POLITICAL ACTION?

Here’s a no-brainer: religion and politics simply don’t mix.  I’ve heard that my whole life from people close to me whom I know and trust, from others in authority, and even from late-night comedians.  It’s in the religious, social and cultural air we breathe.  So much so that we often hear it expressed as a rule of thumb, indeed, a “no-brainer.”

I must now confess that I must have lost my mind—totally!  Not only do I reject this maxim, I firmly assert that its opposite is the no-brainer, at least for the mind made new by the Spirit of Jesus.  Let me explain.

First, because Jesus is Lord, who he is, what he did and does and how, relates to every sphere of reality.  Jesus’ universal Lordship simply and necessarily has to do with everything about how people govern, or are governed.

Second, the Lordship of Jesus and the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed are precisely the good news, the gospel.  The best news ever is that Jesus rules—in the U.S.A. and in Iran, and everywhere else.  Therefore, those who understand who is really in charge have special responsibilities both to the One in charge and to all the others who don’t yet know.  This is the subversive element in the Apostle Paul’s naming of Christ-followers as “Ambassadors for Christ.”  They represent their nation like all ambassadors, but their nation and King claim the whole world.

Third, the story of God, and of those made in God’s image, is a story that positions God’s people in places of influence and power.  Think about Joseph and Esther.  Think about the witness of Christ-followers through the ages, some of them martyr-witnesses.  Their witness proved so telling, and will prove so triumphant, because it engaged the powers who controlled public life.

Fourth, the great command to love and the great commission to share the whole gospel with the whole world require political witness and action.  Love that does not address injustice is not love, and injustice cannot be addressed in a political vacuum.  The good news that the Lord of all saves us from the worst evil for the best good—in time and eternity—profoundly challenges the social systems and power arrangements that govern our lives.  Those systems often oppose the gospel and what the gospel would accomplish.  Therefore, gospel-telling and living necessarily will draw us to take action that is, in fact, political.

Fifth, that is why we have specific commands that also lead to political action.  If we are light, for example, we will shine in dark places—not by accident but on purpose.  Dispelling darkness doesn’t happen without political consequence.  We are commanded to submit to governing authorities and to other forms of engagement with the social and political arenas.  At different times and under differing systems such submission and engagement will assume varying expressions.  But we do not have the option of sanitizing our lives from interaction with those who have and use power for good or ill.  Even isolation and intentional nonparticipation are forms of political action, by default if not by design, which on occasion Christ-followers and others have used powerfully.

So, there you have it, I have indeed lost my mind, rejecting the no-brainer altogether.  Or perhaps I’ve just traded it for another mind.  I know that this does not necessarily make anything easier, and probably harder.  It raises all kinds of questions—just like the voter’s guide in the last post, and my other musings on participating in elections do.  Some people are question-adverse and loathe to seeking answers.  If that describes you, maybe you want the recognized authorities simply to tell you what to do.  Others of you, I am sure, will resent it if any such authority even tries.  Some folk who are not question-adverse do not wish to go to the bother to think, consult with the Scriptures and those who seem wise in understanding the times, and plot ways to contribute that might move people, processes, and even the culture in Christ-ward directions.  And, because there would seem to be no clear, pure and perfect paths to choose some other folk will give up or opt out.  I sympathize with them but, unfortunately, we are seldom given what is clear, pure and perfect among the options facing us in the nit and grit of our lives.  Maybe only a few will struggle with the discomfort of “losing their minds.”  Your choice.

Comments 9

  1. A certain radio program begins with this comment, “There are two things I don’t talk about: politics and religion.” Then the announcer says, Politics determines how we live on earth; Religion determines how we will spend eternity.”

    Thank God the Holiness Movement was always at the forefront when it came to political involvement! The Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Free Methodist Church were both started by ardent Abolitionists. The Salvation Army was very concerned with the economic conditions of the poor and disadvantaged. My roots being Free Methodist, I’m interested in how the early Free Methodists were involved in the political arena. For example, it was said by a certain Democratic Party newspaper back in late 1800’s that the Free Methodists ran the Republican party in Michigan! That was inspite of the fact that the FMC made up only around 1 percent of the Michigan population!

