ship crew plugging holes with all their fingers trying to keep a sinking ship afloat. Let's step back and remember we're not called to resist as much as to persist in doing good. We don't need the boat. Our brother Jesus, founder of the Kin-dom of liberating love and justice walks on water and calls us to do the same.