Former FBI Director James Comey’s new book, “A Higher Loyalty” frames the question of loyalty in the singular, as if there is only one loyalty. We may live in a world of multiple (lesser) loyalties which demand our fealty but there is singular “higher” loyalty. What is the source of such loyalty? It is clear from his early interviews and book excerpts that Comey’s idea of loyalty is hierarchical. Loyalty to country precedes loyalty to a particular person, office of state, or political party. While this may be true or is his version of the truth; his description of a higher loyalty should ring hollow for disciples of Jesus Christ.
Christians have no other loyalty than to God. Competing secular loyalties, those which launch cruise missile strikes and live behind the partisan double standards of fear rarely acknowledge God as a being to whom they offer loyalty. Lip service, yes. Loyalty, never. Yet, despite the media driven competitions for our loyalty, even those who come bearing such anxious phrases such as “the future of the republic” and the “inevitability of impeachment” must be reminded that our loyalty remains with God, not the metaphysical idea of the United States of America.
Christians, because of their higher loyalty to God, are empowered to call into question the assumptions underlying every other loyalty struggling to be heard in the marketplace of philosophical and intellectual ideas. These ideas are the infrastructure of modernity and like the bridges, roads, and highways that link our nation; the loyalties that once tied us together are also crumbling at the seams. Because our loyalty lies beyond the public spectacle, we can see when something’s wrong. This is our witness: find common ground to preach the Gospel in the world’s wrongness, even when everyone’s singing “Happy Days are Here Again”.
The Body of Christ doesn’t simply call the world’s loyalties into question. Antagonism isn’t our mission. We offer alternatives to misplaced loyalties. Our lives become witnesses to the higher loyalty. This is accomplished through unapologetic, confessional worship and witness grounded in the historic Christian expression of loyalty to God, community, family, and neighbors. The people around us and the word they inhabit become divine space, the yet to be immanetized kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. This is who we are and what we do.
The former director is known to be a student of the late theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. James Comey views himself, to paraphrase Niebuhr, as THE moral man in a immoral society. Aren’t we all, Jim?
As Mr. Comey knows, there’s more to Niebuhr than rational critiques of society, social order, economics, and power. I’m reminded of one of Niebuhr’s sermons on Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and Tares in Matthew’s gospel. In it Niebuhr says, “Because we are both small and great, we have discerned a mystery and a meaning beyond our smallness and our greatness, and a justice and a love which completes our incompletion, which corrects our judgments, and which brings the whole story to a fulfillment beyond our power to fulfill any story.” Mr. Comey, there’s only one loyalty tying everything together. Everything else is just fancy rhetoric.
Richard Lowell Bryant