Democracy and the Kingdom of Christ


Democracy and the Kingdom of Christ
by Brian Zahnd

It’s Election Day in America. I’ve been to the polls. I’ve cast my vote. Now I want to say something before the results are known. Something about democracy and the kingdom of Christ.

I agree with Winston Churchill when he said something to the effect that democracy is the worst form of government except for any other. Churchill was right to curb our expectations. After all, democracy is government by the people. So you get what you get. But it seems to have served us better than most any other form of political governance.

But it’s not the kingdom of Christ either. And that is what we must remember.

As we go to the polls today, keep in mind that though democracy comes by the ballot box, the kingdom of Christ comes only by cruciform love.

As we go to the polls today, keep in mind that though democracy comes by the ballot box, the kingdom of Christ comes only by cruciform love.

The Jesus Campaign

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He was going to the capital city to launch the revolution and become Israel’s true king. On the way there James and John requested to sit on Jesus’ right and left in his glory. They were asking for positions of conventional power—like Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. They imagined Christ’s kingdom would be basically like Caesar’s kingdom, just a Jewish version of it. But Christ’s kingdom does not come from the empire (world-system). Jesus would become king, but he would be nothing like Caesar or Pharaoh.

His crown was made of thorns.
His scepter was a reed.
His acclamation was by insult.
His coronation was by crucifixion.
His throne was a Roman cross.

And those on his right and left in his glory?
Those were the two thieves crucified with Christ.

This is why Jesus told James and John they didn’t know what they were asking. They thought they were requesting positions of power and privilege, when in reality they were asking to be crucified with Jesus!

When the rest of the disciples heard that James and John had made their political power grab they were indignant. So Jesus sat the Twelve down and said—

“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Mark 10:42-45)

CrucifixionJesus’ government is a real government. But his government is nothing like the governments of this age. The government of Christ does not come by ballots or bullets, by elections or intrigues—the kingdom of Christ comes only by cruciform love. The politics of God are always cruciform. The kingdom of Christ always looks like an innocent man dying on a cross. The cruciform is our pattern. We cannot alter it. We cannot depart from it. We must conform to it. If it doesn’t look like Christ upon the cross, it is not our hope. To sit with Christ in his glory is to imitate Christ in his crucifixion. Between the politics of democracy and the politics of Jesus there is the widest gulf. One is grasping for power and fighting for rights, the other is co-suffering love and sacrificing rights.

Today there is an election in America. So be it. But it has very little to do with how the kingdom of Christ comes or how the politics of God are accomplished. Selah.

I don’t know who will win the presidential race. They say it will be close.
Half the country for one guy, half the country for the other.
So half will be elated and half will be deflated.
Some will be rejoicing, some will be disappointed.
That’s how the game is played in a democracy.
You have to accept that.

So a bit of advice.
If your candidate wins, be humble and gracious in victory.
If your candidate loses, be humble and gracious in defeat.
If you cannot be humble and gracious in victory or defeat—
It would be better for your soul (and the country) for you to sit out the next round.

If you are a Christian keep this in mind: Whether your candidate wins or loses, it has very little to do with the kingdom of Christ and the politics of God.

Be at peace.
Be very deeply at peace.
The Prince of Peace reigns.
Forever and Ever.


(The artwork is Crucifixion by Georges Rouault.)