Easter Liberated Politics
Editor’s Note: What will it take for our categories to be upended, and for us to begin chasing after abundant life in our work in politics?
We’ve become so afraid for our safety, so afraid for our moral values, and so afraid we’ll lose our American identity.
Easter shattered our fears of losing America before America even existed. What will it take for us to see it? Today’s writer, a staffer on Capitol Hill, shows us how to open our eyes—or let them be opened—by the story of Easter. It’s time to wake up to a transcendent reality. The tomb was empty. All that remained inside was an echo, reverberating still, two thousand years later: LIBERATUS—we are set free.
-Caleb Paxton, LIBERATUS Founder
Easter Liberated Politics
If I’ve learned anything from my nearly two years on Capitol Hill, it’s this: politics is a war over definitions.
We have come to believe that only one side can win the battle for the mantle of equality, liberty, or justice. It’s a perverse understanding of holiness: “If I can paint myself as a white knight while casting my opponent as the antithesis of everything I stand for, my side will win.” No mind for whether my political opponent actually opposes my values. She must appear to oppose them.
In this pursuit of an exclusive holiness, where only one side or one candidate or one idea is “set apart,” all else is reduced to an “ism.”
This is the behavior in Washington that garners pay raises and promotions. And there is no alternative. Political warfare is the only game in town. Both sides line up to fight: the “godless left,” “bigoted right,” and everyone in between. This, unfortunately, is our playbook:
“All of life is partisan…conflict is the essential core of a free and open society…ridicule is a man’s most potent weapon…pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” – Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals, pp. 10, 128, 130)
“Conservatives wonder why liberals aren’t bothered by their consciences when they twist the truth…the reason is simple: one can’t be bothered by what isn’t there. Webster’s dictionary defines conscience as, ‘Knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right.’” – H.L. Richardson (Confrontational Politics, p. 14)
Whether isolating a political opponent with ridicule or claiming he has no soul, both factions seek to define each other out of the public square. We tear each other apart competing for base power or fighting for lofty ideals. Either way, the difference is often difficult to tell.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?”
Thank God for Easter.
Easter is the celebration of a different kind of holiness. Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus walked the earth and introduced a new paradigm to humanity. Instead of “an eye for an eye,” Jesus preached forgiveness and sacrifice. Instead of hating one’s enemies, Jesus taught love. Instead of exploiting each other, Jesus commanded us to serve one another.
And Jesus was no pushover. He was God incarnate with full dominion and power. Though he was tempted to prove his deity and exploit humans for his benefit, Jesus “did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”
While such love and humility is admirable, it would have been unremarkable apart from the resurrection. If Jesus had died and remained dead, then we would have no hope for a new life. The mission of Liberatus would not exist. The dearth of freedom we sense in our political culture would have no hope of rejuvenation.
Without the resurrection, all of Jesus’ teachings and actions would have been rendered moot and relegated to a footnote in history.
But he is alive. And that changes everything.
John Eldridge puts it like this:
Ask the anorexic young girl how she would feel if she simply no longer struggled with food, diet, exercise—if she simply never even gave it another thought. Ask the man consumed with jealousy how he would feel if he woke one day to discover that all he once felt jealous over was simply gone. Ask the raging person what it would be like to be free of rage or the alcoholic what it would be like to be completely free from addiction. Take the things you struggle with and ask yourself, “What would life be like if I never struggled with this again?”
It would be an utter relief. An absolute, utter relief. (Free to Live, p. 18).
The “utter relief of the holiness” that Christ gives is simply this: it’s for everyone. There is no striving or relative advantage in holiness; we are all set apart by the heart of our Father. Equally exceeding in worth and utterly unmatched in love. Rather than striving to define each other, our True Father defines us: children of God.
The resurrection reminds us of what we share: a common holiness that binds us spiritually as brothers and sisters. Jesus is alive, and his defeat of death means that we can lay our rhetorical weapons down in faith, believing that God can raise our lifeless discourse from the dead.
Do we engage in politics in the knowledge that Jesus is alive? Or do we adopt a lesser holiness that would only be appropriate if he were still in the tomb?
The writer is a current Legislative Correspondent in the U.S. Congress.
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
Where in your political life do you need to discover the absolute relief of Easter? How would relief there radically secure your identity, and reshape the way you engage in politics? Spend some time journaling this week on these questions, or share your ideas with a friend.
LIBERATUS is a weekly journal creatively pursuing Truth and Beauty by empowering writers in American politics to tell the story of healing through freedom. You can join the pursuit by applying to write, subscribing to the journal, or by funding the movement by donating monthly or by making a purchase in our store.
Cover Photo Credits: Heather Gibbons