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Politics July 22, 2006

Posted by Matt in Church, Mission.

Ah, the joyous subject of American politics… You may insert any cynical cliche introduction to the topic as you may see fit.

Personally, I have to wonder how either side lives with themselves. Both make the same mistake: Confusing the Government’s work with The Body’s work. For the “Right”, it’s social issues. The Government’s job is to enforce the moral status-quo (that of, so-called, Juedo-Christian values). For the “Left”, it’s economic issues. The Government’s job is to enforce arbitrary standards of healthy living.

Of course, regardless of what you think the roll of the Government is, it is most certainly not a replacement for the work that we as Christians are called to do. Yes, we as Christians are called to be a people set a part (namely, by our adherence to the moral guidance of the Spirit), yet we are also called to be agents for bringing about the Kingdom of God in the places where we are. However, I think that the Scriptures are rather clear that WE (that is, the Church) are the people called to that task, not the powers and municipalities.

Then Chaplin at Duke Divinity (now Bishop of Northern Alabama) Will Willimon writes in his book Resident Aliens:

“Sometime ago, when the U.S. bombed military and civilian targets in Libya, a debate raged concerning the morality of that act. One of us witnessed an informal gathering of students who argued the morality of the bombing…At one point in the argument, one of the students turned and said, ‘Well, preacher, what do you think?’ I said that, as a Christian, I could never support bombing, particularly bombing of civilians, as an ethical act.

‘That’s just what we expected you to say,” said another. ‘That’s typical of you Christians. Always on the high moral ground, aren’t you? You get so upset when a terrorist guns down a little girl in the airport, but when President Reagan tries to set things right, you get indignant when a few Libyans get hurt.’

The assumption seems to be that there are only two political options: Either conservative support of the administration, or liberal condemnation of the administration followed by efforts to let the U.N. handle it.

‘You know, you have a point,’ I said. ‘ What would be a Christian response to this?’ Then I answered, off the top of my head, ‘A Christian response might be that tomorrow morning the United Methodist Church announces that it is sending a thousand missionaries to Libya. We have discovered it is a fertile field for the gospel. We know how to send missionaries. Here is at least a traditional Christian response.’

‘You can’t do that,’ said my adversary.

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘You tell me why.’

‘Because it’s illegal to travel in Libya. President Reagan will not give you a visa to go there.’

‘No! That’s not right!’ I said. ‘I’ll admit we can’t go to Libya, but not because of President Reagan. We can’t go there because we no longer have a church that produces people that can do something this bold. But we once did.

That’s right… We once did. Ask a Church Historian some time. They are the forgotten few in modern scholarship, namely because their project has been appropriated by others for other motives. They’ll love to hear from you.

Notice well that the Christian response (as Willimon suggests) is not a “Liberal” one or a “Conservative” one. It’s a missional one. Christians would do well to remember that Jesus was a radical precisely because he wasn’t a Liberal or a Conservative (if such terms can even be applied). Jesus was radical because he told everyone that they were wrong and they needed to get back to doing God’s work and not their own foolish pursuits.

Reminding You to Go,



1. $cirisme - July 25, 2006

A very timely and sobering reminder. Thanks for this.

2. Rob (Amazing Rando) - August 16, 2006

Hey Matt! You read Resident Aliens! Wonderful choice, eh?

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