A fundamental change

“Fundamentalism is wondering just how is it that a world-changing message narrowed its scope to the changing of isolated individuals.” –Carl F. H. Henry (“The Fundamentalist Fallout Revisited: From a World-Changing to a World Resistant and Worldly Gospel” Section from Chapter 1 of Consuming Jesus)
That’s what I want to know. I have spent much time thinking and dialoguing with others in order to understand what role politics should play in and throughout the Christian community. It becomes further complicated when I am a citizen with an allegiance that is ultimately to Christ, not my nation. In light of this, I’m trying to understand why it is that evangelicals have achieved the reputation of being those that, as Metzger quotes James Montgomery Boice in Chapter One, “fix their gaze on gaining the kingdom of the world and ‘have made politics and money our weapons of choice for grasping it'” (p. 28).

Metzger quotes Carl F. H. Henry saying, “Whereas once the redemptive gospel was a world-changing message, now it was narrowed to a world-resistant message” (p.26).  So rather than voting and living out of a sense of concern for justice that is truly social, evangelicals are driven by concern for the individual. And this influences our voting patterns.  It is Christian to vote pro-life, anti-gay marriage, and lower taxes. The Religious Right “gives scant attention to issues such as universal health care, concern for the environment, and the rights of minorities” (p. 27).

I am not undermining rightful concern for the human unborn or seeking to legalize same-sex marriage, but I am deeply concerned that evangelicals have an earned a reputation for being concerned about personal and nuclear familial issues at the expense of other social issues. As if they must choose one or the other, and larger social structural issues (such as those mentioned in the Boice quote above) are exempt from their sphere of concern.

Does this bother you?

Considering the fact that issues such as health care, minority rights, and the environment in which we live affects everyone–especially the poor and minorities–how do you think this value structure among evangelicals affects solidarity among all of us–rich, poor, black, white?

Personally, I think it suggests a message that we evangelicals would rather have “success, wonderful marriages and nice children,” (p. 28) as Boice laments. I have heard Christian pastors essentially say that those who are Christians cannot vote in favor of these social issues. Yet when I read the gospels, Jesus’ primary concern was loving his neighbor, helping the poor, and connecting with those that were worlds apart from him ethnically, religiously, and socially. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Jesus seemed to place more emphasis on larger social issues (love of neighbor, including one’s enemy) than on issues pertaining to one’s own nuclear family, affinity group, and class. Why such a disconnect?

I know there are many evangelicals out there who must be able to offer a differing view, considering that I am not the dominant voice. I want to hear your thoughts. Dr. Metzger and civil rights leader Dr. John M. Perkins will be engaging related issues in their upcoming “Drum Majors for Truth, Love and Justice” conference this coming Thursday and Friday, November 20th and 21st. Join them as they encourage and equip church leaders to live out a holistic and redemptive gospel. Visit http://consumingjesus.org/wp-content/drum-majors-event-details.pdf for more details.

3 Responses to “A fundamental change”

  1. benjamin malick Says:

    It was Ghandi who said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” I think the greater evangelical community could learn a lot if it took those words to heart. I believe that GREED is what is at the heart of the matter here. One thing I’ve noticed about greed in my life, I never like to admit that it’s there. However, I know it is. I can see it’s effect in the creation of walls and barriers I have erected around me that separates me from the communities that Jesus was most concerned about. Greed is so ugly that it’s hard to look at. Greed enables us to be comfortable, feel protected, and only have to worry about one thing, ourselves. But it’s a LIE!

    At first, this may seem a bit off the beat and path of your post concerning how evangelicals engage the political spectrum, but to me it’s core to the issue. When the evangelical “way of life” is threatened by political change, greed-driven protection kicks in. All the barriers our greed created to diverse groups of people and view points comes into play. Our government must consider all groups, not just the majority, or those with the most money, although often times that is who is catered to. Having very limited exposure to opinions that differ from ours widens the gap of understanding. We play to the conversation in our affinity groups limiting us to speak to issues most often discussed by our homogenious peers, while the opinions of those who differ from us are shrugged off and labeled as being ignorant. Greed blinds us to the truth.

    However, I am hopeful. The face of the the American evangelical is quickly changing. The majority is soon to become the minority. What will happen then? When we are faced with the ugliness of our own greed will we repent and turn, or press on even harder and become more calloused. May God have mercy on us all.

  2. Ronaldo A. Sison Says:

    I heard a rabbi once said that Jesus was persecuted for political and not religious reasons. At first take, it sounded incredulous but is it?
    JESUS wins, Cesar loses.
    The message of the Cross and the Resurrection was to trounce the political establishment, with its Pax Romana and its breads and circuses. The most humiliating punishment, death on the cross, according to the writer of Hebrews (12: 2) was endured by Jesus and its shame scorned by Him. And in the end, He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Jesus wins, Cesar loses. A political statement indeed, demonstrated by a simple carpenter from Nazareth of Galilee (could something good come out from there?).
    Jesus endured the Cross and scorned its shame because He loved the Father and He feasted on doing the will of the Father (John 4). And He did so not b leading a ragtag band of hardcore political ideologues and devoted guerrillas in an armed warfare to bring down the establishment. He did so by giving all the He had in His Humanity so that one day, the humans could be divine. So that one day, thes very people who wrangle and fight and bicker for an inch of threat on their turfs could one day become a co-heir of Him in God’s kingdom. Not another Cesar. Not another demigod. Not another power-hungry, or power broker, but a humble, obedient servant willing to wash the feet of the “the lest of these” in loving submission to the will of the Father.
    Been there, done that. As one who espoused a theology of liberation through the political system and the armed struggle, i see Jesus paradigmatic life as a model of having His followers a revolution… a revolution that is from the within, from the heart of every Christ-follower, every Cross-bearing, every Open Tomb-believing.
    No, i cannot effect change with a raised, clenched fists but these hands could be dedicated to the Conquering Savior to lift a fallen brother/ sister, a homeless, an abused child, a confused individual, a broken family, a hurting neighbor, regardless of race, class or social status. Because
    Jesus Won, Cesar Lost!
    MARANATHA!

  3. Kelsi Johns Says:

    I agree that greed is a key player in the evangelical tendency to disengage from issues that, as Ben said, concern the minorities and are trivial to the majority. If it benefits one’s comfort, then why risk changing that? To a self-centered mentality, this makes sense. We must open our eyes to how our political and systemic structures are affecting us all, not just “those that matter”. This is not the heart of Christ. We are equal in his eyes; I can only pray that our hearts can be transformed to live out this truth and see others through the humble compassion of Christ.

    As Ronaldo so powerfully said, Christ endured the cross not by “leading a ragtag band of hardcore political ideologues and devoted guerrillas in armed warfare to bring down the establishment”. I don’t believe that is our calling either. But it is the subversive, shocking humility by being obedient and allowing Christ’s reconciling power to work through us that will truly serve to love all equally in his name. There is no way we can do this without Him working in us and through us. That is humbling. As Ronaldo said, we “cannot effect change with a raised, clenched fist”. We must be open, pliable and trusting to Christ’s bold and revolutionary truth. This isn’t comfortable. And we will face sever ridicule and cynicism. But this is nothing new, and surely nothing to be discouraged at, if we put our hope in the life and work of Christ.

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