the deep divide (over politics)

I was once again reminded this week of the routine vitriolic language that goes hand and hand with the political landscape of our day. Christians can be as divided over it as the general populace, though evangelical Christians tend to side with the Republicans and the religious right and mainline Protestant Christians with the Democrats and the religious left. I have found myself in “no man’s land” often in regard to a good number of things, religion and politics included. Concerning politics, I want to hear the best arguments from both sides, the best critiques of such, hoping for an ongoing discourse. That said, politics isn’t just about theory but it has to be practiced, in fact the best politicians on the world’s stage are most likely by and large activists. The recent Ken Burns documentary on Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin and Delano Roosevelt comes to mind.

I think it is important for the church in a sense to live above the politics of the day in the one politic in which we are to live: the kingdom of God in and through Jesus. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out on issues like poverty, health care, abortion, the environment and other issues, participating in the democratic discourse of the republic. But we should do so holding as paramount the calling we have in Jesus and the politic in which we live, which can’t include the Democratic or Republican Party, or any entity of this world, for that matter. And yet this kingdom, while not from or of this world is present for this world in terms of shalom, God’s kingdom vision of justice in King Jesus.

All that said I have an ongoing and enduring respect for traditions such as the Quakers who challenge the status quo in regard to social justice and people with more of a C. S. Lewis bent such as Os Guinness who presents a good argument for a more conservative approach which sees a different means to the same end.

The church itself ideally should not be known as a bastion for any party of this world. In King Jesus it should be a light which exposes the darkness on every side, and helps others find the way which ultimately is only through Jesus. And yet in limited ways societies can surely benefit by implementing something of what by the Spirit should be alive and at work in the church. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission comes to mind. That is an example of remarkable restraint and forbearance in the face of violent injustice. But also evident is the limitations of such. To truly work through such issues is not easy in a church and hardly possible in society apart from the church or at least God’s common grace at work pointing to the greater grace found in Jesus to be lived out as church.

Entities such as the state have their provisional place for good in this world. And we can differ on the politics of this world. In Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and we in him are united in that.