|Posted by dcowan on October 26, 2011 at 4:20 AM|
Christians are involved in politics. For some this is a matter of controversy, while for others it is an essential part of how they understand discipleship. Many of us are excited by politics, and have allegiances to parties and policies. As individuals we should participate in the political process. But, what does this mean? What should guide us? What should church institutions do politically?
The problem for church institutions is they comprise people who are on both sides of the aisle and everywhere else in the political spectrum. However, in recent decades they have developed a habit in traditional churches of being hijacked by the latest Leftist ideas when it comes to economic issues. Take for instance this week. The Vatican called for “radical reform of the world's financial system” and “the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy”.
This is a position to take, albeit one I strongly disagree with, but I cannot see the Christian aspects of this. I do see the political and economic aspects. Underpinning this, to my mind foolish, plan for our economy is a set of flawed political and economic assumptions, but this has little to do with theology or faith - likewise my own ideas of what is needed. So, why is the Vatican proposing it?
It is proposing it because it has fallen victim to political fashion. This in part explains why traditional churches in the Western world are emptying. Folks get to hear heated arguments about political and economic policy, but faith aspects like the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are optional.
How then should churches and believers participate in politics? This is a bigger question than can be answered in one small blog post, but at least I can propose an operating principle: 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Paul writes “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
An American ambassador to a foreign nation is chosen to represent the views and needs of the nation. The ideal ambassador is chosen as one capable of diplomacy, and one who embodies a good American. A politician, on the other hand, is someone who is a partisan, represents specific policies and engages an opposition.
Both ambassadors and politicians are important in our political process. An ambassador is to engage with those in other nations, other political systems and people who may offer different or rival values. A politician is someone who divides, and does not expect the opposition to understand, but is essential lubricant to the ongoing political process whatever side of the aisle.
Many churches, especially the traditional churches, have spent these last few decades being politicians rather than ambassadors. Too often they have split along political lines, offering a political view on issues relating to war, economic policy and public policy. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between a sermon and a segment on Sunday morning television. These churches are failing because they have become too secular, and do not offer a unique voice or alternative to what everyone else is saying. They are just another voice in the crowded political marketplace.
Individual Christians can cross this line too, and forget the difference between their political views and what Christ commands. It is, after all, a difficult balance for us to manage sometimes. On occasion, Christians have been too quietist, like in Nazi Germany. On other occasions, Christians have been too involved, like in Latin American Marxist and liberation theology. These are obvious contrasts, but sometimes, perhaps most of the time, it is not so clear to us.
As we witness events in the global economy, the Middle East or the 2012 election, what should we be?
Paul tells us to be ambassadors. We may have our political views on solutions to problems,but we ought to share in our understanding of the cause. The cause of all conflict is separation from God, a humanity which is unreconciled. We are not going to help others to be reconciled through advocating political policy or by being politicians. Being political is dealing with symptoms rather than causes.
By being ambassadors we can be the means by which God makes His appeal to others, and in Christ we can implore others to be reconciled. Our first task then is to be ambassadors, not politicians.