Like many states this year, Missouri (where I live) held its presidential primary during Lent as Christians spiritually prepared for Easter. Missouri voted the Tuesday before ‘holy week’ and some states even voted during ‘holy week.’ A few days before voting, I noticed a sign in my neighborhood as I walked our dog one morning. The same size as the political signs that also appeared in a few places in the neighborhood, the purple-and-white sign declared “Christ is Risen!” Now there’s a political sign I can support.
That sign went down after Easter, but it got me thinking about the need for alternative religious-political messages during this nasty campaign year. We can join the culture in shouting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or we can hide quietly until it’s all over. Or we can do something better and point a different way.
Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann argues that we need more “prophetic imagination” in churches today. He calls the prophets poets and artists trying to shake up the people by saying the unsayable, thinking the unthinkable, imagining the unimaginable. The 2016 presidential campaign calls for such responses. Rather than quietly hide, we must speak out with much-needed political messages.
Perhaps we need to make our own campaign yard signs. Slogans could include “Christ is King, ” “We Already Have a Savior, ” “Kingdom First, ” “The Real Commander-in-Chief Isn’t Up for Election, ” “Light Trumps Darkness, ” “Faith Trumps Fear” or “Vote Your Conscience.” If Trump or Clinton shows up for a campaign visit in your area, go and stand outside with a sign. You could have one protesting the candidates on specific issues. Eric Teetsel, who advised Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, did when 1, 000 evangelical pastors met with Trump. His sign declared, “Torture is not pro-life; Racism is not pro-life; Misogyny is not pro-life; Murdering the children of terrorists is not pro-life; Proverbs 29:2.”
Or you could go with an alternative religious-political message to remind people this isn’t our primary Kingdom. As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani angrily offered false attacks on refugees during his speech on the first night of the Republican National Convention in July, someone in the arena unfurled a large banner that read “Refugees Welcome.” It’s unfortunate such a prophetic rebuke was necessary, but I’m thankful someone offered that message. Another protestor unfurled a banner two nights later during Trump’s acceptance speech. That banner prophetically declared, “Build Bridges Not Walls.”
Some people protest Trump with a Mexican flag, which is kind of funny. Somebody in Scotland did this by flying a Mexican flag next to Trump’s golf course there just before a Trump speech there. That’s quite a global message. That would be interesting to see at a church when Trump comes to town. Maybe it could be done in conjunction with a special prayer service for immigrants and refugees.
Or maybe we could fly an Iraqi flag since both candidates supported George W. Bush’s decision to invade—an act that destabilized the region and has led to the ancient Christian community in that nation nearly being completely destroyed. We are part of a Kingdom that transcends national boundaries. Thus, we are united with our fellow citizens who happen to live in Mexico, Syria, Libya, Iraq, China, or anywhere else. So let’s conspire together on how the church can offer a prophetic voice in a time desperately in need of prophets.
Note: This column is an excerpt from Brian Kaylor’s new book, Vote Your Conscience: Party Must Not Trump Politics.