Toward a Christian Politic

Robert Putman and David Campbell just wrote an article published in the Los Angeles Times:  Walking Away From Church.  In it, they describe the trend of younger Americans to abandon the church because of its close union with the Republican party and conservative ideologies of our times.

A friend sent me the article and wrote, "Americans need to keep politics out of the church."

Politics do not need to stay out of church.  Some messages inevitably have political consequences.  Loving immigrants and abortion for instance.  However, the biblical principles that makes me against abortion and for loving immigrants (stand up for the rights of those weaker and loving my neighbor as myself) also makes me against the death penalty and war.

We need to make sure our political views are shaped by Scripture and the Holy Spirit rather than prominent political ideologies.

The problem that has manifested itself in the American church is that Christians aligned themselves with one political party and let that political party define their political views rather than letting Scripture.  Christians were once involved in both political parties, but they apparently thought a closer alignment with one political party would be more beneficial to bringing about God's will.  In so doing, they compromised on a lot of issues that they should not have.  By aligning themselves with one political party, American Christians abandoned their position outside the fray as a prophet to all of American politics.  We became part of the system rather than a force that helps shape the system. 

On health care, it does not mean that the church should be for universal
government health care, although it could.  Health care, like most issues, is more complicated than an either/or decision.  The church should be for everyone having adequate health care without going broke.  If a person believes that they should have health care and claim to be a follower of Jesus, then they should love their neighbor as they are being loved.  If they have health care but think others should not, there is a great spiritual disconnect from the golden rule.  All of this does not mean that we must conclude that the government should be the one to provide health care.  But if health care is something a person feels they deserve while claiming to be a Christian, then they should also feel that other people made in the image of God deserve equal treatment.  We need to wrestle with how everyone can have adequate health care because that would be the right response of Christians who have health care. 

So I cannot conclude that politics should stay out of the church, we just need to make sure that Jesus remains the center of those politics.  For further reading, check out John Howard Yoder's The Politics of Jesus or Two Kingdoms, Two Loyalties: Mennonite Pacifism in Modern America by Perry Bush. 

War, abortion, health care, and budget deficits are issues that God is concerned about, and they are inherently political.  However, Jesus does not have a position on gun rights, term limits, level of taxation, representative democracy, international trade policy, etc. I would have no problem of the church I minister at being branded a politically "liberal" church if that meant that we were a church that stood up for the poor, against war, and against the death penalty.  But we would not be able to abandon conservative issue of being against "abortion," nor could we say that homosexuality is a lifestyle that is in God's will.  We cannot be liberal or conservative - just Christian.  And we need to make sure that we allow Scripture and the Holy Spirit to shape our views rather than go to Scripture to force our view on it.

Our biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin, even if we don't proclaim it from the rooftops, will make us unpopular.  By the end of the article, that was the main issue that author was centered on.  The belief that homosexuality is a sin yet our nation should allow them to have equal rights makes me loved neither by the religious establishment or the tolerance culture of our world.  Just this last week, Lindsay was asked her view on homosexuality by someone who was considering our church.  I'm pretty sure her answer that homosexuality is a sin like any other sin, yet we are still called to love homosexuals was not the answer they wanted to hear.  I doubt they will be visiting.  They wanted to hear that it is okay to be a homosexual, and despite the alluring siren call of our culture, that is not something we can say and still be honest with Scripture.  For some our age, their belief that homosexuality is a valid lifestyle in the eyes of God will cause them to discard Scripture.  But does that mean that the church should never teach on the issue?   

So I would advise that we need to not throw the baby (politics) out with the bathwater (Republicanism).  We need to make sure that we have a politic that is glorifying to Jesus, has the golden rule at its heart as it is at the Gospel's heart, and that we only stand up for and against issues that Jesus would stand up for or against.