Today ends another long political season in America, as millions of voters flock to the polls to elect the leader who will guide us through the next four years. Although we watch all the ads and listen to the pundits and attend the rallies, one of our favorite things to see our candidates do, year after year, is to hold our babies.
And this shows us how dangerously far our politics have come.
It seems almost a silly thing to be talking about, but it says such a great deal about our politics - and our theology - and for this reason, it simply cannot be ignored.
It starts back in Jerusalem.
Most often when we tell the story of the little children and Jesus, we tell the one where He pulls a child into their midst as an example to the disciples of what faith should look like. But the other version of this story, the version we don't tell as often, is the one where some parents brought their children and thrust them into Jesus' arms. The disciples chastised them for it, but Jesus welcomed them.
See, it was common in those days (in fact, it was required) to present your child to the priest. Infants were presented on the eighth day for blessing and circumcision; we don't know much about the rituals surrounding older children, but we can reasonably assume that children were routinely presented to priests throughout their growth, all the way up until they hit their tween years and made the transition into adulthood.
Presenting children to the priest was an act of dedication. It was an act of returning them to God, of consecrating them, of blessing them. It was a sign that this child would be a child of faith, and it was also, in many ways, a prayer that this would always be the case for them. You simply did not bring your child to the priest without a hope for your kid.
This is why the children were brought to Jesus.
But today, we bring our children to our politicians, and for much the same reason. We want our politicians to hold them, to make a promise to them, to bless them by legislating for their benefit. We want our children to grow up one day and be thankful for the politicians who held them as babies and then shaped the world for them. Or something. All over this country, parents are still bringing their children to their pastors and priests, but the holy grail of all child-blessing experiences seems to be the kissing of the politicians.
And this is the dangerous state of politics in America.
Politicians have become our priests, politics our priesthood. We look to our legislators for ritual purity, as though they can give it to us. We look to them for intercession, as though that is their job. We look to them for deliverance, trusting our lives into their hands. And we are continually disappointed because they can never truly give us these things. I think part of the dissatisfaction that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel with our politics and our politicians is that they have not yet successfully saved us.
But they weren't meant to! It was never supposed to be this way. We weren't meant to bring our children to our politicians; we are supposed to present them to our priests. And in the priesthood of all believers, that means that we put our children faithfully into the hands of those who will actually bless them.
When our children grow old, we ought to be able to pull out the pictures of these blessings, the reminders of our children nestled in the arms of those who truly embrace ritual purity, intercession, deliverance, and both guide and bless our children through their lives. And this is not our politicians. It is our friends, our family, our neighbors, our churches, our communities. It is the persons who are actually going to be there for our kids and love them, really love them.
As important as politics seems, and as important as it is for us, as believers, to participate in the process, we must be very careful about this politic that has become a priesthood, about the politician who has become a priest. Stop taking your babies to the state house and go back to taking them to God's house. Stop putting them in suited hands and start putting them again in hands suited to hold them. Stop asking Candidate A to kiss your child and cry out to the already-King to bless him.