Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Christianity in Politics

I recently had a conversation with friends regarding Christianity in politics. This is not the same as the participation of Christians in politics, but rather it was if Christians should participate in an organized fashion.

My friend’s reasoning goes like this. The Bible is our model and the New Testament Church or Jesus Christ is not involved in politics – except for rebuking them. This “rebuking” aside is used to imply that the rebuke of the Sadducees by Jesus that politics (or government) as a whole is not a Christian agenda.

This is relevant, when generally more right (that is conservative) politicians are sweeping federal offices and exit polls show voters are primarily thinking of the undefined “moral values.”

My friend’s conclusion is that the individual can participate in politics, but Christianity as a corporate body has no place there; Jesus never modeled the church as a political influence.

I believe this is a fallacy by Christians separating individual roles from corporate (church) roles. In the end, the individual’s and the church’s roles are indifferentiatable.

Consider that the church is to deliver the gospel – so is the individual. The church is to serve the poor – so is the individual. The church is to reach the lost – so is the individual. The church is to offer sanctuary – so is the individual. The church is to worship God – so is the individual. The church is to “feed my sheep” – so is the individual. Ad nauseam.

We forget there is one role and two instruments. We relegate responsibilities as individuals to the church – leaving us blissfully idle and innocent of the church’s innumerable failures.

But, you might ask, what about our involvement in politics?

Remembere Christ expects the same of the individual as what He expects of His church – with the syntactical difference that the individual belongs to the church and the church belongs to the individual.

This is revolutionary to some minds.

We (both the individual and the church) have two identical purposes in existence. (1) A loving relationship with the Creator and (2) Loving relationships with fellow man. It’s a four-square, Greatest Commandment kind of thing, served clearest through the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

So we no longer ask: should the church should be involved in the world, but rather as: should the individual be involved in the world. We all know the answer: a light on a hilltop cannot be easily hidden; we are intended to be the salt of the earth – a phrase referring to the purifying qualities of salt in the presence of decay

So, let’s stop and see if we agree. The most important missions of the church and the individual are the same, to love God and love others while fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus wants His church and His followers to engage the world to reach the lost and demonstrate love.

Now, you might say something like, “you think Dr. James Dobson’s political lambastes on Larry King shows the world love?” Of course using a single experience to implicate a universal truth is nuts, but for the sake of thinking it through – would you also say “You think God sending people to a state of eternal separation with Him shows the world love?” The fact is the question’s semantics indicts the truth.

Yes a loving God can send people to Hell, and yes you can use strong words in a public forum and still demonstrate love. Love is not warm and fuzzy, although love is kind. But love is also “just” and it protects; it rebukes, judges and punishes. Love tells the truth and it is no longer love when it doesn’t.

So, the answer is not so easy. Just because it doesn’t sound nice, just because it doesn’t make you feel good, just because it isn’t popular, and just because you don’t like what it is saying doesn’t mean it isn’t love.

Doe that mean James Dobson is love? Not necessarily.

Let’s move on.

Politics has a huge potential for good (and bad). Right now, I am not going to go into the potential goods political service can bring about, but they are there and they are real.

And, if those goods are the driving force of a call to political office then it serves at least one purpose in life, to love other people – after all, love is a verb acted out as service and sacrifice.

People serve differently out of our own gifts. Political service for the some finds a straight forward justification; and my thesis here is that justification for the individual is implicit justification for the corporate body of the church.

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