Posts Tagged politics
“I find an increasing number of young Christians are willing to say “enough is enough” when it comes to militarism, to military budgets, and to embracing a peace orientation toward how Christians are to live in a world of international conflicts. Ronald Sider (Christ and Violence) and John Howard Yoder (The Politics of Jesus ) have been powerful witnesses to pushing more Christians to ask not what is best for our power but how did Jesus embody the way of God — he did so through a cross that led to resurrection, not through a sword that led to a throne.”
What do you think of Dr. Scot McKnight’s perspective on the place of politics in the pulpit from Jesus Creed?
It is commonly asserted that we should keep politics out of the pulpit, but what most people mean by that is that we shouldn’t endorse a specific candidate — and who’s kidding whom on that one? Or that we shouldn’t endorse a party from the pulpit — and who’s kidding whom on that one?
But “politics” is precisely what the pulpit does, and here’s why:
1. The Bible, which is the Book of the pulpit, is a profoundly political book. The entire Old Testament is about a nation and its politics – how that nation is to live as a political body.
2. The New Testament is profoundly political — it is how the “political body” of Christ is to live in this world, and it is often at odds with the politics of Israel’s/Judah’s leaders and Rome’s leaders and Greece’s leaders.
3. The very gathering of the Body of Christ is called a “church” (ekklesia), which was a political term in the first century. Our gatherings are political gatherings because we form a kingdom body that is designed to witness to Christ and engage the world in a politics of love and grace and holiness and justice and peace.
4. We confess Jesus is Lord, and that means we are confessing no one else is Lord — Caesar or anyone else. Our confession is the most profoundly political action we can possibly do.
5. We strive to live an entirely different ethic, an ethic shaped by the Jesus Creed, and that is in essence a political move: we seek to be a different kind of living over against a world shaped by power and violence.
So, let me put it this way, when others tell us not to participate in politics, they are expressing a fear of what kind of politic the church could be; when they say we should construct a wall of separation, they are expressing a fear of what would happen if the church took its politic seriously.
The single-most powerful political action Christians “do” is baptism and Eucharist, for in those actions we enter into an alien politics.
I saw this today at Jesus Creed:
“At the end of the day, elections don’t shape or influence our cultural imaginations. On the contrary, our imaginations influence our elections, as the naive nation builders who thought that bringing elections to Iraq would transform the country discovered, much to their dismay. As the midterm elections approach, it’s worth remembering that the future of America will turn on culture, not politics: the poetry of our moral and social imaginations, not punditry. So by all means vote, but don’t neglect the real and deeper sources of public life.”
Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed is raising that touchy but crucial issue of national idolatry. I love America, democracy and the freedoms we enjoy in this great nation. I listen to my share of political talk and love keeping up on the latest debates. BUT….I also see many Christians who are far more interested and devoted to the political conversation than the things of God — Jesus, the gospel, the Kingdom of God, the ministry of the church, etc.
Here’s Scot’s challenge to us all today. Let us look within and pray that our hopes are not in the state but in Christ and the church as his chosen agent for real change in the world.
Christians become idolatrous when they believe more in the State than the Church (not to mention Christ), when their focus for change is on what the State can accomplish instead of the church locally embodying that change, when their energies are spent electing one candidate vs. another instead of on the ministries at their church, and when they find their time spent at their local church less than time spent reading news about the State/election/parties or working for political change.
Patriotism is idolatrous when our hope is in the State and when our “agent” of change is the State, or the election and a specific candidate. Patriotism becomes idolatrous when our politic becomes State and not Church. For the follower of Jesus, the hope of the world is Jesus Christ and his embodiment in the Church, the People of Jesus.
Thoughts or feedback? If your answer is ‘both’ then keep reading Scot’s post because he addresses that common response as well.
What did Jesus mean when he told his fellow Jews to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s”? Greg Boyd brings another strong critique of American tendencies toward a nationalized version of Christianity. In a recent sermon entitled “Handing Jesus Over to Caesar” Boyd argues that Jesus’ answer “undermined the game the schemers were playing and will challenge the way we relate to our own government.”
