How should a Christ follower navigate politics?

by susan on August 25, 2016

we were all humans“Faith and politics don’t mix” is a frequent response when you announce you are hosting a conversation about navigating politics during a Sunday morning church gathering. That’s a fine response, especially if you believe there is an area of life where God is not present or an area of life where Christ followers do not need to be shaped by the Spirit.

The call to follow, however, is all-encompassing. It requires our careful attention to all areas of life, including: our finances, relationships, sexuality, care of the earth, careers (etc., etc.) and yes, even our politics.

There is no area of life where we can comfortably say, “faith doesn’t apply here.” As a community of faith, then, we need to be having honest conversations about how we navigate all areas of life. This does not mean we will always agree or that we need to come to a consensus, but we do need to be willing to have the conversation – as awkward, tense & difficult as it may be. Who knows, these conversations may even give us the opportunity to actually practice the Jesus way of grace, love & forgiveness that we claim is at the heart of our identity.

Last Sunday’s conversation may have left you with more questions than answers. Take heart – you are not alone. Let’s keep talking, struggling & working these things out. One of our Well community participants blogged some of his thoughts this week, and with his permission I wanted to re-post here. The original post can be found here. Thank you, Todd Putney, for helping us continue the conversation!

Why Vote?

Every four years we have another election upon which the fate of civilization hangs. Should the candidate on the Right win it portends a fascist future. If the Left’s candidate proves victorious we can say good bye to Christian values. Both sides court the Christian vote. In the case of the Right conservative evangelicals line up to endorse the one who will save Christian civilization or at least give it four more years. On the Left, liberal and progressive Christians hope for a more inclusive and just government. Christian leaders of all stripes encourage their followers to get out and vote. It is a sin not to vote preaches one on the Right while one on the Left sees our vote as a step against injustice. Who is right? Christians are hopelessly divided, angry and see the other side as the enemy.

Every four years is a time for change. A time for hope. A time to make America great again. A time to fix all the problems and turn us around so we are heading the right way. James Davison Hunter in his book To Change the World observes that the hope Christians place in politics is remarkable. Given the fact that so little ever changes and that nothing in politics is permanent. Yet, we have come to believe that the best way to change things more to our liking is through politics. If our side was in control (in power) then things would be better. Except, that has never worked out so well. In 315AD when Emperor Constantine was in power Christianity became the religion of the empire. But, instead of the way of Christ and His Kingdom being inaugurated, the people of God became united with worldy power, corruption and violence. Our will was done. Hunter concludes, “the rapprochement between piety and power compromised the church’s distinctiveness and thus its inimitable witness to the world.”

The Church is not the Republican or Democratic party. It is not the party’s chaplain or conscience or the party at prayer. Politics has a job to do and Christians can take part in it. But, Christians are the “Other Place”, a community where what God wants to be is partly in view. It is a kingdom where Christ is King that is above and encompasses all the other kingdoms of the world. God may use politics to accomplish his will but the Church is where the way of God is on view. The way of God is worship, grace, forgiveness, peace, love and servanthood. Politics, not so much.

Christians are bold to say that worship, preaching the Word, observing the sacraments, praying, and singing will do much more than politics to bear witness to the Kingdom. We are forming disciples of Christ not little Republicans or Democrats. We are trying our best to follow Jesus – taking up the cross – serving and submitting to one another – not strategizing how to get our agenda passed.

The Church doesn’t have a social strategy, it is a social strategy. The Church doesn’t have a social ethic, it is a social ethic (Stanley Hauerwas, Will Willimon). Some Christians have criticized that statement as a copout. But, Hauerwas and Willimon have written and spoken often about social justice. What they mean is that the Church is bigger than politics and citizenship in the Kingdom trumps all worldly loyalties.

Are there significant issues of social justice that need to be addressed in this election? Aren’t there differences between the political parties? Yes, and Yes, of course there are. We can be humble enough to realize we don’t have the answers for our problems. We need to keep learning, talking, thinking and praying, preaching the Word, praising, celebrating the Eucharist because we believe God did Something, is doing Something and will do Something.

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