    Very good blog entry certain to bring about discussion! Your points should be used by Christians of any denominational leaning.

  2. Hard questions are good to ask…which lead to no easy answers. So much of the time the choice is between shades of grey, but examining the choices clearly is the only choice for me. It is not as easy as the right answer to one or two questions.

    Good ruminations over hard questions, just what we need as followers of the Master. Thank you for your willingness to speak out on difficult issues.

  3. I’ve come to the conclusion that some people use the argument that politics and religion don’t mix because it’s a very good way to silence the religious point of view, or demote it as something irrelevant to – or below – politics. But isn’t this an injustice that opens the door to the many injustices that our point of view would prevent from happening? I feel the message society in general sends to religion in general is to have your faith if you want, but remain silent and don’t bother anyone else with it. I think we all have to lose our minds and stand up in many ways in our society and nation. This is not an easy challenge and requires much leading of the Spirit, but when we listen to those messages to be silent, our light grows very dim.

    1. Very well said, Jennifer. Nothing will hamper kingdom-building faster, nothing will please the father of lies more, than for Christians to heed the snarky demands of the world to “keep our faith within the confines of our church walls”.

  4. “Is it not the great end of religion, and, in particular, the glory of Christianity, to extinguish the malignant passions; to curb the violence, to control the appetites, and to smooth the asperities of man; to make us compassionate and kind, and forgiving one to another; to make us good husbands, good fathers, good friends; and to render us active and useful in the discharge of the relative social and civil duties? ”
    ― William Wilberforce

  5. david.kendall Post
    Author
  6. Does this mean the FMC will support the Catholics, as we’ll be affected as well, in fighting against the U.S. Government telling churches and religious orgs they have to support the HHS director’s rule about contraceptives? We may not have a similar rule, in general, but we all will be affected by the Government’s intrusion against religious freedom in this country. If we don’t all stand together, we’ll certainly fall seperately.

    1. Philip,
      I assume you are using right-wing political information sources for your understanding of what the U.S. Government is telling churches. In contrast please read this statement on the White House Blog specifically addressing this issue. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/02/01/health-reform-preventive-services-and-religious-institutions . As a physician, I personally wish payment of services did not involve third parties since only then are the patient and I free of outside influences. If you misspoke and instead are talking about employers being required to pay for insurance that covers contraception in a case where the employer has a moral objection then the solution in that case is to either 1) not hire women since even up to 98% of all catholic women have or will use contraception or 2) support a single payer tax funded healthcare system that eliminates employers having to pay for healthcare with the added benefit of lowering the possibility of anyone profiting from the sickness or disability of our fellow human beings, especially by denying care. I hope you know I am kidding on the first proposal but the second deserves serious consideration and debate.

      1. Dr. Hill,
        I agree with your sentiments about 3rd party payers because of the intrusiveness on the patient/doctor relationship… but surely you must realize that “single payer” is the worst type of 3rd party payer system imaginable. In the end it inevitably leads to rationing, lack of accountability on the part of both the patient and medical personel, crushing tax burdens, and merely feeds steroids to the “entitlement mentality” that is crippling our nation, our liberty, and our progeny.

        I utilize a family physician who does not deal with 3rd party payers at all. He doesn’t take insurance, medicaid or medicare. He is able to keep his rates relatively affordable because he requires none of the overhead required to file all those forms!

        Yes, there are problems with the affordability of health care (and these problems are not limited to the USA!). But the solutions certainly don’t involve letting our inept government take over this entire important element of our society. The best thing that could be done right now is to get our economy going again and get people back to work. We need to cut government spending and taxes, and repeal Obamacare. Medical care will become more affordable when we eliminate cost-shifting and institute market-oriented reforms such as: eliminating government mandates on insurance policies; allowing insurance policies to be sold across state (and even national) borders; enact meaningful tort reform, and institute Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

        Because I place tremendous value on the great gift of liberty that God has blessed this nation with, I will guard that jewel of liberty with intense jealousy against all who would try to destroy it – for that reason I, and all others who value liberty, will never support a government run single payer health care system.