As a married gay couple, it’s virtually impossible for us to avoid being pigeonholed in the political arena. People from all points on the political spectrum have assumed we’re progressive liberals (living in Portland only exacerbates the stereotype). I’ve had multiple interactions in which friends, assuming I share their same beliefs, have confessed to me their most intimate left-wing desires. I respond with awkward laughs and half-hearted nods.
I’ve historically avoided any party affiliation and, although my views are left-leaning, I’m effectively a centrist. Everything in balance. Constantino has similar views, but with just enough of a Libertarian streak to keep our conversations spicy. The point is, sexual orientation does not mandate a political affiliation. Neither does faith.
Last week, Constantino was rebuked as “un-Christian” during a political discussion when he suggested Libertarian Gary Johnson was a candidate worth looking at. What struck me as interesting, however, was not the criticism itself, but rather that it came from the Democratic camp. It was refreshing, for once, to see a liberal misappropriate God for his party.
I grew up in a culture with the traditional Americanized belief—God is a Republican. It made sense based on everything I had learned about God: He was for families, morality, and tradition. He was a lover of freedom and our ultimate defender. I grew up assuming I was a Republican because that was the side God was on, and no good Christian wants to be on God’s opposing team.
But when I was a young adult and re-engaged in my relationship with Christ, I started to wonder if God didn’t sound more like a Democrat: Jesus encouraged his flock to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and tend to the Earth. He was our shepherd and our loving protector. He welcomed the foreigner and the outcast, and made them part of the family.
Both of these, however, are simplistic characterizations of God, attributes we cherry-pick to form an identity of our Father that pleases us. Political leaders, especially during this season of electoral conventions, dumb down God into an easily understandable being who neatly fits within their party’s platform. It’s why we have one election with two very different concepts of God.
I cringed during the benedictions of this year’s party conventions. Pastor Tony Campolo’s prayer at the Democratic National Convention this week seemed heartfelt and authentic, but it was still a partisan blessing that, through innuendo, offered up an us-versus-them framework. Pastor Mark Burns’s prayer/high school pep rally at last week’s Republican National Convention was so unabashedly partisan, it made me wish I were Cersei Lannister with a stockpile of wildfire on hand. Nothing angers me more than a group claiming God for their own exclusive use; it’s precisely this strategy that has marginalized the LGBT community and driven them away from the church.
So how shall we approach political parties when we view them through the lens of Christ? Some will hold fast to the assertion that God is the supreme “law and order” ruler, and they’ll only support a party that reflects obedient, legalistic values. Others will say we can only champion a party that protects the poor and disenfranchised, and that anything else rejects the primary message of Christ. Moderate Christians—if there are any left—may meekly suggest to their polarized friends that God embodies attributes from both political parties, and that He is somewhere closer to the center of the spectrum.
What I’d like to propose is that God isn’t at any single point on the spectrum—he is the spectrum. He doesn’t have some attributes of justice and some of grace, he is fully justice, and fully grace. God is fully for tradition and for innovation. He is fully for the citizen and for the foreigner. He is fully for the good of the individual and for the good of the collective. God is fully for the protection of marginalized groups and for those whom society has privileged.
God Himself says he is the Alpha and the Omega, both the beginning and the end. The Bible exalts Christ as both the lion and the lamb. It’s not until we can accept the contradictions inherent in the fullness of God and come to peace with this cognitive dissonance that we can truly appreciate how petty and futile our attempts to categorize Him are. God belongs to no party, and his beliefs lie nowhere in-between. He is everything and all, and the very best attributes of every political party in existence are mere slivers of His all-encompassing goodness.
My hope is that by releasing God from any political affiliation, we can better understand that He is not and never has been on our side alone. God is for everyone. We must nurture that belief in our minds and hearts, so that the next time we engage with the “other,” we will soften our tone, if not our content. Once we truly believe that God is for all human beings, we will resist the urge to categorize even our worst opponents as “other,” and instead embrace them as “brother."