Did we win the election?
It appears that everyone and his dog is blaming the election result on the Religious Right - what some media commentators are calling the "the cultural majority" of America - those who live in the "red states." By the way, it is telling that the color red no longer paints the color of the "evil empire," the "Great Satan," "Communist Russia," but now red stands for the Conservatives and neo-Cons who have a mandate to turn the moral clock of the nation back several decades. In any case, the media, around blogosphere and throughout the nation, the Religious Right are blamed for the result of this election. It is not just the liberals who are thinking this is the case. Some Christians are also claiming the result as a win for themselves as well. It is true that many of those who voted cited moral values as an important factor in their decision to support Bush.
However, I suspect that this has very little to do with in the historic Christian faith, but more about the coming together of two traditional religions with deep seated roots in America - the Civil Religion of America and the Christian Church. By Civil Religion I am referring to that branch of "religious " or semi-religious faith that invokes God as the moral and spiritual head of the nation, champions moral values, uses religious symbolisms and quotes from religious and quasi-religious texts. Ever since the founding of the nation, this all-emcompassing civil religion has permeated all aspects of public and national life.
Over the past twenty or so years, there has been a coming together of this nation's civil religion and mainstream Christian religion in America, united by shared values and morals and speaking roughly the same language. The lines that separated state and religion has slowly been blurring so that there is now almost an identity between Civil Religion and Christian religion in America. I suggest that during this years election campaign, the Republicans made a concerted effort to further blur these lines and most Christians bought into it. Rather than seeing the Republicans as pandering to the Religious Right, it is more apt to view them as having observed the cultural drift, the conflation among both Christians and civil religionists alike, they capitilized on it.
There is a real danger now facing the Church - those who call themselves followers of Jesus. If we are not careful, we may be lulled into thinking that now that we have retained one of "our own" in the seat of government, life is going to be rosey. We may fail to realize that our work--our mission--is not about making America more godly, or even to make America great. As Americans, that may be our agenda, but not as Christians. The Church fundamentally has a different agenda. My prayer and hope is that we will not forget that ours is a higher calling.
There is a real danger of the Church confusing the building of the nation with the building of the kingdom. While the media blames the "Religious Right" for delivering the wrong result, Christians should be cautious of celebrating that this is necessarily a win for the Church nor a win for the gospel.