Political Imagination

Nov 23, 2016

Most of us are just looking forward with relief as we put this election behind us.

There are some good things that can come from election year. When distractions and insults don’t hijack the headlines, campaign season gets people talking about stuff that affects our neighbors near and far“ how we welcome immigrants, how we can decrease gun violence, mass incarceration and the death penalty, policies that can protect our most vulnerable people.

We need to engage, rather than disengage. After all, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the real stuff of his world“ day laborers and unjust judges, widows and orphans, strangers and immigrants, abused women and exploited workers, redistribution of wealth and reconciliation with enemies. So the real question is not do we engage? but how do we engage?

But there is also a temptation to misplace our hope, to put our hope in something other than Jesus – in a candidate or a party. Some Christians end up thinking and talking more about Donald or Hillary than they do Jesus. And if we aren’t careful, we can become convinced one of them is really our messianic hope in the world. One need only imagine how this election season would have been different if every Christian were more committed to Jesus than to their favorite candidate.

One of the most striking things about the early Christians is their political imagination. Here’s how they are described in the book of Acts in the New Testament: These people who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here. … They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus!(Acts 17:6-7).

In a world where pledging allegiance to Rome meant declaring Caesar is Lord, substituting Jesus for Caesar offered a new political orientation. Every time the early Christians proclaimed Jesus is Lord,” they were also saying Caesar is not. It was deeply and subversively political. It was just as strange to say Jesus is my Lord 2,000 years ago as it would be to declare him Commander in Chief today. It was an invitation to a new political imagination centered around the person, teaching, and peculiar politics of Christ.

This political orientation invites every political leader and worldly power to conform to the norms of the upside-down Kingdom of God where the poor are blessed, the last come first, the hungry are filled, and the mighty are cast down from their thrones. It means aligning ourselves with the prophets who speak of beating our weapons into farm tools, rather than conforming to the patterns of violence and the business of war.

The early Christians were accused of treason, insurrection, undermining the authority of Rome. They were called atheists because they had lost all hope in the religion of Rome’s imperial deities, they no longer had faith in the powers that be. They were declaring another emperor, one named Jesus.

When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, he used the word Empire.” And the empire he spoke about was not just something we hope for when we die. It was something we are to bring on earth as it is in heaven. It was about bringing God’s reign to earth.

So we are indeed hopeful people, not because we have found a candidate that fulfills our deepest hopes“ but because we have learned how to hope differently. Our hope does not lie in Donald or Hillary, or even America. As the old hymn goes: Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus all other ground is sinking sand. And there is a lot of sinking sand these days.

Joining the politics of Jesus is about joining God’s redemptive plan to save the world. It is about allegiance, hope, and a new Kingdom.

It’s too simplistic to think the only way we have a voice is when we vote. Let us refuse to limit our influence to one day every four years on Election Day. For those of us who follow Christ, we vote every day. We vote with our lives. We vote with our budgets. We vote with our voices.

What’s just as important as how we vote on November 8 is how we live on November 7 and November 9 and every other day of our lives. Every day is a day to vote, to de-vote our selves to bringing the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

And for Christians, we know very well that no President is going to be perfect. No matter who we elect in November, we’re probably going to end up protesting in January.

Voting for a new President may be little more than damage control. For Presidents and Caesars do not save the world. We’ve already found our Savior. whose name is not Donald or Hillary or Bernie. His name is Jesus.

Enough donkeys and elephants. Long live the Lamb!

– Shane Claiborne


Congrats to a Grad!

Did you know that The Simple Way offers an opportunity for young people connected to our community to attend and excel in college? Appropriately called Simple Way Scholars, in partnership with Eastern University, we equip students for their undergraduate journey by...

A Prayer for this Significant Week

As you may know, this week holds special significance for three major world religions: It’s Holy Week, in which the Christian tradition commemorates Jesus’ death and celebrates his resurrection three days later.  Good Friday also marks the start of the Jewish festival...

Places of Beauty, Places of Terror

As we mentioned on our social media channels this last week, we hold the tension of the both/and on a regular basis. Is it ever the same for you? Our neighborhood is a place of beauty, that much is true, but it can also be a place of terror. In an essay by Dr. Bill...

More to the Story

The scene is often the same: Fast-food joints dot every corner. Corner stores boast an abundance of “just add water” meals, junk food, alcoholic beverages and soda pop. With nary a piece of fruit or vegetable in sight, poor, urban areas like our own often lack viable...

Why Jobs Without Livable Wages Still Aren’t Enough

Poverty is a vicious cycle. In our neighborhood, 9.3% of Kensington residents are unemployed - this in comparison to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, with overall unemployment rates of 7.5% and 4.5% respectively. It’s easy to imagine how those who are experiencing...

What does it mean to be hungry?

Many of us don’t know what it means to be hungry. We don’t have to think twice about stocking our pantries, ordering online grocery delivery, or even indulging in the occasional take-out meal once or twice a week. We plan out our dinners, one or two weeks ahead of...

Our neighborhood is not a monolith

As you may have seen on social media last week, in 2021, 7,741 adults, 1,604 seniors, and 5,171 children were served through our food distribution efforts. In total, we shared 279,390 pounds of food with our neighbors. The reality is that our neighborhood is not...

When Hospitality & Space Intertwine

As you may have read in our newsletter earlier this week, as followers of Jesus, we feel called to practice hospitality. At The Simple Way, we’ve gone as far as to include Radical Hospitality as one of our core values. Hospitality is defined as taking care of your...

Honoring Our Elders with a Food Pantry Day

It’s been just over one month since we opened a Food Choice Pantry day just for Seniors! Due to the pandemic, we’ve only been able to welcome a few neighbors into the food choice pantry at a time. This limit has meant people sometimes have to wait. Over the summer, we...

The Simple Way Scholars Alumnus – Hector Davila Jr.

I’m a people-oriented person. I’ve always loved being a part of a community and building long-lasting relationships. I love hearing stories from other people and what they’ve been through. My philosophy in life is that everyone has a story to share, and each story is...