Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus:
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.
But he emptied himself
by taking the form of a slave
and by becoming like human beings.
When he found himself in the form of a human,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore, God highly honored him
and gave him a name above all names,
so that at the name of Jesus everyone
in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:5-11
Lent during an election year is an arresting spiritual journey in this country. The candidates seem to vie for who is most Christian in order to win over Christians to their camp. And I wonder, why are they not vying for who is most American instead?
After all, being a follower of Jesus means being like him, according to Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Jesus emptied himself, became a slave, and humbled himself in obedience and service to God. He would never get elected in the USA. And that is okay.
What is not okay is to pretend that Christian values are anything else but being like Jesus. Christian values are not about fighting wars, or preventing taxes, or stopping immigration. We have American values to look to for all of these: our constitution, our history, and our heroes as a nation inform our solutions to these problems. Our Christian values tell us to love our enemies when we are at war, to give what we have to care for the poor, to provide for the foreigner. Often our Christian values are at odds with American values of putting our country first, our security first, our interests first.
That is how it should be! True dialogue and insight comes when we are clear that we are Americans, and many of us are Christians, and some of us are many other religious identities or none at all. But being American and being Christian is not the same thing at all, just like being American and being Buddhist would not be the same thing at all. Our Christian values should inform our American values and they will always be in tension. If they are not chances are it’s our Christian values that are fading away into American ones. Lent is the opportune time to cull our values and straighten out which values we are following.
In the Roman empire, Paul is urging Christians to stay true to their values while intermingling with Roman values. Here is what the result of being clear about Christian values will be: “Among these people you shine like stars in the world because you hold on to the word of life.” So make the best decision you can as you vote. Just remember who you truly follow.
Let’s be shiny out there, Jesus people.