As David Bentley Hart seems to delight in reminding the world, Christians are, historically, very bad citizens—at least in secular regimes, anyway. No matter where or when you find us, whether ancient Rome or modern China, we take the idea of being “citizens of heaven” over citizens of any other state so seriously it often makes governing powers want to imprison, torture, or kill us. Whatever customs, tropes, sentiments, assumptions, or pieties dominate a society, we typically think nothing of wiping our bottoms with them. Or ought to, anyway. For reasons unknown, Americans of all political stripes seem convinced that a two thousand-year-old apocalyptic Jewish cult maps neatly onto their own exact policy platform, no matter how protean that platform is between election cycles. Perhaps it’s intoxication from the fumes given off by all those Thomas Kinkade reprints.
The reason we’re often so socially abhorrent is that Christianity is, at its heart, an apocalyptic faith. “Oh, yes yes, Revelation(sss) and Judgment Day and all that,” you say. “I knew that already.” Close, but not quite. The apocalypse comes at the beginning of our story, not the other way around. Leave those images of piles of clothing and emptied cars to bad fiction. The Christian story (legend, myth, lie, whatever word you prefer) is that the Logos, the creative principle of God, Son of God and God himself, came to Earth and overthrew the “principalities and powers of the air”—literally the hierarchy of evil and/or incompetent ruling spirits who governed human affairs. The old pagan order was cast down, and the spirits were put under the authority of Jesus by his death and resurrection. No idol or spirit would have any power over a Christian, because the former powers were either shown to be literally nothing or made subservient to the Lord of Creation. In this, Christians become subject only to the one true ruler of the cosmos, Jesus. Our ultimate loyalty is to him, and to be persecuted for the sake of that loyalty by officials or citizenry is a mark of honor, perhaps even to be desired. This has been an essential a facet from the faith since the beginning.
Which is all to say that I simply cannot be bothered to muster even the tiniest iota of care for either of the dominant political parties of the United States of America. Yes, I know one of the parties has been quite open about its desire to eradicate us traditionalists from the public sphere (among other undesirable things), and I know the other party has promised to save us (it can’t) and give us all the things we like (it hasn’t and it won’t). I owe neither the tiniest shred of loyalty, let alone sympathy. In fact, I feel morally enjoined to explain how stupid and destructive I find them, and to mock both just as ancient Christians mocked pagan idols and ceremonially spat at the devil and his legions—because they are empty and powerless before the highest authority. This tends to make everyone unhappy.
I wish I could say that I am sorry when I offend church-attendees by pointing to the very public and ever-growing record of Donald Trump’s cruelty, viciousness, mendacity, illiteracy, selfishness, and stupidity, but I cannot—I can only advise them to sit down and ponder the matter over a hot cup of covfefe. And I wish I could say that I am sorry when I offend progressives by suggesting their raging revolutionary impulse is not in the spirit of 1776 but 1917, but I would prefer to live in a a society where an individual’s personal and professional life may not be utterly destroyed by bloodthirsty social media mobs simply for using language anathematized just thirty seconds prior. So I will continue to call out their repressive and dystopian dreams.
This, obviously, makes me welcome pretty much nowhere. We as a society have become so committed to our political loyalties, so ingrained them into our own identities that to disagree with a person’s policy preference is to cut them with a knife. This is why people shake with rage when you make the obvious observation Donald Trump is a vile person, and why internet children howl and shriek and scream you’ve literally done violence to them—literally, as in materially inflicted physical damage—when you disagree with some abstruse postmodern academic theory they deem divine and universal. It’s nonsense, but it’s become a sacred nonsense. I have no interest in flattering it. I’m not supposed to. King’s rules, I’m afraid. The citizenship of heaven is really quite literal. Its commands aren’t religious platitudes or recommended guidelines or hopeful suggestions. They are literal laws. They are the absolute highest reference point of conduct and loyalty, and they supercede all others. That is why Christians are such terrible citizens—at our purest and most committed, we simply do not give a shit.
So by all means, Blues and Reds. Send me all your political tracts about how your platform really is the most “Christian” one. I know a trick to work the paper until its just soft enough to use as toilet paper.