This post is based on Week Five of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
Recently Jimmy Kimmel played a sketch in which the actual words of political candidates were instead said by “Jesus the candidate” standing behind a podium in a first-century tunic under modern election banners. The words and the image intentionally collided in a way that showed the absurdity of some political arguments in the face of Christ’s call to unconditional love.
For many 21st-century Spiritual Exercises retreatants, it’s awkward trying to pray with St. Ignatius’s directive to imagine Christ in the role of a king seeking loyal subjects and even knights who would fight for his cause. Our brains are not wired for feudal metaphors nor are we motivated by the accolades of chivalry, so as I prayed this week that comedy skit image of “Jesus the candidate” kept popping up in my imagination in place of Christ the King.
I could imagine the party banners hanging from the rafters behind Jesus as he passionately laid out his platform straight from the Gospels: “In my administration, everyone who has two coats will give one to those who have none. I will work tirelessly for the forgiveness of all, no matter what the offense. My cabinet will include the meek, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit, and the pure of heart, to name a few. Together we will build a world where all the hungry will be fed, all strangers will be welcomed, and the first shall be last! Who’s with me?” (Insert cheering crowd, balloons, and streamers.)
Again, as the image of modern political candidates collided with the words of the Gospel, I questioned whether I would even vote for this candidate. I mean, is that the kind of world I really want? Do I really believe this guy can make this happen? Would I be wasting my vote or my time on supporting such initiatives? And, like Ignatius asked his retreatants to consider going one step further to becoming a knight for Christ the King, I asked myself, “Would I be willing to work on this campaign and take up the platform as my own and try to get others onboard?”
Mingling the image of Christ in political arenas or government office can be awkward or even offensive to some because Jesus clearly refused to take on political power. Yet he consistently challenged the status quo and the political insiders of his time to the point where they sought his death.
Understanding that Christianity was not meant to be enforced by rule of government, but rather through personal individual desire to serve God, Ignatius’s imaginative exercise asks us to declare who we want to rule our hearts. I am either voting for Jesus Christ and a platform rooted in the potential of love and service to others, or I am voting for the Spirit Not of God and a worldview rooted in riches, honor, and pride.
And in this election, mine is the only vote that counts.