Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gotta Wonder

I really gotta wonder about those "Christians" who tell the evangelical church to back out of politics. I think they missed something in Jesus' lesson on prayer. He told us to pray in order to change ourselves. Of course, that is the 'personal nature' of our faith. It begins as a personal response to affirm the call to convert, to respond with personal repentance, and to begin a life as a Christ-follower. Quickly, however, the personal nature of our faith lands us in church. Church is the corporate expression of faith in Jesus of Nazareth. We have been called out of the world to form a new and radical corporate body-an otherworldly centered colony right here in this world. Amazingly, the priorities of heaven invade the gathering of these followers of Christ; forgiveness, love, compassion, strength, and mercy invade the lives of the individuals and the group of these followers of Jesus. They are purposed to change the world.

Don't believe me? Look at the Masters prayer..."your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven..." This insistence that my faith remain personal is a bit obnoxious and certainly out of step with the passions of Christ. As a Christ follower, I am expected to work to bring heaven to earth (so to speak) in the hearts of others but also in the society that we live in.
Those that perpetrate this benign form of 'silent witness' miss the point entirely. Heaven invades by affecting the society with the values of God!

Years ago a person tried to convince me that we shouldn't legislate morality. But realistically we are always basing our legislation on 'someones' morality. The penchant for legislating inclusiveness rather than saving the lives of the unborn is a moral decision! The desire to fore go the rights of the legal immigrants for the illegal ones is based on someones morality. The desire that the state provide for the indigent is based upon someones morality. On and on it goes! Someones morality is directing every bill put before Congress.

Why simply acquiesce? Jesus asked us to daily pray to influence the earth along the lines of His Kingdom priorities. Daily. Those believers who think they are silently influencing the world might do well to revisit the church's silence over slavery, the silence during the Third Reich, and the white churches silence during the struggle for civil rights in the US. That silence was seen as tacit approval of immorality. And it is vilified by historians and theologians alike. We, the church, cannot simply wish to make a difference...we must be the "new breed" of believers that pray it into being. And that prayer takes the footsteps of the believers.

Tomorrow when you pray the Lord's prayer...consider going public with your faith in Christ. Work to change the values of earth to those of heaven. Do it by opening your mouth and sharing your faith, do it by confronting evil in the culture around us, do it at the voting booth, do it where ever you have an opportunity to influence the earth toward the coming of the Kingdom.


Paul M. Harrison said...

When I was a fundamentalist/evangelical, my view was that the end would come in our generation so nothing mattered but saving souls. Not only did I not care about politics and inevitable wars, but held the popular view not to trust politics and programs because only God can change a heart. So evangelism (changing one heart at a time) was the answer, with the understanding that there will be no idealistic Christian utopia apart from God overthrowing evil governments and Satan in a violent battle and setting up a theocracy.

Heck, some Calvinists believe the world is exactly as God would have it in his sovereign will - it is and always has been a totalitarian theocracy run by a sovereign God, but let's leave that aside.

I believe Christians should be as free as any other subculture to influence culture politically, yet keeping in mind that political power is not the solution or place of hope. Jesus did say not to seek power over others, but seek to serve others, so all political involvement shouldn't seek a self-interest power-over version of Christianity that has existed for centuries in Europe and is as scary as the secular totalitarian regimes and communism this past century.

Politics is usually corrupt and interested in self-preservation and protection at any cost, using propaganda (usually religious) to justify ulterior motives. I get nervous when religion seeks political power because it simply produces a corrupt form of religion.

There is a sense in which Jesus tells us to let the government oppress his followers - not to defend your life, possessions, property, and freedom, nor to strike back, but to let God take revenge. This is the "under the radar social action hippie" view of Jesus.

Absolutism and fundamentalism, whether religious or secular, cannot help but feel a need to one-up and control everyone else for their own good by what it considers to be True. It has little tolerance or patience with what it considers as an enemy to Truth to be oppressed by law or violence.

The test is to believe you have the Truth, live that out freely in political influence, yet reflect the proper respect for the freedom of others that the constitution allows us all without having to respect those views.

Pastor Dave said...

Hmm... seems we agree on the right of people of faith to express their political views. I would disagree with your assertion that fundamentalists are inherently intolerant. The followers of Christ are engaging in acts of mercy (without judgement), in acts of kindness (without slander), in selfless acts of service to mankind and community. Is this to propagate their own personal agendas? NO it is to benefit the kingdom of God and the agenda of Jesus.
I don't know of a single Christian that believes that there will be an idealistic Christian Utopia (until the Lord returns).

You said that you were a fundamentalist/ evangelical- what are you now?

Paul M. Harrison said...

Well, you have secular humanists and the new atheists wanting Christians out of power for fear of the Inquisition and the erosion of freedom and you have the Christians wanting secular influence stunted for fear of another Stalin. Both see themselves as the oppressed and persecuated minority by the other in America.

The secular humanists are clear that Stalin, Hitler, and totalitarianism are not representative of secular ethics while Christians are clear that the Inquisition, dominionism, and popular Christian leaders in televangelism aren't representative of true Christianity.

The more we move away from both extremes, the closer the value of freedom and democracy becomes, but philosophically for different reasons.

I hoped to qualify "feel the need to" one up as opposed to actually doing so. I think it is natural for anyone who believes they are right to want their view to dominate - some for compassionate reasons, some for control reasons.

What comes to mind is Ryan Dobson (James' son) who has a book called, "Be Intolerant! Because Some Things Are Just Stupid." My experience among Christains has not been just that they politely disagree with those not like them, but they demonize, almost cutting off all rational discourse by appealing to the fact that I am blinded by Satan or don't have the Sprit, with biblical texts supporting. This is belittling and one-upping as opposed to showing respect towards those in disagreement. Whether or not this is fringe or the norm is up for debate I suppose.

This type of impatience for out-groups is shown in many other areas, religion (and Christianity) not being the only ones. Atheists do the same, but they don't appeal to divine authority for their intolerance - they are just jerks.

There is a sense in which popular Christianity - the people in the pews - are critiqued, then theologians call strawman and say true Christianity is represented by the intellectual strand that hardly trickles down to the popular version.

I believe Christians should be motivated by spreading what they believe is true with the agenda of bringing people to that worldview, and I would question the faith of someone who says they are not motivated by anything but to serve. I do have a good friend who loves selflessly as motivated by his devotion to Jesus, and doesn't feel a need to evangelize or hand out a business card for Christianity in the process.

I am an existentialist these days Pastor Dave, which doesn't say much. I can identify with many subcultures and be repulsed by them at the same time. So for clarity, I know I don't hold to the literal truth of Christianity or anything in a fundamentalist sense, but I find plenty of good in Christianity. Being a product of it most of my life, it is still something I think and talk about a lot. For practical purposes, we'll just say agnostic. It's bland and non-threatening enough.