Monday, February 01, 2016

Should Christians "Be Political?"

As a part of my sermon yesterday, I posed the question - Should Christians “be political?”

My response - It depends on how you define “be political.”

If you mean get involved with the endless campaigning, the negativity, the bitterness, the fear and anger, the nonsense of what passes for the political process in our nation today, then my answer is, “That’s up to you.” As for me, I’m not going to. It’s a joke. It’s a farce. It’s a side show.

And it’s not what I mean by “be political.”

What I mean by “political” is more aligned with what the word may have originally meant. Something like “the way people interact in the world,” including organizing power and authority in a community, making community decisions, and deciding what kinds of behavioral boundaries define a community. Now, this may not be what “politics” means these days, but I think still at the heart of it, that’s really what it’s about.

And so it seems to me, if this is how we define “political,” then how in the world can a follower of Jesus NOT “be political?” It seems to me that followers of Jesus ought to be very, very concerned with the way people interact in the world. Of course we should be political.

Of course, it is completely inappropriate (on several levels) for a church to give any kind of official endorsement to any one candidate or any one political party. And I as a pastor would never think of telling anyone how they should vote when it comes time to do so. That’s out of bounds, as far as I’m concerned.

A follower of Jesus has decided to give his or her life to something that transcends the self, seeking first the Kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness. That means re-ordering one’s priorities so that they align with God’s.

God’s priorities are revealed in Scripture, which people are able to access through the interpretive lenses of tradition, reason, and experience. God’s priorities are things like … love. And hope. Peace, justice, salvation, grace. All of which Jesus himself embodied in his life, teaching, death, and resurrection.

Why should we “be political?” Because if we truly have adopted God’s priorities as our own, we cannot help but notice that much in this world, including much in our own lives, is not aligned with God’s priorities. There is a great deal that is not as God intends it to be. For the follower of Jesus, the gap between “things as they are” and “things as God wants them to be” demands to be closed.

Why should Christians care about violence in the world? Because one of God’s priorities is peace.

Why should we care about prejudice, discrimination, and oppression? Because one of God’s priorities is justice.

Why should we care about racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, hatred, fear of the “other?” Because one of God’s priorities is love.

Some will say, “Well, all I can do is take care of myself, make sure my own decisions are right, be as good a person as I can. All I am in control of is myself, and there’s just too much in this world that is out of my control to worry about.” That’s fine. All well and good. Nothing wrong with that. It just isn’t Christian discipleship. To borrow a phrase from Jesus, “Even the Gentiles” think this way.

When you decide to follow Jesus, you are deciding to give your life away to a cause bigger than yourself, the cause of Christ. The Kingdom of God is the goal; Christ is the cause; and the Holy Spirit empowers every step of the journey from here to there.

Take for example, a “political” issue like regulation of predatory lenders. Payday loan companies, title loans, and so forth charge unjust interest rates, engage in deceptive and unethical sales practices, and make their profits by deepening the cycle of poverty, often at the expense of people’s health, families, and even lives.

Christians all around the nation are organizing politically to thwart the predatory lending industry. And why? Because one of God’s priorities is justice. I do not support the political actions to combat predatory lending because predatory lending is my “cause.” I support political action to combat it because my cause is Christ - I follow Jesus, and because I do I have tried to make God’s priorities my own.

This is one example of one "political" issue I could cite. There are many, many more.

The teachings of Jesus are jarring sometimes. Give to everyone who asks. Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies. Do not judge other people. Each of these ideas of Jesus is very political in that they deal with how people are to interact, and honestly they are very challenging. There’s nothing comfortable about any of them.

It’s one thing to do these things on a personal level. It’s another to work with the systems and processes that make them happen more broadly. One is no better or worse than the other. Both the personal actions and the systemic work can be a part of faithful Christian discipleship. It really isn’t an either-or proposition.

So, should Christians be political? I guess I’m saying, if you're a Christian, you pretty much can’t help it.

1 comment:

KC Bob said...

Great thoughts Andy. Reminds me of this verse from Sunday's sermon:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed."