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?