When the Roman empire was falling and the pagan hordes were crossing the border and ransacking Rome and all the glory of what once was seemed lost, St. Augustine wrote "City of God," which reoriented the imagination of Christians and of Christendom. He cast the vision of the prophets and apostles who welcomed and preached a new and eternal reality or kingdom.
The empires come and go, but the city of God remains. Earthly power and riches fade away and but love abides eternally. He enabled those who follow Christ to stand firm in a world with seismic changes, where all things were shaken. Political realities are not the final and most powerful reality, the church is - the city of God.
I remember reading a similar book three decades ago, authored by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, titled "Resident Aliens." A recent blog post in Patheos, authored by Tim Suttle, tapped into that book. My imagination was re-baptized and I was given a dose of courage to keep being the church - a follower of Christ, offering an alternative way of ordering life, an alternative politic.
The church is a polis. It offers to the world another politic. Very briefly, some points from the blog:
• Following Christ means following alternative values:
Christianity is a complete reordering of the way we live. To follow Christ is to pursue peacemaking, enemy love, forgiveness, grace, hospitality, and unity. To follow Christ means that one fights against the spiritual bondage of the radical individualism and corrupting consumerism that defines our culture.
• Following Christ means having a higher loyalty:
"The word Christian names a person who has submitted to the kind of community that refuses to baptize our every desire, and who does so in the name of Christ. Once we have been named a Christian, we should find it hard to be named by anything else-especially names like Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal." (Suttle)
• Following Christ draws strength from a different source:
The church's common life is a political act that does not draw its strength from political or economic power but rather from the alternative vision it offers the world - a better way.
• Do we get baptized into Christ or do we baptize our own parties?
"Americans end up simply baptizing their own brand of party politics with religious language. ... If we merely baptize American political parties with religious language, then we worship some other god under the banner of American conservatism or liberalism. We might be doing politics, but not Christian politics.
Part of the reason the church keeps getting tripped up is that we have been taught to think our political choices exist on a continuum between left-wing liberalism and right-wing conservatism. But those two camps are really just two sides of the same coin, because both assume the job of the state is to help people pursue their own limitless desires." (Suttle)
Something to think about. More than that, a Lord to imitate.