Jesus’ Platform

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?

5 Responses to “Jesus’ Platform”

  1. Bryan Dormaier Says:

    One thing, I want to make clear, whenever we have discussion of left and right, liberal and conservative is that we don’t get our terms mixed up. There is both right and left wing Christian groups, and there are liberal and conservative(theologically) Christian groups. While certainly it would seem that those who are more Social Gospel oriented would also be more liberal leaning politically, I do want to be careful that we’re not mixing up terms.

    With that in mind however, here are some thoughts about your questions.

    1. It seems to me that the church has been looking to politics and rulings to legitimize it’s stances on issues. It seems to be “we must have the government take the same stance on _______ as we have, or we will be irrelevant.” I’ve heard some comment that it doesn’t really matter whether or not abortion is legal if people are going to seek out abortions, in other words we should seek to show that other options are better than abortion. Then it doesn’t matter if it is legal or not, because people will take the better option.

    Unfortunately what has happened is that the church has had to ally itself to other’s political agendas, and then feels responsible to side with those agendas on issues that aren’t necessarily Christian.

    2. The problem becomes when we think it is our job to legislate our morality issues, for we quickly begin to appear as if our primary concern is people’s actions rather than what drives those actions.

    3. My opinion of this is that as Christians, it is not our place to be fully Republican or fully Democrat. Certainly different folks will give different responses here, but I just feel that we are in trouble whenever we line ourselves up with one specific party or group. As people who vote, I hope we vote for the person who most espouses our understanding of Christ’s view on issues, one of which for me is being willing to work with “the other guys.”

  2. Ross Halbach Says:

    Good thoughts, BD! I have been contemplating lately the necessity of the church to be a political body instead of being political (i.e. involved in politics). Sure, there should be political involvement. However, the church as a social entity, as Christ’s body, is more than that; it is the place where republican and democrat, or independent for that matter, are unified in Christ. What do you’ll think? If you agree, how do we do it?

  3. Benjamin Malick Says:

    As I continue to wrestle with complex human and political issues, I resolved myself to one thing: the starting point must be that the church is a place where we can grapple with difficult questions with grace and humility. And I believe that, even more important than thinking identically on every issue, we must learn to disagree well. Our ability to disagree well is as powerful a witness to the larger society as our uniformity on every issue.

    We can do much better to create communities in the church in which people can find intimacy and love than to split congregations over issues.
    -Shane Claiborne in Jesus for President

  4. Ross Halbach Says:

    Thanks Ben!

    Those are very helpful comments. I, too, long for the church to be a place like you describe: where our relational intimacy provides the space for our disagreements only to bring us closer and our distinctions only to make us more intrigued by one another. Ummmm, I think we are going to need the Holy Spirit (i.e. God’s love poured into our hearts).

  5. Rachel O'Brien Says:

    BD, I agree. More than trying to form a church or a body, unified in opinion (biblical and godly or not) we seek an incorrect goal. While we should form alingment and unity the Church is not a monad, but a character, a person, persons, a body. We encompass contradictions beautiful and horrible. While we speak about overcoming differences we do not live in light of our already unified Body. The church works well to say, while we may not be single minded about any “issue” we are single minded about Christ. We know that there is space for diversity, Christ and His word leaves us space, I shrink from the idea that this is a mistake. I look at the way in which He walked the earth, the manner in which He pursues us and it is not the same. Our identity in Him gives us freedom that the world cannot fathom or offer. As the Church we need to offer this same space, to question, to contradict, to vary. One thing that keeps so many from Christ both in the Church and out of it is the sense that you lose your self, you become something/someone else, rather than finding who you truly are. While we face issues like abortion, politics, race, and class we do not face them as any one or anything but the creations which the Lord draws together to live and to love. We do not face them with the same lenses or perspectives. The moment we take on legislating our beliefs onto the country or others is the moment we put our Lord and Savior into a box, dispensable at any opportune moment to control others. While Christ makes clear statements they tend to be hyper-political, above, beyond over and through politics. Our Body should reflect that desire to reach past mere politics, to a belief system that is supernatural, theological, mystical, and indicative of the Person we follow.

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