The Banner of the Cross: How God’s Love Transcends our Political Games

27 Aug

Render unto Ceasar by Peter Paul Rubens

Render unto Ceasar by Peter Paul Rubens


Very soon, the leaves will fall, the temperature will ease, and a new season will be here. Unfortunately, we will not only experience the cold of the autumn morning but also the usual chill of the divisive and polarizing atmosphere that is the election season. Every year we are told that “this is the most important election of your life!” It is a statement with the usual hyperbole and is a predictably dire, dramatic plea for your vote. It is assumed that your vote, if not for the “right” candidate, will somehow result in the end of human civilization. Christians will, no doubt, tell you which party Jesus MUST belong to and which party, therefore, you must belong to as well.

This is an attitude that tears at the Christian unity that Jesus so desperately prays for before his crucifixion. We find in John’s Gospel that he prays for his disciples who “do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world,” in order that “they may all be one” (Jn. 17:16, 21). It is an ugly fact that one often sees at election time Christians fighting one another in order to convince each other who the “real” and “true” Christian ought to vote for. This attitude reduces the transcendent message of Jesus into a petty battle over who has the right politics and policies. Who cares about Jesus, then, when you’re on the correct side of the political divide?

This is not, however, the example of Christ. His closest followers, those whom he chose as his personal disciples, contained both Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. The gulf between their political positions was far more violent and extreme than today’s liberals and conservatives. Yet, Jesus called them not to some greater political message, but rather to a new way of thinking about how we relate to those in the world. The law of love, which crosses all political and social boundaries, is meant to unite all persons under the banner of God’s beautiful love for humanity and not the flag of a particular political party.

Why, then, do we have to choose between two parties or two ideologies? Why are we so compelled by the media and by the fabric of our social structures to fall into one category or the other? Doesn’t Jesus ask us to transcend these flimsy and lifeless political options and to transform the entire binary itself? Doesn’t the life of love and the entire vision of the cross ask us to care more fundamentally about how we relate to God and neighbor in our daily lives? Doesn’t Jesus offer us a new way to think about our engagement with the world? I pray this election season that we may look at Jesus and see not the political battles that swirl about his name but rather the banner of the cross which waves above it all, signaling a new way to change the world.



– Tim DeCelle

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2 Responses to “The Banner of the Cross: How God’s Love Transcends our Political Games”

  1. Shirley Sinko August 27, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Jesus was never for abortion….or any kind of killing the helpless……when political parties get involved here it seems like we don’t have much choice if we believe in His message….We also have a responsibility to follow the teachings of the church….especially in this matter….

    • Tim DeCelle August 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

      Dear Shirley,

      You have raised a good question, and I appreciate you voicing your concerns over this one particular issue. Although I agree with your general statement about the pro-life position, I’m not sure that this is sufficient cause to vote for one particular party. Note that my article was about why we ought not to perceive our world through either one particular political lens or another, and not as much about how particular issues ought to be weighed for our individual choosing for whom we vote. I will leave the latter for a different discussion and a different time.

      It does seem, however, that the pro-life movement has been co-opted into a larger political ideology, one which has appeared as the only legitimate political option for some pro-lifers.

      But why do we have to choose this one option just because it is the most well-funded and well-known? And why do we have to believe everything that this ideology entails just because it agrees with a pro-life position?

      We are brought then to more specific questions:
      1. Does electing politicians whose platform is pro-life necessarily entail that they will be able to change the legal status of abortion? I am skeptical of this, though open to hearing the arguments.
      2. Doesn’t the fact that we see this issue primarily in terms of political engagement remove our personal and individual responsibility for promoting a pro-life culture? Why rely on ineffective politicians when it should be our responsibility to help others understand the reasons for the pro-life position in the first place?

      I’ve often wondered why we care so much about our individual political choosing. Does our infatuation with our own positions create an “if only” mentality, one which asks, “if only we had the right elected officials, then our country would be more perfect, just, and peaceful”? Isn’t it the Christian’s responsibility to create such a world by being those exact virtues?

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