Follower of The Way

Continuing Toward a Biblical Theology of Political Engagement

Posted in Christ and Culture,Government & Politics by sosipater on November 13, 2007

Unless you have been under a rock you know that the Presidential Campaign here in the U.S. is in premature full swing. For the Christian who wants to honor Christ, this may bring about the unsavory idea of delving into a media induced coma in order to gain some sort of understanding of the issues and the candidates.

And for some of us, it makes us once again start thinking about the proper role that politics should play in a full orbed, 21st century, Americanized, Christian concept of faith and politics. And that my friends, isn’t always easy.

Some of you may know where my political bent is. I have definitely seen a shift politically over the last few months, from a card carrying neoconservative to what I guess could be called a paleoconservative, or perhaps a classical liberal (not to be confused with modern day leftest liberalism-see link for definition.)

But above political ideology, for the Christian, our faith and our worldview must must reign philosophically supreme. We should not necessarily do politics like everyone else, though common grace sometimes goes a long way in providing capable and just administrations of government. I have brought up the subject before of the politicization of sinful behavior and the detriment I think it can have on not only our Christian witness, but on our very souls. I see this in the bigoted and hateful way we as Christian can speak about those who are our neighbors that we are commanded to love, but we find that difficult when trying to force them to bend to our political wills. I see the inconsistencies of the pro-life movement that doesn’t seem to care about life that has already been born and living in the middle east. And fundamentally, at least in this country, I see Christians politically equate the United States with, well take your pick, either Old Testament Israel, New Testament Israel, or the New Jerusalem (that shining city on a hill).

It is with those thoughts going through my head that I commend an excellent article to you. “Add, don’t Subtract” by Marvin Olasky of World Magazine is a great read. It is a little long by internet standards, but well worth it in my opinion. I don’t agree with everything in it or his somewhat narrow focus (that being “what Christian conservatives should do”), but overall I think it is a great primer on thinking through U.S. politics and little more Biblically balanced.

I’m opening myself up here, but I would REALLY like to know what you think of the article. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite.

The future of American conservatism depends on the ability of libertarians to understand that liberty without virtue cannot last, and the ability of Christian conservatives to understand that being strong and courageous does not mean demanding ideological purity. Both parts of the coalition need to follow the Reagan practice of reasoning politely and patiently with those who disagree, giving in on secondary matters, and searching for common ground. Both parts of the coalition may need to sacrifice a little.

My oversimplified advice to American Christian conservatives: Be New Testament, not Old Testament. By this I don’t mean that the two parts of revelation are theologically distinct, for as the couplet sums it up, “The New is in the Old contained, the Old is by the New explained.” I am suggesting that the emphasis is different: to generalize enormously, the Old concentrates on subtracting, the New on adding, and the success of the American experiment has hinged on our willingness to add.

The first concerns our culture wars. Year after year Christians have called for boycotts of this or that art exhibition, movie, or television show. For example, in 1999 Christian groups wanted government funding removed from a profane show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art that featured a dung-displaying portrait of the Virgin Mary. The protest led to front-page stories about Christians trying to keep people from viewing art, and to record attendance at the exhibit. It would have been far better to push for a parallel show displaying the work of Christian artists. In 2004 and 2005 we had such parallel shows in the movie theaters: Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (which reaped a rich bonanza in evangelism and ticket sales) and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Both Christian conservatives and libertarians could salute these examples of adding.

Few of my recommended actions would be sufficient for those who demand an Old Testament defense of America as the new holy land, but they’re consistent with the New Testament approach practiced by Paul and others in mixed cultures from Rome to the present: Instead of working fruitlessly to subtract evil from the land, add the good. American conservatism can have a bright future, with God’s grace, if we are strong and courageous in developing positive alternatives to the cultural negativities around us. But if we merely praise our own Christian circles and curse the darkness outside them, we will soon be surrounded by it.

Coram Deo.

UPDATE:  I forgot to give a Tar Heel Finger Point to Justin Taylor’s blog for the assist in bringing this article to my attention.  You can read his post here and for the record, I agree with the 1st comment on his blog.  More government is not the answer to our political problems in this country.  Good comment.


One Response to 'Continuing Toward a Biblical Theology of Political Engagement'

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  1. bj77 said,

    The only Tar Heel finger point I am familiar with is the isolated middle finger along with a few choice words towards law abiding Duke loyalist. Is that the “point” you were referring to?

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