The 2008 presidential campaign is heating up. The parties have chosen their candidates. The candidates have chosen their running mates. And both the Obama and McCain campaigns have adopted certain slogans designed to express the attitudes of the candidates.
“Yes We Can” has become the mantra of the Obama campaign.
“Country First” has become the tagline for the McCain camp.
No doubt these easy-to-remember slogans will help the strategies of both campaigns. But Christians should carefully consider both the commendable and condemnable aspects of these sayings.
Take Obama’s “Yes We Can!” – obviously designed to be motivational. The crowds can chant it whenever they want. Yes, we can win this election. Yes, we can take back Washington. Yes, we can make the changes we need in our society. The slogan works at multiple levels. It is simple, yet has the ability to rouse voters to action.
The commendable aspect of Obama’s “Yes We Can” is its appeal to personal responsibility. In other words, quit waiting around for someone else to bring change. We need to get involved. We can make a difference!
But “Yes We Can” has a downside. When it comes to the problems that Obama describes on the campaign trail, the phrase “Yes We Can” is untrue. Despite the appeal to personal responsibility, the Obama campaign seems to be promising that the government can and will solve the problems of America. The government can solve the health care crisis, the energy crisis, end the war, and bring about lasting peace. With enough faith (in ourselves and in Uncle Sam), we can change the world.
The problem is, no matter how hard we try to solve all the problems of the world, “No, We Can’t.” We are not the change we have been waiting for. True change began the morning a Jewish Messiah from Nazareth walked out of a borrowed tomb, just three days after being crucified.
Christians should work to make the world a better place and announce the reign of Jesus Christ. But our work for a better world does not mean that we accept the utopian dreams that a presidential candidate dangles before our eyes.
“Yes We Can” may be a brilliant political slogan, but it ultimately feeds the idolatry of American self-sufficiency.
What about McCain’s newest slogan? “Country First.” McCain’s slogan strikes against the “Me First” attitude that reigns among most Americans today. McCain seeks to call us back to a sense of duty and patriotism, a willingness to put others ahead of ourselves. This emphasis on serving others is commendable.
But, as several Christian leaders have pointed out, Christians must be wary of the call to putting “Country First.” After all, the earliest Christians were thrown to the lions for refusing to say such a thing. They believed that putting “Country First” was idolatrous. The temptations were many: Just a pinch of salt before the altar of Caesar… just a brief recognition that Caesar is Lord… just a little acknowledgement of civil religion.
As a concept, “Country First” is better than “Me First;” that’s for sure. But for the Christian, there can be no “Country First” - only “Kingdom First.” After all, Jesus did not tell us to seek first our country and its form of righteousness. He told us to seek him. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus – not the President, U.S. foreign policy, or patriotic duty.
Putting the kingdom first means that our supreme responsibility must be following Jesus, making disciples, and showing the world through our words and deeds that he is the true king. We serve King Jesus whenever we serve our local church, help others in Jesus’ name, share the gospel with those who do not know Christ, and submit to God’s will. Putting the kingdom first means we sacrifice for Christ’s kingdom.
Christians should be willing to put their duty to country ahead of their own interests. Senator McCain is right to encourage American citizens to live for something bigger than themselves. But American Christians are called to live for something bigger than their country. After all, we are Kingdom People – citizens of a kingdom that will never fade away.
This election, as the Obama campaign rises up and chants, “Yes We Can!”, let us as Christians respond with “Yes He Can… and will!”
As the McCain campaign launches a message about putting “Country First,” let us as Christians continue to put the “Kingdom First” and use this election season as an opportunity to spread the news about Jesus’ reign.