It occured to me that this reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans might help us with the American election. At this week’s Republican convention one of the president’s supporters said: “This election is about whether you want Church, Work and School or Riots, Violence and Disorder. What I found interesting about this was not the extreme exaggeration or questionable truthfulness of the effect of voting for Joe Biden but the Republicans positioning themselves with the ultra conservative, solid core ideas of church, school and work when only the week before at the democratic convention their delegates had explained that a vote for them was a vote away from extreme change and a return to normal. Both candidates I believe have laid claim to Christian credentials which are aligned with …….
Well, there is the question, what should today’s Christian be modelling? Paul begins his instructions, and they are after all expressed as imperatives, with things that are easy to agree with: Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, love one another with mutual affection, rejoice in hope and more but soon the messages get harder if not hardest. Bless those who persecute you, do not curse them, if your enemies are hungry feed them.
It is worth, I suggest, remembering who Paul was at the beginning of the book of Acts:
“Then they dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. And Saul approved of their killing him. And a few lines later to emphasis his character we read: “meanwhile, Saul still breathing threats and murder agianst the disciples of the Lord, “
What a change has been wrought in this young man. He of all people may have been the least expected to advocate nourishment, fondness and blessing for his enemies. Paul’s manifesto is completely changed and not even to a pre-existing one. Early Roman writers commenting on the Chritians are all amazed at and praised the way they “loved one another and cared for the poor, the destitute and the widows.” Paul’s and the Christian manifesto was changed to a radically new one unknown in Roman times.
And surely this is what we need; it will not be enough to return to the doctrines of national self interest which have been ever present until now. I do not want to go back to a normalcy or to a sentimental nostalgia for a past that never really existed. If we have learned anything over the past few months it is I suggest that our systems of international cooperation do not work. As a world people we have failed.
Back to Paul: “Live in harmony with one another, do not claim to be wiser than you are, extend hospitality to strangers, do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
Imagine, that we, and here I am talking about nation states, had been living to this agenda, how different would the last eight months have been?
In this light the manifestos of the presidential hopefuls and certainly the manifestos of Christian leaders need to be radical.