Sunday, January 27, 2008

Politics and the Death of the Church

Super Tuesday is coming fast, and the political season is in full bloom. Everyone's telling everyone else how to vote and why, and this year marks something different from the past in one respect:  There's a real contest on for the evangelical vote. Some of this is due to the Iraq war, some due to disillusionment with Republican policies, and some is simply a sea-change brought about by the emergent movement. The last is the most important, because the Iraq war will come to an end in time (perhaps a long time) and Republican policies will change in response to the electorate. The emergent church, though, is going to have long-lasting effects because it is, for better and for worse, reflecting change in America's culture. I don't mean to air grievances with the emergent scene; I just want to blog on politics for a bit.

I've come to wonder lately if the Anabaptists, in turning their backs on the politics and the governments of their day, might have been taking the right and "Christian" approach to politics. Just saying this will get a lot of heat from activists on left and right who will tell me that this is turning away from the Church's activist mission to change the culture and to establish the Kingdom of God in the earth. Both sides whole-heartedly and heatedly think we need to engage the political culture of the nation and of the world.

Problem is, we're not engaging the political culture. We're marrying it.

If we were engaging the political culture, we wouldn't be taking sides. We wouldn't split ourselves into Religious Right and Religious Left. We wouldn't hold political allegiance closer to our hearts than the Name of Jesus Christ or the unity that the Holy Spirit gives and that we are commanded to maintain. We would call even our political heroes to account when they sin. We would keep in mind the difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world.

But we don't.

We take sides. We choose a party. We pick and choose from the Scriptures to justify ourselves--there's as much "proof-texting" by liberals as by conservatives.  What we choose has more to do with what pulls on our emotions than with what the Bible really says. And we make excuses when someone on "our" side clearly violates the Word of God. 

To quote J.P. Moreland, "If one approaches Jesus with either a democratic or republican agenda, Jesus will turn out to be just a big Ted Kennedy or Bill Frist in the sky!" This makes Jesus just another false god--remaking God into the image of man. God is not what He is but what we feel comfortable with.

At the root of the problem is this:  We think more in terms of the Old Testament state than of the New Testament Church. The Old Testament is full of laws for setting up a government and living under that government as a state. The New Testament isn't about a state. There are no kings anointed to rule except Jesus. There are no covenants except one, that God Himself will make and keep:  "I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God. . . . I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sin no more." The New Testament just doesn't tell us how to set up a civil government. Constitutional monarchy? Republic? Dictatorship? Big government? Small government? We're left on our own. Which leaves me to wonder:  Does God care about that as much as we do? Maybe His priorities lie elsewhere.

Technorati Tags: ,,

No comments: