“My politics are not of this world.”
It all began when I turned my knob from FM to AM on my radio dial. I was about 19 years old and had discovered the new world of talk radio. It began with non-stop sermons on a Christian station nurturing my new hunger for Bible teaching. Before long I was also drinking in my daily dose of conservative political talk as well. I was hooked.
After graduating from college in 2002, I packed up my Chevy Monte Carlo and drove west to California to begin my seminary studies. The dust of the toppled Twin Towers was still settling, America was sending troops into Iraq, and the long hunt for Bin Laden was in its early stages. I was far from all my family and friends, homesick and lonely. I found companions on the AM dial.
I essentially lived in my car for that semester. I didn’t sleep there (I don’t fit!), but I drove around the beaches and suburban hills of San Diego for hours with my new closest friends: the various radio personalities who were helping me make sense of the world. They did not shy away from telling me how best to think about the macro issues of the George W. Bush era. It all made sense. I drank the Kool-Aid. It was comforting to have a compass in the cultural storm.
Then I started classes that fall at Bethel Seminary West (San Diego), and stumbled onto a couple books that brought another fresh, alluring yet strangely odd voice into the mix.
I didn’t invite him; he stuck his nose where I didn’t think it belonged at the time. It was the voice of One who had been relegated to merely “spiritual” or “otherworldly” topics in my experience. It was a voice One whose teachings, I had concluded, were mainly concerned with helping people get to Heaven when they died.
But these books I was devouring in an old green chair in the musty attic room I was renting in Lemon Grove, CA, were suggesting that this Voice, Jesus of Nazareth, also had some opinions on social and political issues. (The books were Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony by Will Willimon & Stanley Hauerwas, and The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder. I also read Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy in that old green chair—inviting me to consider Jesus as master teacher and authority on all subjects of life.)
Frustratingly, Jesus’ views didn’t fit neatly into the neat Right and Left, Red and Blue boxes I was learning to sort all the world’s complex issues into. Jesus began poking holes in the still wet cement of my fresh political edifice.
It’s 14 years later, and I’m still recovering. I’m still learning how to “sort” things into his Kingdom categories over and against the black and white, Left-Right options we’re fed daily.
My semester in San Diego was the beginning of my quiet, secret pilgrimage toward figuring out how to be faithful to the politics of Jesus while remaining a responsible, engaged American citizen. I have been hesitant to share this part of my journey. These San Diego tremors would lead to a larger earthquake soon after I returned to Minnesota in 2003. I’ll share the details of that earthquake this Wednesday at Three Taverns when I go public and share the full story of my pilgrimage toward Kingdom politics. Join us!
I promise two things: 1) The topic will not be boring (it is religion & politics at the table!), and 2) I will not be pushing a Right or Left political agenda. This will be my story—which is quite hilarious at times.