David Heims on Christian Politicians

Here’s some thought-provoking stuff from David Heims. Love to know your thoughts…

"I doubt the religious right is “cracking up,” as David Kirkpatrick suggests in a recent New York Times article (“The Evangelical Crackup,” Oct. 28).
At least it would take the results of a few election cycles to
demonstrate it. But, like Kirkpatrick, I have been hearing some
significant voices on the right that are disillusioned about political
engagement.

               
                                         
                        

                               

For
example, at a Yale Divinity School conference on religion and politics
in October, David Kuo, former aide in the Bush White House, talked
about the need for Christians to “fast from politics” for a few years.
Conservative Christians helped Republicans get control of Congress and
the White House, he said, but they didn’t accomplish that much for the
country and, with their focus on partisan politics, they ended up
diluting or distorting their own spiritual life.

Also speaking was Gregory Boyd, a dynamic pastor in Minnesota, who
doubts that anything good comes from aligning oneself with Caesar (his
words to describe Christians engaging in politics). He spoke eloquently
about how the church is called to embody Christ’s self-sacrificing love
in the world, not to take up the levers of power.

Skepticism about politics is always healthy. But it strikes me that
Kuo’s and Boyd’s comments reflect a broad, unhelpful tendency in
American Christianity to oscillate between two poles: either a fervent
engagement in politics for the sake of the gospel and the world, or an
equally fervent detachment for the sake of the purity of the gospel and
the health of the church. Isn’t there something between the two poles?

It might help the discussion of religion and politics if we though
not about the two poles of political engagement and detachment but
about politics as a particular kind of vocation to which Christians are
called in different ways depending on their gifts and their position in
the church and society.

I’d be happy to stipulate, with Boyd, that the church as church is
not called to be Caesar or even Caesar’s adviser. We don’t want
bishops, pastors or church councils issuing statements on tax laws or
free trade agreements or on which version of the SCHIP bill should be
passed. Churches and church leaders have their particular vocation of
proclamation, worship, prayer and sacramental ministry. Except in
emergency situations, the church—here I mean the church as an official
body—leaves the details of what public justice means to those who are
called to the work of politics.

Meanwhile, however, individual Christians have their particular
vocations. In a democracy, all people have the vocation of citizen and
so are in some degree called to the work of politics. Beyond that, a
certain number of individual Christians are called to a more specific
vocation: to study, analyze or participate in the day-to-day workings
of politics. They make arguments and pay attention to data. They look
for affinities between the gospel and political philosophies and
programs. They listen to what constituents say and arguments other
people make. Their work is fallible, limited, pervaded by sin, always
subject to revision—but so are lots of vocations.

Unless one takes a truly separatist view of the Christian life and
wants to preclude anybody with political influence from being a member
of the church, then one has to grant that some Christians have the
specific vocation of working out the details of seeking justice in
political life. This is not the only task of the Christian life, nor is
it the primary task of the church. But it is a genuine vocation for
Christians, one just as worthy as farming or schoolteaching. If we are
clear about the distinct vocations to which Christians are called,
there is no reason for Christians to fast from politics or apologize
for their involvement in it."

Thoughts?

                        

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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