In the first part of Chapter 1, Metzger sheds light on the history of the fundamentalist-evangelical movement in America and the the ways in which both the left and right have used the political platform to tout their own agendas, which only foster “walls of separation, not bridges of redemption” (p. 14). Their respective hopes are in legislation rather than the cross. Historically, conservatives and liberals alike have “used power politics to build moral utopias” (p. 13).
I think this is right on. So often when I’m talking to friends, colleagues, whomever, their concern is: Who is going to run our country next? Who’s going to, in a sense, save this wreck and put the pieces back together? Another republican? Doubtful, they say. A black man? Maybe, but he doesn’t have much experience. A woman? Well, she is a bit abrasive. So who will it be? That’s the hot topic right now, right? And I wonder, is Jesus left in the corner with his hands open? What about his agenda? What about his public discourse, his experience, and his oh so gentle demeanor? And it is interesting to me that this is how the candidates are typically discussed: by their status as minority figures. A black man. A woman. The lone republican. First and foremost, they are not described by their values, morals, faith, etc. They are first qualified by what they are not. (The woman that’s not a man, the black man that’s not a white man, the republican that’s not a democrat.) This makes sense, as that is how things are often distinguished, but it further enforces the mindset that political orientations and decisions are often rooted in polarization and separation rather than in reconciliation and unity.
Metzger says that those on the left and the right often “use power politics to promote the agenda of their special-interest groups” (p. 14), which then leads to these walls of separation. “They are consumed by the wrong priorities”.
If politics only serves our special-interest groups and as a means to further ostracize and divide, then how and where does that fit in to the vision of Christ?
With the goal of achieving a non-divisive “patchwork quilt” body of Christ (set forth in the conclusion to the book), how are we to interact with politics and legislation in light of and out of respect for the various differences in religious and social convictions, and socioeconomic and racial backgrounds in our country? Furthermore, I wonder how the church and government are to co-exist, without one squandering or manipulating the other. I think that we often (mistakenly) view the connection between the government of our secular nation to the body of Christ as seamless–as if the government or the church is simply an arm of the other.
In what ways do you think we as Christians have mistakingly replaced the power of the cross in the church with power politics in the realm of the state when it comes to promoting and enforcing our moral ideals, and how might you find it harmful to reconciliation?
And really, whose moral ideas are we touting–our own personal hot buttons, or Christ’s through and through–regardless of whether or not they personally ignite us or line up with our political stances?
So really the question is: as Christ followers who desire reconciliation and unity, how are we to engage politics of the state in a redemptive and effective manner? What would that look like?