“Little Miss Know-It-All,” the Lilliputian woman living in my head, is at it again. The fact that she’s right doesn’t mean she should be obnoxious about it. I tell myself, “At least she’s just in my head. No one else knows what I’m thinking.”
I realize that isn’t true. Everything leaks.
I’ve uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone because about 35% of the posts have to do with defining lines that divide people into kingdoms, kingdoms to which there is no access except through a narrow sieve designed to confirm the like-minded thinking of all visitors venturing to enter through the narrow gate, a gateway equipped with security scanners and uniformed thugs who ask litmus test questions to which there is only one right response. Anyone who fails to answer in line with the conventional kingdom wisdom is deemed “unacceptable” and shoved into the moat, a moat filled with electric eels and poisonous leviathan ready to bite off the head of anyone who declines to recite the oath of allegiance to the one correct worldview of that particular kingdom. So yeah…the posts have become tiresome.
There are myriad kingdoms, each with their own tricky path to membership. I’ve recently taken up world history, and apparently this kind of thing has gone on all along. Who knew? Only since Facebook came in vogue has this come to my attention. Or maybe it’s only been since I stopped working 12 hours a day on things that matter less than the things I spend 12 hours a day working on now.
I’m preparing to facilitate a class about the Kingdom of God (go figure). While involved in this effort, I’ve come to see that there are kingdoms across the spectrum of earthly life. My little girl Christina has a kingdom (and she runs it like a tyrant). Her teacher at school has a kingdom, and she does a wonderful job as a benevolent dictator. The manager at the Raleys grocery store down the street has a kingdom, dictating the standards of conduct for everyone from the “Clean Up on Aisle 9!” guy to the woman who oversees the self-checkout line. And of course, each level of government is a kingdom within a kingdom, unless there’s dissonance among the agencies or the parties; a common problem these days. Or maybe it’s always been that way and again, I didn’t notice until now.
A kingdom, such as my own earthly kingdom, is what I have “say” over. I have “say” over what I wear to the gym, what shoes I buy, and whether to have egg whites or a big yummy bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. I have “say” over whether my sixteen-year-old daughter can stay out past 10 pm, which makes her a subject in my kingdom. Some have large kingdoms with “say” over many subjects.
Earthly kingdoms can also be informal, like a sphere of influence. The ideas of one person or a small group of people can have a profound influence on the views and opinions of many. This is risky. Not every idea emerges out of truth and reality. Ideas, coupled with a charismatic personality and the power of persuasion, can lead many astray. And ideas are more powerful than is often recognized or understood. John Maynard Keynes once said the world is ruled by little else.
I once read a book called The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. In it he writes about the power of the human need to belong to something bigger than one’s self, and how this need feeds the emergence of cults and other similar associative groups composed of individual people looking for a sense of purpose, meaning, and connection with others. They find satisfaction by rallying together behind a common idea that often involves drawing a line that keeps their people in and the “unacceptable dissonant” out.
Now, with these kingdoms hunkering down and name-calling to the other kingdoms over the castle transoms, what’s a God-Loving Woman like me to do? Do I sort out which kingdom to align myself with, hoping I’ve found one that serves God, and then adopt that kingdom’s social mores and conventional political views? Do I find a good school to attend, a school that might help strengthen my moral character? Do I take a step back and sort out which “idea movement” I think I’d like to join, studying talking point flash cards every night in bed as prep to ascend the idea organization ladder? Which social and political movements are going to help me become the person I am meant to become?
This makes me tired just thinking about it.
I definitely need to be part of something bigger. I’d also like to have “say” over the things that are important to me. And I want to keep becoming more like Christ. Admittedly, that last one sounds like a doozy, but if I align my will with the one true Kingdom, I will progress. He promises that.
Christ’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, transcends all earthly, celestial, and other kingdoms. In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard writes,
The Old Testament book of Psalms comes to a joyous, breathtaking celebration of God’s kingdom in Psalms 145–150. The picture there presented must be kept in mind whenever we try to understand his kingdom. Then we will not doubt that that kingdom has existed from the moment of creation and will never end (Ps. 145:13; Dan. 7:14). It cannot be “shaken” (Heb. 12:27f.) and is totally good. It has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder. We do have an invitation to be a part of it, but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves.
Accordingly, the kingdom of God is not essentially a social or political reality at all. Indeed, the social and political realm, along with the individual heart, is the only place in all of creation where the kingdom of God, or his effective will, is currently permitted to be absent. That realm is the “on earth” of the Lord’s Prayer that is opposed to the “in heaven” where God’s will is, simply, done. It is the realm of what is cut out “by hands,” opposed to the kingdom “cut out without hands” of Daniel, chapter 2.
It’s interesting that His disciples, after hearing Jesus repeatedly preach about the Kingdom of God “at hand,” and even after His resurrection, still could not conceive of a kingdom that wasn’t social or political. Their hearts were still hardened, preventing them from seeing with their eyes and hearing with their ears. It took time for the truth to sink in. It did for me too, and still does.
Jesus didn’t come to set up another earthly kingdom. He came to make the Kingdom of God available. It is real, present, and can be seen and heard by those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. It is the one true Kingdom transcending and encompassing all others.
And it’s the one I want to live in.
Living in the Kingdom of God doesn’t mean drawing lines against the other kingdoms. It means living with confidence that the Kingdom of God both transcends and encompasses all other kingdoms, and He is working His plan. He will see to our needs for purpose and meaning, giving us greater “say” as we become the kind of person who can handle it.
Which means I won’t have to join a cult.
 Willard, Dallas (2009-02-06). The Divine Conspiracy (p. 25). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.