With two extremely unappealing candidates in the presidential race, suddenly the Anabaptist way of engaging political issues is looking awfully good to evangelicals. David Swartz at Anxious Bench looks at the ways in which an increasingly repulsive political climate is pushing many evangelicals toward Anabaptism: an idolatrous civil religion pushed by both sides of the political fence, the unbridled use of realpolitik by both sides to accomplish their goals, and an unbridled consumerism legitimized and normalized by both sides which is manifestly incompatible with Christian witness.
For many Anabaptists, political realities have pushed them toward a two-kingdom theology that distinguishes the purposes of the state with the purposes of God’s kingdom. It questions a too-close alignment of the church with electoral politics. As Greg Boyd notes, acquiring political power is the very temptation Jesus resisted when tempted by the devil. It would have been easy for Jesus to accept Satan’s offer to reign over all the governments of the world (Luke 4:5-7), but he declined the offer. This is not to reject citizenship entirely. Anabaptists, always searching for third ways, insist on more creative approaches. After all, there are other ways of being political besides voting: practicing citizenship on a local level, adopting a more global than national identity, allying with social movements like #blacklivesmatter.
To be sure, many white evangelicals do not agree with Anabaptist critiques of anti-life planks, consumerism, and nationalism. But they are now confronted with two candidates that offend their sensibilities in multiple and egregious ways—and who make the two-kingdom sensibility more compelling. Moreover, political impotence has become a fait accompli; whether or not white evangelicals should exercise electoral force, they increasingly aren’t an electoral force. They have lost the battle on abortion and same-sex marriage (these issues weren’t even mentioned in the debate last night). Despite overwhelming initial objections to Trump, Trump got the Republican nomination anyway. It’s easy to talk in the language of two kingdoms when there aren’t any candidates who pretend to represent your concerns.