The fourth value I'd like to highlight from our history in the Restoration Movement is a much more unknown value. We started with apolitical and kingdom focused values.
This part of our history is mostly unknown because we live in such politically charged times.
We're coming up on an election year, which means my inbox is about to be filled with junk mail garbage about every political topic you could imagine.
One of the things that shocks me as a preacher is the assumptions that people make about my political leanings. They assume their jokes about the other political party are something I will find humor in. In fact, I keep a folder of "special" political spam e-mails I get, just so I can make myself feel worse on bad day.
But our movement didn't start with a focus on politics and civil religion. Barton Stone, David Lipscomb, and Alexander Campbell (in his later years) would be considered radicals today in their views of a Christian's relationship to the state.
We started out as a kingdom focused movement with strong bents toward pacifism, little involvement in politics, etc. But as World War I & II strengthened the country's nationalism, we lost our way as we wed ourselves to the state. And those who struggled to keep their radical kingdom views were labeled as communists and Cordell Christian College (a pacifist institution) closed its doors as a result of this rapid shift toward the kingdoms of this world.
Today, Churches of Christ do retain a great measure of apoliticalism in our DNA. Few of our buildings sport American flags and few of our preachers are known for using their pulpits as their political platforms. And I appreciate that legacy of our movement. Yet, it's still not as it once was.
The kingdom of God has never been about political power. We must remember that Jesus died at the hands of the empire. The Christian church lost its plot when Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Instead of being persecuted by the sword of the state, the church began to use the sword to coerce pagans to become Christians.
As one of my favorite writers has said, "Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream and cow manure. It may not do much for the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream!"
Let us remember that most of Scripture was written by people who had the boot of the empire on their necks. The Bible is an oppression narrative. And as citizens of the world's only superpower, we ought to have our eyes opened to how our social location shapes our biases when we come to Scripture.
As Tony Campolo has said, "We may live in the best Babylon in the world, but it's still Babylon and we are called to come out of her."
Let us return to our roots as a movement. Let us regain our apolitical, kingdom focus.
For all of us who have been baptized into Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, neither Democrat or Republican, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.