One can't turn on the news without seeing and hearing political talk - especially during a very contentious US election season. One of the things I've been watching during this time is the approach that Christians are taking in regards to political debate, political activity, and political dialogue.
Depending on the context in which you grew up (perhaps largely where in the world you grew up), you have likely seen different "Christian" approaches to politics. Some of us have come to believe that it is essential for Christians to be in positions of political influence and that their/our faith is an essential part of the influence. Others have actively participated in politics, but our Christian faith has been treated largely as a secondary issue when we are involved politically. For some, our political involvement has been limited to voting and our faith may or may not have had much impact on how we voted. Still, others have stayed away from electoral politics for various reasons.
I'm not sure if wading into thinking about Christians and politics is a sign of courage or folly, but I feel it is important to do. In the news and in my social media feeds, I have heard a cacophony of voices claiming that Christians "must vote this way" or "can't vote that way" or "must think this way" or "shouldn't think that way." Sides are taken. Lines are drawn. And I seldom have interacted with thoughtful consideration about if Christians should even be involved in politics; why they should or shouldn't; and how they should or shouldn't.
Within our Covenant Church family, we have radically different perspectives on a lot of things. Ideas around political involvement is certainly one of them. Certainly, Anabaptists, the church family to which we belong, have historically had differing perspectives than many/most within western Christianity. But because we disagree on something doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it. We should talk. More importantly, perhaps, we should start by listening - first listening to Jesus and looking at how he engaged in politics. Then listening to each other and other voices as we consider the way of Jesus.
WAIT?!? WHAT?!? Did Jesus engage in politics? I can imagine some of you wondering this. My short response is, absolutely. Jesus engaged in politics. Not electoral politics, but politics nonetheless.
Aristotle introduced the word "politika" to the world in an ancient book by that name. It simply means, "the affairs of the city." Politics, beyond elections and "politicians" is really about how we live together, engage together, and make decisions together. And Jesus had a lot to say about that - both as it related just to his followers and in how he modeled and taught his followers how to relate to the people around them.
Over the next few weeks (unless I discern that this clearly has been folly and decide to back away from it) I'd like to consider Christians and politics. Notice that I am saying Christians and politics and not Christianity and politics. Christianity is a religion and Jesus didn't come to initiate a religion. Discussion about Christianity and politics has already moved away from the heartbeat of Jesus.
I am also not talking about "the Church" (or the church) and politics. When we do that we too easily think about an institution engaging with the world. But properly understood the church is the people of God - Christians - those trying to follow Jesus. I want to avoid any sense that our discussion is about what some institution should be doing to engage in politics. It is far more personal than that.
I look forward to looking at Jesus, ourselves, and the "city" in which God has placed us and considering this intersection of Christians and politics. If you have thoughts on this, please don't hesitate to send them through to me at [email protected]
And because this can be a challenging and even contentious issue, join me as we begin the conversation, in first listening to and praying the words of Jesus as he prayed for us:
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
Peace to you,