There's No Debating It

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My inner-political geek loves the current season of our political cycle. Note, I did say I love the current political climate but rather I love debate season. Ever since I watched Jed Bartlet prepare for his debates on the West Wing I have been fascinated with political debates.

While I was in college and was the leader of an on-campus political organization (a post for another day) I planned and hosted a debate among West Virginia Senate Candidates. Debates have a way of not only thinning a crowded field of candidates, but they also have the ability to pull a candidate off of their talking points and in the process revealing what the candidate really believes instead of what has tested well in the polls.

Last night the Democratic Presidential field wrapped up their two-night debate and now my inner-political geek wants to know what will happen next. Who will be the first to drop out of the race, realizing their vision for America was either not polished enough or they simply did not get their voice heard over the crowded stage. More often than not the political theatrics can take center stage, leaving policy to the pundits to speculate over when the post-debate analysis begins.

As the policy plans are presented and the Democrats (and Republicans) begin to parse out what polls well and what will work in reality, the pundits across cable news will tell candidates who are the most viable candidate to place their hopes in. The pundits will echo the words of the candidates and proclaim that their candidate is the one who will pull the party and country into a season of prosperity. Hell, President Obama ran and won with the slogan “Hope and Change.”

During the first debate, there were a few candidates who pulled the curtain back a bit revealing their faith, who they place their hopes in. And then there are conservative evangelicals who have (for better or worse) placed their hopes for prosperity for party and country in our current President. Hope for prosperity will be placed in the one whom they think can pull our nation into a season beyond anything we can imagine where all, everyone, are able to live the American dream - economic prosperity and thus a life better than the generation before.

I love the political rhetoric that comes with the debates but at the end of the day, I am a pastor and theologian which means I know hope for prosperity cannot be placed in a political party or a candidate.

During our current political cycle many are looking for the candidate who will transform the world via the US government when the TRUTH is that for Christians, both progressive and conservative, the world has already been changed. The world has already been changed by Christ who through his death and resurrection inaugurated God’s new creation, meaning that for Christians today we live as witnesses to Christ’s work instead of looking for others who will try to do that which Christ has already accomplished.

Theologian and former professor at Duke Divinity, Stanley Hauerwas puts it this way, “The Church does not have to do Christ’s work for him. The world has been saved. Its destiny doesn’t hang in the balance. The church mustn’t talk as if God were dependent on us. The Church does not make the difference. We live in the difference Christ has made.”

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We Christians all too often forget the saving work of Christ has been done and look to ourselves or those who poll well in a debate to be the savior of the current political cycle. For as long as I can remember, all the way back to Jed Barlet, politicians I have been proclaiming doom if they are not elected. While that may be closer to becoming a reality, the truth is, for Christians, the hope we seek we cannot find apart Christ. There is no candidate who, regardless of what they say on the debate stage, who can accomplish everything they promise. There is only one who has transformed the world and no matter how hard we campaign or how well we debate, the transformation we seek has already been accomplished. The hope and change we seek is present in Christ regardless of what the pundits and polls decide. 

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