grace may yet make us traitors.

Most people of faith (in North America) read every line about everything that matters through the prism of conservative/liberal politics...just like everybody else. These are not theological categories, and I get tired of trying to tread softly around them.

But just this once, let me speak to them directly: the trouble with liberalism, classically defined, is the attempt to get at a just and good end (addressing issues of economic injustice, poverty, and inequality) without a clear spiritual center. It is the great mistake people make, for example, in how they use the teaching of Martin Luther King. Without King's explicit theological framework, King's vision of the beloved community is literally impossible. The kind of world King and other prophets of our time have envisioned, in which there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, is made possible "in Christ." Without the king, and the thoroughgoing transformation that the Spirit of God makes possible, such a community is simply unattainable. Attempts then to extract ideals from this vision of beloved community without a robust spiritual center are destined to fail, and they always do.

On the other hand, contemporary conservative politics often borrow the language of Christian religion explicitly, almost wholesale--and even cite Jesus as the king, without any understanding of the character of the kingdom he founded. Instead of extracting political ends of justice, peace and equality, conservatives attempt to extract some kind of moral system-a kingdom that likewise does not require the king in order to work. This is especially foolhardy, as the gospel not only does not contain a "moral system"--it fundamentally opposes and overthrows moral systems with the radical message of grace. This deception may be more dangerous than the former, precisely because it explicitly co-opts the language of the Church...thus making it even more likely to become idolatrous. The conservative folk religion we have created, unlike its liberal counterpart, uses Christian language but utterly rejects the radical self-sacrificial, enemy love of the cross. The religion of the powerless in the hands of the powerful becomes another religion altogether.

And so finally, the people of God are restless. They are intuitively suspect of liberal ideals that have no soul, and conservative ideals that have no cross. They are disenchanted, disillusioned, and disoriented with the options they have been given. And this is great grace. Where the words of the commentators fall flat, the world becomes hungry for the voice of prophets once again. In the cracks, space is developing for the voice that is altogether Other--the voice that will not be co-opted for the sake of the needs of any particular nation-state.

Where right and left are committed to the welfare of the people of a nation, perhaps the time has come again for people who pledge their allegiance to another kingdom. Over against the voices that are committed to build a better America, there are yet people who crave the peculiar treason of cross-shaped love. In being unlike the world, the Church may yet become a people truly for the world, once again.

Grace may yet make us traitors, to nearly everyone but God.