Garrison Keillor, the soft-spoken, folksy host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” has shown his dark side with comments he made during a speech at Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and during his radio monologue the Saturday after the election.
According to a transcript of the show, Keillor said, “I am now the chairman of a national campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to take the right to vote away from born-again Christians.” A recording of the event picks up enthusiastic audience applause. “My feeling is that born-again people are citizens of heaven. That is where there citizenship is—in heaven. It’s not here among us in America. . . . If born-again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?”
No doubt Keillor was attempting to be funny. But since we know something of his politics, it’s my guess that there was enough of his own worldview in his remarks that makes one believe that he was not altogether speaking in jest.
Like so many Christians, Keillor knows enough about the Bible to be dangerous. It’s true that Phillippians 3:20 tells us that “our citizenship is in heaven.” Somehow this has come to mean that our earthly citizenship has been made null and void. To be a citizen of heaven is to be a citizen of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is not confined to heaven.
Jesus reminded His disciples that God’s kingdom was near to them (Mark 1:15), that is, “in their midst” (Luke 17:21). As evidence of the present reality of God’s kingdom, Jesus cast out demons (Matt. 12:28). Remember what Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (6:10). In His commission to His disciples, Jesus told them that “all authority” had been given to Him “in heaven and earth” (28:18). From this revolutionary statement about sovereignty, the people of God are instructed to “make disciples of all the nations” (28:19).
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Unfortunately, there are many Keillorite Christians. They, too, believe that their heavenly citizenship precludes them from having anything to do with politics. They don’t vote because, as they believe, their citizenship is exclusively heavenly. If this is true, then the apostle Paul was being decidedly unspiritual and unchristian when he appealed to his Roman citizenship when he was about to be beaten by a Roman soldier (Acts 22:25-29). Why didn’t Paul cry out, “Beat me if you will. . . . It doesn’t matter what Rome thinks. . . . Politics doesn’t matter. . . . I’m ready to die. . . . My citizenship is in heaven”?
This wasn’t the first time Paul brought up his earthly citizenship. He had declared earlier that he was a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia (21:39). To show how out of touch Paul was with his own theology, he appeals to Caesar (25:11), and brings up the incident when he finally arrives in Rome (28:19). Unlike so many Christians today, Paul understood that he was a citizen of God’s kingdom in its fullest sense. In fact, a good case could be made that those outside of Christ are the true aliens. They are kingdom usurpers. We are the true heirs.
I wonder what type of response Mr. Keillor would have received had he declared that blacks should be denied the right to vote since many describe themselves as “African-American”? We might also might want to imagine what Jews would have thought if the humor had been directed at them since so many Jews live as if they have dual citizenship—one American and one Israeli—and often vote in terms of how a candidate views Israel.
Mr. Keillor needs to get back to doing what he does best. Spinning entertaining stories about a fictional time in a fictional place. A man needs to know his limitations.