What does heaven have to do with politics?
If you have been paying any attention to the current presidential candidates, you should know that they are talking a great deal about heaven. Sure, they aren’t using the term “heaven” or using explicitly theological language. Yet all of them appear to proclaim a narrative of gloom and a gospel that will deliver us into the Promised Land!
Some of the candidates point to the upper echelons of society as if they are piñatas that, when struck, will pour limitless wealth onto the rest of society. There are those who support a witty, down to earth entertainer whom they believe will return our nation to its former glory. Don’t you see the promises of heaven here?
Prophecies like those proclaimed by the candidates are standard fare for politicians. Why does it work? Shouldn’t our nation have realized by now that heaven isn’t going to appear through our political process? Yet, we are caught up in trying to create a little heaven on earth for ourselves.
The culture we have produced tells us to put our resources, talents, and time into constructing a personal heaven. Heaven is often defined as a limitless supply of comfort, security, convenience, wealth, affirmation, prestige and power. Can we really achieve all this?
No one on earth has ever constructed an airtight heaven which perfectly keeps out the brokenness and lawlessness. Even the most wealthy of the “one percent” would say that their lives are lacking in various ways.
Let’s examine the life of Herod the Great (Matt. 2). This was a man who worked very hard to earn the title, “King of the Jews”. This title came with much power and prestige. It was his little piece of heaven. To retain his title, Herod murdered his wives, his own sons, and even had his brother-in-law drowned at a ‘pool party’. In fact, Herod was driven into extreme paranoia by the mere notion of losing his heaven on earth.
Herod had huge stockpiles of wealth. He constructed impressive monuments solely for the preservation of his legacy. In Matthew 2:1-18, Herod committed infanticide in Bethlehem, ordering the death of many young boys. This order was an unsuccessful attempt to murder Jesus, the rightful King of the Jews.
That’s right, Herod tried to kill Jesus to protect his own personal heaven – Now that’s dedication! But did Herod succeed? The Bible eloquently marks the end of Herod’s heaven with just two words, “he died”.
What can we learn from the life of Herod in relation to politics and our pursuits of heaven?
Trying to create heaven through coercion, political power or wealth will never work. So it does not benefit us to believe the gospel of one politician and then despise those who have chosen to believe in the message of a different messiah.
Do not misunderstand me – we must take the issues seriously and debate them as a nation. The Bible calls Christians to love the world and to strive for what is good, just and beautiful (Rom. 12:9-21; Phil. 4:8). However, as many political debates fill up prime time television, I never hear a constructive dialogue that attempts to define what the good, just and beautiful are and how they relate to policies.
Shouldn’t we be challenging the very foundations of the gospel messages being proclaimed today by politicians and the culture at large? I am simply asking for more meaningful dialogue. And Christians, knowing the identity of the true King and how heaven will come to earth, should be the ones pushing for this kind of constructive dialogue.
We must consider whether fairness can be harmonized with the principles of personal property, religious liberty, federalism and free trade. Or, must we at times throw aside those latter principles for the sake of fairness and equality? And what about the desire to bring back the past? Was there ever really a golden age to which we can return in America? And if so, is a product of the shallow, self-promoting entertainment culture really the best means to get back there?
Most importantly we must ask, does it make sense to be so caught up in building our own personal heavens when, deep down, each of us knows that the words, “he died” are drawing near. We are left, then, wondering how to live apart from the pursuit of these unattainable, pseudo-heavens.
The answer to the question above is not found in Herod’s life. It is not found in the promises of our political candidates. Nor is it found in the emptiness of much of our culture. It is surprisingly found in the magi of Matthew 2. We find the answer in these foreign dignitaries who traveled a great distance to lay their treasures at the feet of a child. They knew that the true King, the real Messiah, the central prize and only guarantee of heaven had arrived. Freedom from vain pursuits and empty promises is found only in the person of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:18).