Religion and Politics- what to do?

3 11 2006

Please note- I struggled to write this because it really cuts to the heart of who I am as a Christian, who I want to be, how I want to live, and how I want others to learn to live as well, it also leaves me wondering whether there is a viable Christian political agenda- on the right or the left.

I think the religion and politics issues are really dangerous- as an evangelical it often hurts me to be characterised as a greedy, wasteful, arrogant, persecuting bigot. I think we as a church have a duty to respond to issues of poverty, global warming (and other green issues), and militarism (the myth of redemptive violence). I’m not sure how we can set these issues apart from our views on homosexuality, euthanasia (or assisted dying), and Christian education and formation.

Our secular governments trust in economic policies that protect our individual economies nurturing stable growth these policies set other nations (some of the worlds poorest) at a disadvantage economically. As Christians, we may want to criticise these policies but if we legislate against the policies the secular American wheat farmer goes out of business someone else pays the cost of our political agenda- the result is bitterness towards the Christian theocratic agenda and towards Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

I was speaking to a Canadian who works for the Commonwealth, yesterday, focussing on world health issues (most notably HIV AIDS). We discussed the Christian role in combating the aids pandemic across Africa; he noted that in some countries the church is providing 50% of the overall health care. It is an amazing testimony to Jesus Christ who healed lepers, reconciled community and outcast, and preached an alternative lifestyle that the Church continues to be Christ’s hands and feet and voice in the contemporary world. However, you can’t legislate for community reconciliation or Christian moral values these things come about as we accept the discipline of the Father, follow in the footsteps of Jesus and receive renewal through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Consider another situation ‘global warming’ at the moment, our nations are placing blind faith in further scientific and technological developments save us from an environmental catastrophe. We might want to say as the People of God actually living God’s way and being good stewards of the earth will save us from global melt down. But, it depends where you put your trust and in whom you put your trust for many the cost of following Christ with our natural resources is far too high- so how do we work this out?

We can either trust in our democratic right by legislate against homosexuality, bad stewardship (or what we perceive is bad stewardship) of the environment, assisted dying, and health care. Alternatively, we can pursue the Christian theocratic agenda through the Church, which acknowledges Christ as its head. In this situation, we provide an example to the world of good (faithful) sexual ethics good stewardship, good palliative care (and good dying), good (holistic) health care.
I know it is a difficult choice, particularly when it means allowing for suffering (perhaps that’s what it felt like for God when he allowed us to go our own way), but it is surely the better way for a people who believe that there is both judgement and life after death.

What do you think? Is there a way to square the circle that I haven’t seen? What does it mean to live ‘in’ but not ‘of’ the world?

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4 responses

4 11 2006
Dave Williams

Ah

You should get down to Oak Hill and get on the Christians in the Modern World module!

I generally agree with your comments. Our primary responsibility is not through political action but through the growth of the church , not because conversion is all that matters but because it is only through converted people that there can be a lasting impact.

But as I beleive in Common Grace, I believe God will use things such as politically and socially concerned Christians and non-Christians with an active concern for different issues to have an influence on wider society for good. So yes I would still campaign on environmental, social and moral issues -simply don’t let it take over

5 11 2006
Dave Williams

Also Hugh Palmer made some helpful comments when I visited All Souls last Sunday night. He was saying that Christians should be involved in environmental campaigning and doing our bit as responsible stewards. But we shouldn’t ever think that green taxes etc will save the planet. We have to hold our responsibility alongside remembering that the world is fallen, creation therefore is groaning and will continue to show the effects of the fall until Christ’s appearing. We however need to be responsible as Christians believing not in some Gnostic idea of escaping this world so it is a temporary playground but rather that the world will be recreated.

30 11 2006
RedNeckoBlogger

Clearly one’s moral underpinnings must have a political aspect in a democracy. The great moral movements in this country, from slavery to civil rights to pro-life ALL were political efforts kindled by the Judeo-Christian world-view. Faith in something is always the foundation on one’s “courage”.

So… if I can convince enough ignorant folks that their “faith” has no business in the political arena… it’s just another tool to help my “faith’s” side win!

BTW Intentional Christian, we have similar taste in page design.

1 12 2006
James Church

rednecko – the problem is my faith shouldn’t want to ‘win’ because it isn’t about who can make the best home on earth it’s about the eternal kingdom, which ‘has come and is in the process of coming’. if we Christians build alliances with the secular authorities and powers we end up compromising our own beliefs (for example – supporting the Iraq war) or using the state as a weapon against the unbeliever which is equally a mistake (for example – the exclusivity of the institution of marriage).

– As for civil partnerships, gay marriage, or domestic partnerships the world will be the world and there is little we can do to make the world Christian except by showing them an alternative way of life and extending the invitation of the gospel… to force them to live a Christian lifestyle if they have not recieved the power of the holy Spirit, do not believe in Jesus Christ, or know of the love of our heavenly Father is crazy and will only make them resent the name of our Lord and Saviour!

So- I guess we find ourselves in the position God found himself in- looking down on the world and asking how do you make someone love you?

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