A beautiful wind is blowing through the body of Christ in our country right now even as American Christianity seems to be split between a side that’s in decline and a side that is intoxicated with its surging political power. Many Christians have grown disgusted with the partisanship and the culture wars that have intensified over the past several decades. And we decided to do something about it. I wanted to share with you a vision that developed at our church for a campaign called “Jesus Is My Candidate” and an even cooler idea that I just discovered called “Election Day Communion.”
We were going to steer clear of politics this fall at Burke United Methodist Church, since we have a beautifully “purple” church where progressive liberals and Tea Party activists worship and serve together. It’s an oasis away from the outside world where each of us has had to de-friend facebook friends we have loved for years because they’ve been infected by the poison of dehumanizing partisanship. But we decided that instead of backing away from the ugliness in our culture, we would face it head on. So we came up with the title “Jesus Is My Candidate: I vote for Him every day” and decided to put our focus on four campaign “slogans” that describe what Jesus does for His people: He represents us, He brings people together, He tells the truth, He gives us a vision. We tried our best to avoid any discourse that could be misinterpreted as covertly partisan. We put out campaign buttons, signs, and t-shirt order forms in order to challenge our congregation to make Jesus their candidate and vote for Him every day.
The concept of “Jesus Is My Candidate” is not to discourage principled voting and political activism, but rather to challenge Christians not to lose our humanity to the intoxicating culture of outrage with its never-ending arguments, dubious accusations, and conspiracy theories. When we call Jesus our “candidate,” we’re calling upon ourselves as His “surrogates” not to go “off message” and make Him look ugly. “Voting” for Jesus is engaging in the daily spiritual practices that keep us from turning into people who think they can behave like drunk hockey fans as long as they’re cheering for Team Jesus.
As part of the sermon series, we created a website www.jesusismycandidate.com so that we could put up campaign signs around our neighborhood promoting something bigger than our church. We put links to a few articles encouraging Christians to be prayerful and rise above the acrimony of the political season. Then I proposed an idea to get on twitter at 9 pm EST each evening until Election Day and send messages about Jesus with #JesusIsMyCandidate as a hashtag. The first night we were surprised at how easy it was to “trend” on twitter with just a dozen or so people from one church. People from other regions wrote in with their own #JesusIsMyCandidate, so it must have made it farther than local. The momentum seemed like it was building. On the third night, we trended worldwide and received this tweet from Japan.
But then the momentum fizzled as it inevitably would in a social media “movement” so completely disembodied. I personally got overly intoxicated with the hype and said some brash things that turned off friends and fellow pastors (or else they just had real lives they had to attend to). I’m still trying to work through the paranormal spiritual dimensions that accompanied the excitement of last week, but anyhow, our nightly campaign numbers dwindled and we didn’t trend again. This morning, I felt ready to get back to the real world and make peace with “Jesus Is My Candidate” being a catchy sermon series title. But then I saw a simple, beautiful idea that was better than the one I had.
It’s called Election Day Communion. Their twitter handle is @edaycommunion. The goal is for as many churches as possible throughout the country to hold simple communion services in order to “remember our sin and our need to repent,” “remember that the only Christian nation in this world is the Church,” and “re-member the body of Christ as the body of Christ, confessing the ways in which partisan politics has separated us from one another and from God.” Imagine if churches in every town in America did this in order to remind ourselves that we are more than just partisan culture warriors.
I have been telling people that Jesus’ most important task right now in America is to save this beautiful country from the overzealous narcissism of His people. So if you’re a Christian who wants for our land to be healed, please talk to your pastor about organizing a communion event at your church on Election Day. If you’re not a Christian, please be encouraged — God is helping us to put our house back in order so we can be better neighbors to you. If anyone wants to meet me on the National Mall in DC on November 6th around sunset, I’ll see you there with a loaf of bread and a bottle of grape juice. (RSVP so we can pick a rendezvous site and so I can figure out whether this is something God really wants us to do.)