I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I believe the Jesus’ kingdom agenda, while rooted in personal and communal spiritual formation, is a global political revolution of renewing the entire world within his Father’s dynamic rule.
But how are Christians and local faith-communities supposed to interact with our political systems. The simplistic approach is to get into bed with one of the dominant political parties. If a Christian wants to rally around abortion and terrorism, he or she usually has to buddy-up with the Republican party. On the other hand, if a Christian wants to engage poverty and social justice, he or she usually has to become intimate with the Democratic party.
Yet, because every political party has both good and bad, I believe Christians need to steer clear of political parties so that they are able to speak clearly and prophetically into any and every arena.
So I was very excited when I read Scot McKnight’s blog entitled “Politics and the Church.” This post is a reflection generated by an article about Greg Boyd’s church. Boyd has ticked off a lot of people in his church and lost significant membership because he refuses to align himself and his local church with a one-sided political agenda. In the article, Boyd states that Christians are not to seek “‘power over’ others by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have ‘power under’ others — ‘winning people’s hearts’ by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did.” So he refuses to put an American flag in the sanctuary, endorse Republican candidates, or allow members to distribute one-sided political literature in the church lobby.
We are to have “power under” others. I really like this concept. I personally hate it when Christians throw all of their energy into trying to pass “godly” legislation in the attempts at “keeping homosexuals from taking over our nation” (their words, not mine). As much as I believe that homosexuality (and a long list of other issues like divorce, consumerism, imperialism, bitterness, war, racism etc.) is a symptom of humanity’s brokenness, I don’t think the answer to Jesus’ global revolution is to legislate holiness for everyone to obey. That’s imperialism. As Boyd states, “When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses. When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”
The people of God must learn how to engage in the political aspects of Jesus’ revolution without getting tied up with the current political systems. Reflecting on the article about Boyd and his church, McKnight offers four valuable points of direction for the Church’s political engagement:
1. The church should educate Christians on what the Bible says and about how the entire historical Church has thought about particular political issues. Many, if not all, political issues are nuanced and Christians throughout history have held differing views and approaches to these issues. Christians need to be educated, but then allowed to chose how they will respond.
2. Christians need to remain independent enough to provide a prophetic stance. Jesus remained independent of every group in his culture and was then able to offer essential critique to the various Jewish groups, to Gentiles and even his own followers.
3. The idea that Christians can remain apolitical is simply nonsense and irresponsible. Withdrawing from politics is a denial of the gospel, which encompasses the entire individual, society and the world.
4. Each person is responsible to decide where he or she stands. There is a difference between educating and indoctrinating. Churches cannot align themselves with one political party because that does not allow its members to choose how they will respond to issues. What this means is that in a faith-community, you will have a variety of views and emphases on various issues.