A Message from Our Pastor

Basileia tou Theou is an important and nearly impossible-to-render phrase in the gospels. It’s usually translated in English as kingdom of God. More recently, it is sometimes reign of God, but both are probably too limited and/or inaccessible.

Basileia tou Theou is more event than location, more experiential than authoritative. Basileia tou Theou is unifying and diversifying, existing only moment to moment, constantly remade, just on the other side of each moment. It’s invitational, aspirational, and transformative.

And it is utterly grounded and political. There is nothing otherworldly about Basileia tou Theou. It doesn’t mean heaven, not like most Westerners picture heaven, with clouds and robes and boring music. The invitation it extends is to engage the world as it is, transforming the world as far as we are able, bending that moral arc toward justice.

If I’m honest, I get a little uncomfortable when my atheist friends hurl invectives against “the church”, or Christianity or Christians. I want to pop in and say, “#notallchristians”. But I know on a more basic level that they’re right.

Christianity has been a mixed blessing at best in the history of the world, a chaplain to empire and misogyny, heterosexism, racism, and climate devastation at worst.

This past week has reminded us that there is a strong Christian nationalist movement in this country, heavy on the nationalism. Christian nationalists have, by and large, set the agenda and the identity of Christianity for us. It’s based largely in fear, xenophobia, militarism, policing of Black and Brown bodies, misogyny, homophobia, and actively hastening climate collapse. It looks back to a nonexistent past.

So, when you and I go out into the world as people captured by the story of Jesus, we do so apologetically— “We’re Christian, but not like that.” We’ve inherited this generative and life-affirming faith, and shaped it to be even more generative, inclusive, and life-affirming. But we know that both our secular neighbors and our religious neighbors will reject that faith as not authentically Christian. We’ve got the tools to diagnose the problems of the world, but our solutions sound pie-in-the-sky and silly.

It’s made harder when the only alternative solutions presented to us are electoral politics. I’ve done a fairly good job in my life avoiding the gaze of the two main political parties in this country, so I wasn’t blessed over the weekend with the emails and texts from Democrats begging for money— $15, $7, $3— So they could fight “trump’s Supreme Court1.” Some of you probably got those pleas, and some of you probably sent money.

But it isn’t “trump’s Court.” Joe Biden moved Clarence Thomas through the confirmation process, despite credible allegations of sexual harassment, despite a history of decisions like the one he supported last week, despite better-qualified candidates. Barak Obama caved to Mitch McConnell’s blatant power grab, just like he caved on healthcare.

I’m sure that strikes some of you as unfair to well-meaning centrists.

It’s craven for Democratic politicians to ask for money when, for fifty years, they’ve done nothing to codify access to healthcare in general, and nothing specifically addressing reproductive care and choice. The Democratic party has routinely dropped the ball when it comes to progressive social policies.

Democrats have sat back and lamented the extremists appointed to courts up and down the chain, without also appointing judges and justices with as half much zeal as their Republican counterparts. They spend more time opposing their own progressive members and proposals than almost anything else, other than fundraising after tragedies.

Here’s a powerful tweet from this week that sums up the state of electoral politics. I’m sure it’s coincidental that the poster’s name is JC:

Tweet (July 2022)

The choice seems to be between active harm and hand-wringing complicity. Solutions like “Vote!” ring hollow when we’ve been voting. One person told me that this time she’ll vote harder than anyone has ever voted. She gets it.

Don’t get me wrong. I vote for the lesser of two evils all the time. Usually, they live up to my expectations: they do less evil, not active good. I vote for the crybabies with their hands out asking for money. And I know it’s a fool’s errand.

At the risk of getting all religious, I think Christians are invited into more than simply voting for liars. Yes, we need to push for legislation that protects marriage equality, reproductive rights, the environment, the marginalized, renters, low-wage workers, and children. But don’t expect politicians to save you. They won’t.

Christians are formed into a community of the holy spirit. We’re formed with people we agree with and people we disagree with, people who image the divine like we do, differently, and not at all. We’re invited into solidarity—not charity—with the world around us.

Politics go way beyond elections. Politics include protests, strikes, and breaking unjust laws. Politics include ignoring the political structures and institutional forms that usually get in the way of progress in favor of direct action.

Sometimes that direct action means plowing up your yard and planting a free community garden or marrying the person you love or sheltering undocumented refugees. It might mean transporting or hosting a person seeking reproductive care outside their own state. It might be hiding a car from being repossessed (sometimes so a person can continue to go to work in order to make those car payments). Direct action can include boycotting the top emitters of CO2.

Boycotts, strikes, and protests have to be communal; they rely on numbers.

Over the next weeks and months, I hope you’ll be on the lookout for ways you can act politically— electorally and in solidarity. I’d like to challenge you to come up with as many actionable plans as possible, even if you yourself cannot do them.

Announce it in church, post it on social media, call your friends together and use the church as a hub for solidarity and direct action. Host meetings, invite protest leaders to use our space. Be the community of the holy spirit. In that way, and only in that way, can the prayer we pray each week— that the Basileia tou Theou would appear on earth— be realized.

1 Yeah, I know I didn’t capitalize his name. It’s an active choice.