Election Day Part II: "The King is Dead -- Long Live the King!" Toward a Politics of Resurrection Amid Democratic Despair
The universe is a monarchy. With that much, I hope, all Christians can agree. Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Cyril of Alexandria—recognized as a saint by both Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics--wrote that “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but by His essence and nature.” One hears echoes of this in the words of Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper, who many centuries later said that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"
We would also, I suspect, all agree that Man is made in the image and likeness of God. This is, I believe, both an ontological statement and a teleological statement: we are called to become more like what we were made to be. That is to say, if we are to answer questions such as “who is Man?” or “how should Man live in the world”, we can only do so well if we draw upon our knowledge of the Most High God and His interactions with mankind. Who we are, and how we act, ought to flow from our desire to be more conformed to Christ’s image.
God is King, and we are made in the image of likeness of God—and I cannot help but think that this is both an individual and a social calling. We cannot reflect God’s image by ourselves, but must do it towards and with our neighbors. That is, being the imago Dei is what the human race as a whole is called to do, as families, as nations, as a species.
It would seem, then, that monarchy is a more ideal form of government if we wish our political systems to be a reflection of truth and a prophetic announcement about mankind’s ultimate destiny.
Indeed, I think even our hearts lend support to this: how many modern Americans do you know that woke up early a few years ago to see the Royal Wedding on TV, or that “like” pictures of Prince George on Facebook? Who among us didn’t thrill when, watching The Lord of the Rings movies for the first time, we saw Aragorn crowned as King of Gondor? Who of us can read about the children being crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia in C.S. Lewis’ novels, and not feel a bit of the Edenic calling being revived, as though it’s not the children on those thrones, but all of us up there fulfilling our original destiny as lords over Creation? We are drawn to these things despite a lifetime of conditioning to believe in the democratic process… Could it not be because He has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and we realize, if even subconsciously, that we are called to be a part of a Kingdom?
Indeed, I have to confess to feeling a certain amount of melancholy every time Election Day comes up on the calendar. Part of that, I must admit, is a certain amount of nerdy historical sentimentality for the likes of Blessed Karl of Austria or St. Louis of France… But the greater part of that is a feeling of mistrust towards modern democracies: our current political system simply doesn’t reflect the truth about the universe or about Man’s ultimate destiny. It does not fulfill our calling to be an ikon (to use the Eastern word) of King Jesus in the world.
Right and wrong, good and evil, are not decided by a majority vote. Yet this is precisely what Western democracies have taken upon themselves to do. Far from being a mere check against the excesses of the post-Westphalian monarchs of Europe, democracy has become a reordering of the moral universe. We don’t vote out officials who have failed at their duties, as the Founding Fathers had hoped, we vote out officials who won’t approve of and pay for our sins.
Correlation is not causation, but I can’t help but see this as an historical inevitability for democracy: when once we abandon our calling to be the image of God in the political realm, to be His ikon in the way we govern, we aren’t far from abandoning our calling to be the imago Dei in every realm of life. Remember that the century after the blood of Louis XVI was shed in Paris, Nietzsche was declaring that God is dead. The next century after that, we were voting for the death of Man. We’ve voted for abortion, for war, for the atomic bomb, for physician-assisted suicide, for greater freedom to take harmful substance.
Though it’s sad to admit, the rise of Democracy in the world has corresponded with a rise in the culture of death… So how’s a good Christian boy supposed to behave on Election Day? How are we to participate in the system of government into which we’ve been born, knowing what we know about God and Man?
We must first remember this: the kings of the world are mostly dead now, but the King of the universe is still on His throne. Although he was executed too, He has risen from the dead!
I believe that we are called to a politics of Resurrection. That is to say, I believe we need to be a People who go to the ballot box not with expectations of change or fixing things, or of trying to assemble a moral majority (he who is with God is already in the majority), or of trying to get one party out and another party in (how many times have Christians been burned by that strategy in the last 40 years?), but rather as a People who use their votes (as best as humanly possible) to reflect the truth that the King is alive and sits on His eternal throne.
In other words: I do not want you to vote, brethren, as the pagans do, as those who have no hope. While the culture of death has prevailed frequently at the ballot box, we can cast votes as witnesses to the Resurrection. That is to say, we vote for Life. We vote for Peace. We vote for Justice. Not because Man has deserved these things, nor because we expect to fix the world this side of Glory, but because Man the Ikon is called to them.
The days of righteous kings are probably gone forever. Since it is unlikely that we will see a David or an Arthur reign in our day, we will frequently have to settle for candidates and ballot-measures that leave much to be desired. Sin and death have marred the world, and there will be times when we have to pray and discern very, very carefully how we are called to vote. And yet when we go to the ballot box with hope—not for today, but for that Day—we will fulfill our calling to be ikons of Christ’s Resurrection in a world that thinks that somehow God has lost His reelection campaign. The kings of this world are dead. Long live the King—in our hearts, in our minds, and in the way we vote.
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