Monday 17 November 2008

Reflections On "Dual Citizenship" and "Homeland Security" - from the perspective of Philippians 3:20

"For our country is in heaven; from where the Saviour for whom we are waiting will come, even the Lord Jesus Christ:" Philippians 3:20 (Today's English Version)

This brings to mind the song "this world is not my home, I'm just a passing through" and Jesus words, "My kingdom is not of/in/like this world's."

Many jubilant folks carry great expectations - especially throughout the international community - that the new Obama administration will be able to rebuild trust, provide good leadership, reshape priorities and rebuild the "infrastructure" of goodwill that had been squandered by the current administration, and find effective ways to deal with some of the most pressing economic and other systemic problems the United States has ever faced. In other words - 'rebuild the kingdom' and bring about the "change" Obama promised: "Yes, we can." Watching the rerun of this Sunday night's CBS "60 Minutes" interview of Michele and Barack Obama sure does give hope to those of us who actually supported him during this run for Presidency!

But, realistically, won't it be nigh to impossible for any mortal leader to live up to ALL of these elevated expectations? We are facing many of the same issues here, lead by the new administration of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd -- appointed less than a year ago to lead the charge in Australia.

Back to that Philippians passage: it does gives rise to a very relevant question: As a citizen, what now is my responsibility to this 'world' -- or, specifically, to 'my country' soon to be lead (thank God) by a new Commander-in-Chief?

"How are you traveling?" is a common greeting here in Australia...(No one greets you with the question "How are you DOING?" Aussies ask "How are you GOING?!") I like that little twist on the grammer of the journey of life. How am I 'traveling,' as a serious follower of Jesus our Lord and king, if I give PRIMARY allegiance to another commander-in-chief?

Or, to ask the question in a slightly different way, if US citizens rely on a particular branch of government for 'Homeland Security', are they placing their security and confidence in just 'another god?' Hmmmmm? This all reminds me of the sign in front of a security business which says: "Trust in God." Right under that: "Hawk Security Systems" !! It's worth some discussion.

Some important questions about "citizenship" ethics are worth exploring, which I hope get raised even if 'the elections' are finally over: For example, taking this passage in Philippians seriously involves asking "What is one to do when the moral and ethical demands of earthly and heavenly citizenship demands collide?" (Christians from all points on the political spectrum are often moved to ask this question - or at least should be!)

During the recent election my United States citizenship expectation was that I vote. And I did, with an absentee ballot. But, I found myself expressing a variety of moral/ethical qualms - and I confess I did not often have very good resolutions. My Republican friends often badgered me with questions about how I could vote for Obama with his stance on protecting Roe vs. Wade, among other "liberal" issues. While I do have a problem with liberal abortion policies, I, on the other hand have many qualms about many other "conservative" policies that foment violence and killing and compromise a seamless "ethic of life." Conservative Christian leaders have found ways to justify all this in the name of preserving "freedom" but these policies need to be wrestled with, in my view, in light of other clear biblical principles Jesus taught to protect and preserve life.

And what about this distressing issue: Could I vote with integrity for either of the two main party leader(s) who in a time of great financial distress in the USA - indeed, the whole world - spent nearly HALF A BILLION dollars in self-promotion during this unbelievably LONG campaign? Though I think most raising the issue recognized the importance of the outcome this time around, over the past several months I heard many here in Australia lament (or at least question) the incomprehensible sums of money spent. Wasn't at least half of it wasted? What, you might say in America -- there is no way around it. Oh, really?

Indeed, the rest of the world got very tired hearing the incessant news on the US Presidential campaign's "progress" - in very high gear for over two years. The US could learn a lot from most of the other western countries/democracies who would NEVER allow any campaign to extend that long. Will there, could there, ever be hope for CHANGE in such a "system" that so readily and wantonly squanders such huge resources? I'm just thinking about what even half of that money could do, applied to some of the other pressing needs of the world -- needs Jesus himself would consider to be priorities placed high on the scale of things we need to be about.

As citizens of God's kingdom - first and foremost - don't we share the responsiblity to address the wisest use of money and resources that can address these priorities in our world - and the countries in which we find ourselves participating as citizens? Setting and shaping priorities that truly work to improve the "security" and well-being of people will, I imagine, be the basis of much ongoing debate among the American people and in Congress, led by the new Obama administration chosen by the plurality of those same citizens.

Back, once more, to Philippians, so relevant to our current "situation." I invite you to absorb an astute British university professor's essay/sermon on responsible "dual" citizenship, based on the Phil. 3:20 passage I quoted above. (He notes the important factor of Philippian Roman citizenship to the thinking of Paul, the author of that letter of encouragement.) Thus, I do hope you will take the time to "scan" it now, to at least get the gist, and share your own comments and perspective.

Clair Hochstetler
Canberra, Australia

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