Hopefully, this will not be your average political post, however. I am working on a theory, and need to flesh it out. I could be wrong, but I won’t be able to figure that out until see it written down. If I am wrong, I welcome feedback and discussion. Deep breath…here goes…
I am an American, and as such, I have a certain idea of what political engagement should be. I have a specific understanding of government, a democratic republic, and my role in it and relationship to it. I don’t know anything outside of this paradigm. I live in a country where dissent is allowed, and we vote for our government representatives. I also live in a country that has as part of its national character a civil religion that borrows heavily on a “Judeo-Christian” ethic and therefore liberally applies biblical language and imagery to our public and political life. The American way of life is highly individualistic, focused on rights and freedoms, and champions the lone ranger who pulls himself up by his bootstraps and makes something out of next to nothing.
How much of that is really “Christian” though? That’s a post for another day, but I post that question to make this statement: America is not the Kingdom of God. And government can only go so far. No matter the structure, political philosophy or economic policy, every form of government is flawed. There are elements that are good, and elements that are sinful, because government is made up of a bunch of sinful people. It seems reasonable to me that if an institution or system is set up by people who are all sinners (a biblical doctrine, no?), then there will be things about that system that are sinful. Again, another topic for another day. My bottom line is this: Certain things are simply not biblical or Christian, no matter how many Christian words your sprinkle on them. And even in our most eloquent speeches advocating unwavering national pride, throwing God in the mix doesn’t make it Christian.
But, I digress, as usual…back to the point of this post.
Full disclosure: I am a left-leaning Christian. Not that anyone who reads my Facebook page or Twitter feed would be surprised by that statement. There are a few (extremely important) issues where I do not fall in line with the left side of politics; but for the most part, I would say I lean left. I own this preference, and will not necessarily apologize for it. What I will apologize for is that I at times ignore that I do look at things through this lens and therefore do not account for that particular bias when considering political commentary or news. If this past weekend has taught me anything, it is that I need to sit back and reassess how I’m seeing things.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a particular political preference. What I do think is wrong, and what I’ve seen in myself personally this last week is the fact that I allow my political preference to inform my reading of the Word versus the other way around. There are elements on the left and the right that are God-honoring and very biblical. But there are elements on both sides that are diametrically opposed to Scripture. Naked Capitalism has winners and losers; it’s the nature of the beast. But applauding capitalism while ignoring the very real suffering of its losers and blaming them for their losses is not biblical. Treating men and women with equal dignity and respect in the home and workplace is a biblical concept. But redefining life in order to justify our desire to do as we please with our bodies is not. As you can see, I live on both sides of a very contentious fence. But things are not so black and white, and the lines we have drawn in the sand are proving to be more arbitrary by the day.
I point this out to suggest that perhaps we are focusing on the wrong thing, or better said, depending on the wrong thing to effect change in our culture and world. No matter what issue we’re debating or what side we are defending, all policy has unintended consequences. We are not omniscient. We cannot see all sides of everything. Fixing one problem can create a dozen new ones we never saw coming. When that happens, who is there to pick up the pieces and help those who have been hurt? Should that not be the church?
This is where I’m going: How would things look if we owned our political biases and allowed others to own theirs without automatically dismissing them as sub-Christian because they disagree with us? Or spent more time comparing our particular stances with Scripture and allowing Scripture to correct them instead of going to Scripture to proof-text the validity of our positions? Or stopped stereotyping each other and allowed facts to drive our discussion, even if they don’t support our position? This would require that we be willing to see the flaws in our positions and accept that the other side might have something valid to say. This would require that we hold our position loosely enough that we are willing to be wrong and change our minds. It would require more listening as opposed to speaking. It would require humility, some discomfort, and the potential loss of reputation and/or influence in the world.
But wouldn’t it be worth it?
We could then focus on being a prophetic voice instead of a political mouthpiece. We could a refuge that would help clean up the mess those unintended consequences of policy decisions will create. But most importantly, it would shift our focus as the church back to what we ought to be focusing on. Caring for the least of these, for the poor and afflicted. Caring for the orphaned and widowed. For the stranger. That is not a left or right position: it is a biblical position. It is uncomfortable and would require sacrifice. But I ask again: wouldn’t it be worth it?
I realize that opens up another can of worms. How best do we help the least of these? But that is a discussion worth having and should be had in the church. We have the resources within ourselves to do these things. We don’t need the government to do them. We need each other.
Again, this is a work in progress. I haven’t thought out all the implications, and as you can see, I haven’t yet dug deeply into scriptural content yet either. All or some of this is subject to change. I just know there is a better way than what we are seeing and have been seeing for a long time.
So this is part one of a multi-part series that will go on for who knows how long. I will take breaks from this topic because it is so thick that sometimes I have to come up for air. But since I don’t think this problem is going to get better any time soon, it’s not something I can ignore.
More later…grace and peace…