This is classic Boyd and a message every American Christian needs to be confronted with.
BUSINESS AS USUAL IN THE ‘FIGHT’ FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE
Before exploring the world-altering event of the cross and a cruciformed concept of justice, we need to spend some time in what will be much more familiar territory for most of us. I speak of the marketplace of ideas where ‘the fight for freedom,’ the struggle for equal rights, the relationship between church and state, and so on, are all sold daily at discount price.
When we survey the wondrous crosscurrents of ‘justice talk’ in the media today, we find ourselves gripped and moved by the emotional pleas to ‘fight for our rights’, remembering that ‘Freedom is Never Free’ and ‘Peace has a Price.’ The focus of all of this bumper-sticker jargon is ultimately a shared longing for a just and peaceful world.
All political parties and religious faiths find common ground in the struggle for justice. Yet paths quickly diverge once considering the deeper questions of ‘Who’s justice?,’ ‘At whose expense?’, and ‘By what means?’ Scott Bader-Saye highlights this deeper complexity: Read the rest of this entry »
In my previous post I suggested today’s youth culture can help remind us what really distinguishes a healthy church from a sick, diseased or dying church: “Are the individuals who make up that church authentically regenerated, committed followers of Christ whose lives bear outward evidence of the inward sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit?” Teens value authenticity above almost anything else and they can spot a fake a mile away. They want the “real thing” or nothing at all. This leads me to the first potentially disastrous leak I see plaguing the evangelical Church in America today: Culture Christians.
I define “culture Christians” as those whose Christian identity is tied most passionately to the ongoing culture wars and efforts of the religious right to “Take America back for God” through legislating Christian morality in the public square. They are very passionate and committed to their form of Christianity and as a political voting block carry significant weight and influence. For those who believe the evangelical Church’s primary role on earth is to hold the pagan world accountable to God by imposing their moral standard on a secular state, the motivation and zeal runs high. Those who speak loudest do not always speak wisest. Because of the power this evangelical voting block has exercised in the heated political battles and presidential races recently, the majority of people outside the church have a completely politicized, right wing impression of the entire evangelical Church. Jesus = rebublican, etc.
The problem is that this is simply not the God-ordained role of the church. We are not the moral police of an increasingly secularized culture. We are the Body of Christ, called to be a countercultural people, replicating Christ’s self-sacrificial love to the world around us. We do have an active political and prophetic role; but we are active and prophetic in a very different sense than the cultural warriors. We influence the culture around us by remaining a peculiar people who don’t play by the same rules as the world. We represent Christ’s political agenda – which rarely fits into either right or left, republican or democratic categories. We serve the Kingdom of God and have Christ as King – not Caesar or the President.
My interactions with teens have reinforced my conviction that what the world needs is not another political agenda, another crafty politician, another clever platform, another Christian moral policeman shouting “No, No, No” to a scoffing crowd of unbelievers. (A timely read for the current perceptions young people have of Christians is “UnChristian” by David Kinneman and Gabe Lyons.) Rather, the teens I interact with get fired up about joining a movement of rebels who capture the attention of the naysayers through surprising acts of love and service, shocking the world by our greater sense of purpose, and gaining credibility in the eyes onlookers by living lives of notable character and integrity.
The problem with merging the Christian church with a particular political stance in the culture war is that the church’s mission to reach the world with the Gospel is then bound up with how successful the church is in fighting the culture war. When we lose ground in the culture war (and make more enemies in the process) we lose our voice and witness as well. If the Evangelical ship is indeed taking on water, one of the major leaks has certainly been this unfortunate identification of Christianity with a culture war more committed to changing the culture of America than becoming a unique Jesus-shaped culture of our own — a peculiar people distinct from the culture whose very existence bears prophetic witness to the Good News of God’s advancing Kingdom in the world.
The culture war is almost lost. The sector of evangelicalism that has staked it’s reputation on that battlefront will suffer greatly in the defeat. The good news is that the true church, the true Body of Christ, will continue faithfully bearing witness to the Kingdom of God and the self-sacrificial, Calvary love of Jesus in the meantime.