A handful of bizarre things happened when sin entered the world. Sure, we can start at the talking snake and the unwise decisions that followed. But I want to start at the place where Adam and Eve walked around the Garden of Eden with God. Hanging leaves brushed the shoulders of their creator and the ground felt the bare feet of mankind and womankind. Man and woman were both unclothed and unashamed. There was no one else to introduce shame or fear, only God who walked beside them.
But then the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was approached … and we all know how that went. Adam and Eve are thrust into this sudden shift in perspective and recognize that they’re naked … and they should feel ashamed for it. Then, out of fear, they hide from God. They know something is wrong, but it cannot be pinpointed. All God is concerned about comes out in one question: “Who told you that you were naked?”
When I say that this election season has weighed heavily on me, I doubt that I would be alone in my statement. Whether we proclaim a certain religion or not, we may have all felt a small tinge of fear creep into our bones when we think about what’s happening around us. Whether it is the very real, deeply painful, systemic racism, another elementary school shooting or an extremist group attacking others, we bear witness to these tragedies in real time. So, I cannot help but to think about the savior we hope to have; a tangible savior we want to blanket us in safety.
I also cannot help but to see politicians so easily became enmeshed in this notion of a savior. When our reality feels catastrophic, we all crave a hero. To protect our lands. To protect our bank accounts. To protect our gun rights. On and on.
But I’m starting to believe it’s because we know we’re naked. We know the taste of fear and what it means to feel completely and utterly afraid of the unknowably uncontrollable.
This cure-all that is being sold to each and every one of us won’t do, though. As a follower of Jesus, I find myself holding out my two hands in disbelief. One that feels desperation for Jesus to come back and to fix it all. Another hand is reaching out seeking justice with some version of righteous anger. I find I can’t grasp onto anything. It’s a betrayal that has been felt for centuries, I’m sure of it. When Jesus chose the cross over the podium (even after being offered the whole world), I think an earthquake of frustration shook the city.
In both of Greg Boyd’s books The Myth Of A Christian Nation and The Myth Of A Christian Religion, he takes the time to deconstruct Christianity and America’s version of Jesus. He finds a way to pop the bubble of the holy huddle we can so easily find ourselves in, and turns the idea of Moral Majority or “One Nation Under God” on its head. In one example, Boyd peels back the layers of abortion. He poignantly calls us deeper into the issue by first assuming we do use our right to vote and second, asking, “Is it more efficient to work to outlaw abortion outright, or is it better to minimize abortion by, say, voting for the candidate and party you think will best help the poor, since there is a demonstrable link between the rate of poverty and the rate of abortion in the U.S.?” (In my own research, I found that, women who live below the poverty line, are five times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy.)
Boyd flipped the script. He called to mind the life of Jesus and how he paid little attention to the political powers that be. Instead, he always spent his energies tending to the poor and social outcasts. You know, the women who would most likely have abortions. Jesus tended to the Spirit within him — God — lived from that perspective at all times. And I think this is what I’m figuring out now.
The world is always going to be a little screwed up. But that’s because it’s not my home — it’s not supposed to be my home. Even looking to those like The White Helmets, it is so apparent that life, despite its circumstances, is meant to be lived in a “power under” position — a life spent in servitude and forgiveness — and not in some hungry, “power over” position. In my desire to “power over,” I approach The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil whenever I assume I have more power and authority than God; whenever I think I know better since I live in the here and now. It is so easy to do.
While voting is one way I can hope to make change for the here and now, that act neither feeds the hungry, befriends my African American, Muslim, or refugee neighbor nor sits with the lonely-hearted. Voting merely guarantees that I get to keep a few (important) rights here and there. However, it costs me little. I quote Boyd again when I say that the kingdom approach costs us much. Jesus took his last breath on a cross from this approach.
Even now, I can feel my own nakedness — the weight of my own sin in believing my frustration towards one political party or another would or could truly fix everything. Certainly, the bigotry, sexism, racism, xenophobic and homophobic platforms some sell themselves from is never going to be OK and was never supposed to be OK. But what can I expect from such a broken system?
God knows and sees our fearfulness, especially during these times. And I think there is a very real gap that we can boldly lean into right now. All while he’s still lovingly asking, “Who told you that you were naked?”
“The distinctly kingdom question is not, How should we vote?
The distinctly kingdom question is, How should we live?”
– Greg Boyd