Thursday, July 21, 2011

Make up your minds

Since Christians seem to support nearly every kind of political option in America, what does that say about our faith?

You would think that, since we share the same faith, live the same gospel, operate with the same symbolic universe ("kingdom of God"), then we'd all line up under one political movement. But we don't.

Does that say more about us or about politics?


JDTapp said...

I think this is related to your post below about taking care of the poor. I find our politics differ ultimately because our views on Scripture differ. (Eschatological differences probably matter the most?)

I look at a group like Jesus Radicals, who promote a sort of Christian anarchy and disagree that they "live the same gospel" as they express contempt "sola scriptura" and espouse liberation theology. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, who is supposedly an Obama advisor, as another example along the same lines.

These people approach the Bible quite differently than a Southern Baptist.

JDTapp said...

I should say that I really wrestle with what our role in politics should be. I often think Christians in China have it "easier"-- they have to take their political system as a given since they can't change it. So, they focus on the Church instead. Wish we were more that way.

The early Church didn't sit around wondering "Who is God's man to lead the Roman Empire?" (quoting Phillip Yancey there), and I doubt they preached sermons on "getting back to the Republic" (as one local pastor's sermon was titled "getting back to the Constitution.")

matt gallion said...

I'm not sure that it means we should have the same ideology at all. Doesn't that presume that we can all fully understand God? And what would happen if Christians (who make up at least a numerical majority of our democracy) did all agree on political issues such as who to elect? What happens to most large groups of people who wield such power? I think the diversity of our opinions says something wonderful about the "kingdom of God"--no one gets it entirely. We all struggle through things. To rely on the Barthian idea that seems to rear its head in nearly every conversation I've had lately, the way of Jesus brings us into question more than it provides us with uniform answers.

And when did it become all about "being right" about what the gospel means anyway? Isn't that assumed in the unity you're suggesting? That we all get the gospel right and agree on it? That idea just scares me.

Rodney Reeves said...

Thanks, JD. I have the same struggle. Good point about the Roman Empire.

Matt, (as you already know), I'm also weary of the presumption of "unity" (when it's really about power). Here's where I'm going with this: Can American politics contain Christian faith?

Darryl Schafer said...

I've wondered if I can serve both God and the (amended) Constitution...

Tarquinius Superbus said...

I imagine we would sooner see a known saboteur serving in a missile silo than see American Politics contain Christian faith; it is too subversive, all too ready to relinquish power, too meek, and too eternal.

The thought of the church so thoroughly engaging the world so the state would be completely changed is impossible for me. Yet followers of Jesus are best used when put in places of tension; places the World is showing signs of exile so they might be a light. Though I do not know how, I wonder if that extends to the military (even though we know war is simply legislated murder) and politics?

Before I engage in political action, I should ask myself what Jesus meant by "As the Father sent me..."

Thinking on this makes our need for the Spirit apparent. It also makes me want a cookie.

Russell Marcum said...

I believe it was CS Lewis(not sure)that said the world doesn't need more Christian authors, singers, musicians, artists, professors, politicians...the world needs authors, singers, musicians, artists, professors & politicians who are Christian. So, I'm going to say YES, American politics can contain Christian faith...but it should contain it with a man or a woman who is an exceptional politician and also a believer.

Rodney Reeves said...

Darryl, Tarquinius, and Russell: I've often wondered what American politics would look like if Christians "serving" our country would incarnate Christ to the point that their peers would accuse them of treason.

If politics makes enemies, then Christians should love them.

What I like about all of your comments is the presumption of incarnation. We can't merely talk about these things. We must live what we believe.

JDTapp said...

Maybe this isn't the place to ponder this, but I just read this piece written by an SBU grad and I'm wondering how much of our cooperative program tithes go to fund the "ministry" of someone who repeatedly offends large swathes of people with something other than the Gospel and is engaged purely in politics.

What does that say about our faith?

Mark Van Steenwyk said...

Jesus Radicals isn't is a webzine with reader submissions. I don't think it is true that we, as a whole, have contempt for "sola scriptura." Personally, I have a great in common with many of the early Anabaptists who were hardly anti sola-scriptura. It is also strange to conflate us with Jim Wallis. Comparing Jesus Radicals to Sojourners is roughly the same as comparing John Piper with Mike Huckabee. Sojourners believes in getting votes and changing legislation to make America more just. Jesus Radicals folks don't (usually) believe in social reform at all--we believe in prophetic engagement with the State, but usually assume that reform is impossible and we should seek radical alternatives to Statist politics.