A beautiful picture of Barack Obama and his elder daughter, Malia, appeared on Facebook yesterday with a caption something like, “The daughter of the first black President will cast her first vote for the first woman President.” I commented “Just in case you think we are not moving ‘in the right direction’.”
Jews and Christians look forward to a mysterious time in the future when God will establish, once and for all, something the tradition calls “The Kingdom of God.” In our more inclusive day, many are likely to refer to it as “The Realm of God” or even the “Commonwealth of God.” Let us understand these to mean the same thing.
And that “thing” is a future in which the world will finally be put to rights. When there will indeed be complete justice and everlasting peace, when the hungry will be fed and the naked clothed, when no one will take advantage of another and when sickness, pain, and even death will be no more. Jews often associate this coming blessed age with the arrival of the Messiah, Christians with what has been called “the Second Coming” of our Messiah, Jesus the Christ.
As New Testament scholar N. T. Wright reminds us often, we are not going to build the kingdom of God on our own. God will, in God’s good time, establish it. But, Wright asserts, we are to build for the kingdom of God. Get the distinction? We are not going to build the kingdom of God, but we are to build for the kingdom of God. And that means, at the very least, every effort we make here to move the world a little closer to a world which resembles that blessed future will not be lost.
When we work for justice, peace, equality, an end to poverty and disease, we foreshadow that which God will one day establish. And we give people in the here and now a glimpse of what that final Divine Commonwealth will look like.
That is where the intersection of politics and religion takes place. When Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and others cast their votes in a political season, what they should be thinking about is how closely the positions, policies, and proposals of the various candidates and parties resemble those “kingdom values” already enumerated — justice, peace, equality, healing, human flourishing and abundant life for all.
No one political candidate or political party can be identified as having a monopoly on those values. But, as people of faith, it is our responsibility to compare their positions and platforms with the qualities of God’s Reign.
And, to vote accordingly.