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Political Homelessness Is a Good Start – ChristianityToday.com

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“I just feel politically homeless these days.”
Within the past six hours, just as I was writing this, I heard something along those lines from two very different people: an elected official who’s a conservative Republican and a progressive activist who happens to be Jewish. Whether due to the polarizing figure of Donald Trump in the first case or the rise of antisemitism since the October 7 attacks on Israel in the second, both these individuals have felt themselves to be in a kind of exile from their respective political factions.
Lots of people feel this way right now, including many followers of Jesus. We find that those who used to be our allies are no longer and those who used to be our opponents are closer to us in approaching the crisis at hand. That’s especially true when many are afraid to even talk about this estrangement for fear of losing their place in their tribe.
Many of us who have felt politically homeless thought our displacement would be temporary. Some Republicans expected things would return to normal after Donald Trump left the White House. Some Democrats thought once the “Defund the Police” moment was over, life would resettle into a more familiar pattern too. But both parties have yet to regain their equilibrium, nor are they likely to anytime soon.
For Christians, though, political homelessness is always a unique opportunity to reassess our priorities. As much as we might think we’re in uncharted territory right now, we’re not. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is confronted with external pressure to join a warring faction. In fact, most controversial questions posed to him were about just that.
Would he side with the Pharisees in quiet revolt against a throne of David now occupied by Roman interlopers, or would he be sympathetic to the Zealots in their not-so-quiet rebellion against the empire? Would he be in league with the tax collectors collaborating with the Romans, or would he ally himself with the Sadducees in accommodating to Roman rule?
Yet Jesus refused to merge his identity with any of these factions. Instead, he walked away from those who wanted to claim him as a king (John 6:15) or as a food supplier (6:26). And against everyone’s expectations, he announced himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6).
From Abraham’s land of Ur to John’s isle of Patmos, the Bible depicts God’s calling as a pilgrimage—a journey setting out from the familiar and launching into the unknown. The Book of Hebrews commends our fathers and mothers of old because they saw themselves as “foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13). This verbalized recognition was a signpost to the next verses: “People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (vv. 14–16).
In normal times, our political affiliations would, or at least should, be a tiny part of our lives. Yet in a time of totalizing tribalism—when politics is often a mechanism for identifying ourselves and differentiating our friends from our enemies—such is not the case. In times like this, anyone who doesn’t conform to that sense of ultimacy will feel lonely, if not find themselves utterly alone.
Often, though, God uses external circumstances, like the shaking of a civic order that once seemed stable, to free us from idols we would not have relinquished on our own. In a time of political idolatry, perhaps our sense of rootlessness might just be God’s way of reminding us that we are wayfarers—embedded in time and space but made for a reality far beyond them.
Perhaps we who feel politically homeless are called to remind ourselves, along with the larger world, that we’ve too long settled for the wrong definition of home. The partisan identity politics of the moment are ultimately revealed to be a house built on sand. We’re looking instead for a different kind of home—the one with many rooms that our Father has built upon solid rock.
That truth might feel strange in these strange times. Yet we must remember that pilgrimage is better than belonging—as long as we are wandering in the right direction.
Russell Moore is the editor in chief at Christianity Today and leads its Public Theology Project.
[ This article is also available in Português Français 简体中文, and 繁體中文. ]
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