Dear Parish Faithful and Friends in Christ,
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (MATT. 22:21)
The 2012 presidential election is now over, and President Barak Obama has been re-elected, creating a sense of satisfaction, joy and post-election euphoria for over 59,000,000 million US citizens; while Mitt Romney’s defeat has created a sense of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and post-election blues for over 57,000,000 million US citizens. No other event in our country’s shared political and social life involves so many people focusing their attention and passion on that singular event as does the presidential election every four years. Given the emotional and intense partisanship created by the presidential election, we thank God that the process remains orderly and peaceful, and that the results are accepted without overt expressions of civil unrest – something that remains a real threat in other countries throughout the world. Life goes on. At that level the democratic process is highly successful. (However, I read that as many as 23% of population claimed that the election adversely affected inter-family relationships. Hopefully, those relationships will heal with time). If anyone has awakened with a post-election “hangover” further irritated by disappointment or even anger, I would suggest following the gracious lead of Mitt Romney, who said in his concession speech that he would pray for president Obama’s success for the sake of the country. We do this, of course, in every major liturgical service within the Church when we offer the following prayerful petition to God: “For the president of our country, for all civil authorities, and for the armed forces, let us pray to the Lord.” We need every president – despite the litany of unrealizable promises that we hear - to succeed at some level regardless of our political party loyalties. We all co-exist in the same country, regardless of ideological or party differences. And we all want a promising future for our children and grandchildren – though we live with the knowledge that nothing is guaranteed.
In the New Testament there do exist passages that display a positive assessment of the civil authorities, beginning with the well-known words of the Apostle Paul: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (ROM. 13:1) Elsewhere, we read in one of St. Paul’s pastoral epistles: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I TIM. 2:1-4) Yet, the words of Christ cited above make it clear that “Caesar’s” authority is limited to the political sphere of our lives, pervasive as that may seem to be at times. Ever since Aristotle, at least, there is a deeply-entrenched belief that we, as human beings, are best defined as being a “political animal.” There is no denying that that is true to a certain extent, but it fails to account for us as spiritual beings who have received the “breath of life” from God, making each and every one of us “a living being.” (GEN. 2:7) In that sense, Caesar cannot touch the “things that are God’s” – our soul, our conscience, our heart and our relationship with and ultimate loyalty to God. In fact, the teaching of Christ leaves room for peaceful civil disobedience, when the “things of God” clash with the “things of Caesar.” Any law that we, with a good conscience, believe violates the Law of God, we have every “right” to protest with all of the legal means at our disposal and to resist at least on an internal level. Even if we think we are fighting a losing battle. That is true for a democracy and not just limited to more totalitarian regimes. So, we can pray for our civil authorities, even though we may (vehemently) disagree with certain of their policies that clash with our Christian worldview.
I do hope that if you find yourselves aligned with the disenchanted this morning, that you not only “move on” – a rather superficial admonition often callously and cynically tossed off by the victors – but continue holding in respect the process we thankfully embrace for electing our public officials, including the president of these our United States. (There’s always the next election!). Again, life goes on. For any mature citizen – and especially for a Christian – party affiliations must be subordinate to a desire for the common good, regardless of just how hard you may have to swallow, or how tightly you may have to grit your teeth. That common good is the prayer of the Church which can lift us above the level of the merely political into the bright light of the Kingdom of God.
“But our commonwealth (Gk. politeuma) is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ …” (PHIL. 3:20)