Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Great Danger of Joining the Gospel and Politics

Anno Domini has what I think is a thoughtful and important post regarding the relationship between religion and politics.

I hesitate to do my usual excerpt and comment job, since the whole post is worth reading and considering as a whole. But, when did better judgment ever stop me from doing anything?

We begin:

First, as evangelical scholar and thinker John Armstrong notes, our churches have come to see a specific set of conservative social issues as synonymous or necessary for anyone who truly believes.

...when our hearts start believing that Christ's salvation by faith through grace is somehow dependent on a certain political perspective or certain views on social issues, we blaspheme the name of Christ and pervert his holy gospel! This should not be among the people of God.
I'm not sure that "our churches have come to see..." is entirely accurate - as an Episcopalian, I can tell you there are most certainly churches that have not done that.

But this is an important point: we mustn't begin to believe that salvation comes through the Republican Party.

A second great danger is that Christians start believing culture will be renewed through political action.

...Right now, I suspect many will not go to church because they associate the evangelical church with the Republican Party. This ought not be so among the people of God.
I suspect he's right, which is why his earlier points are so important.

With that said, let me add a few disclaimers.

First, Christianity is a not a private thing that should be divorced from politics. It is a worldview that, if taken seriously, must impact all of life, including one's political perspective.
We are supposed to set examples for our fellow Christians and those we hope to bring to Christianity.

Second, while our churches should be welcoming to all people, they should not compromise the specific teachings of the Bible...True love means speaking the truth (though true love also means speaking the truth in compassion and humility).
Kinda defeats the purpose, otherwise.

And now for the understatment of the morning (at least):

This balance is a difficult one to sustain.
A lot of this could be controversial, even among Christians, but it was this line that struck me as most likely to be so:

For readers who are not Christians, if you have been turned off from Christianity because you are a liberal, I apologize on behalf of the church.
There's a real tendency (I know I have it) to respond: why should I apologize when I haven't done anything wrong?

However, I think this is an important thing for us to say. If swallowing a little pride, and making a sincere apology for words and actions (even if they weren't ours) helps bring somebody into the church who would not have come, otherwise, then we should be falling all over ourselves to make that apology.

I may not have done a good job of commenting, here. This topic deserves a lot more thought and consideration than I've given it so far (I smell a column coming!). Read the whole thing, and see what you think.

7 comments:

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

It's telling the Bible-Brian apologized for the acts of his church and in his next post equated apologizing for the acts of one's country as "hating America." What a hypocrite.

Lance Burri said...

I think you're comparing apples to oranges. Brian is willing to apologize, if doing so will help a person overcome an existing prejudice against the church which was created by the perception that the church is a right-wing Republican organization.

He's willing to do that to grease the wheels, so to speak, to help that person reach salvation. I know, you don't believe in Jesus and salvation and all that, but Brian does, and that's what he's trying to achieve.

That's a far cry from apologizing to somebody who says "Fuck America" and throws food at you the first time they see you.

You're also doing your usual thing of seeing what you want to see, not what's really there. Brian wrote: "Now I fully concede that America has done a lot of terrible things throughout its history, as has every other nation on earth, including the Netherlands. But I would never, ever respond to that kind of America bashing with an apology for who we are."

That's a little different from saying he wouldn't apologize (if he thought it was appropriate, I'm sure) "for the acts of one's country."

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"Brian is willing to apologize, if doing so will help a person overcome an existing prejudice against the church which was created by the perception that the church is a right-wing Republican organization."

The girl in his other post was willing to apologize, if doing so would help a person overcome an existing prejudice against America which was created by the perception that America is a right-wing Republican organization.

Am I the one that sees what I want to see instead of what's really there? Pffft, whatever.

Steve said...

Hey, JIJAWM,
Have you made any assertions here? Your comments have taken up space, but have no mass. Do they matter? Do they exist?

Lance Burri said...

Nice bit of logical jujitsu there, JIJAWM. Except that the girl was apologizing in order to join him, not to get him to join us.

Unless one commenter on Brian's blog was correct (which I think maybe he was) in saying she may just have been flustered by an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situation.

Liberal guilt for America's "crimes" is reflexive - an apology there is not meant to bring others to see what a great country this really is, and what a great power for good in the world it is. These apologies are made because the apologizer thinks America is bad.

When Brian offered to apologize, it was to help others see the goodness of Jesus, and the peace and warmth of following Him. These are two different things.

JesusIsJustAlrightWithMe said...

"Liberal guilt for America's "crimes" is reflexive - an apology there is not meant to bring others to see what a great country this really is, and what a great power for good in the world it is. These apologies are made because the apologizer thinks America is bad.

When Brian offered to apologize, it was to help others see the goodness of Jesus, and the peace and warmth of following Him. These are two different things."

I don't see them as two different things at all. The girl might have wanted to say, "we're not so bad. We're not all like those right-winged dick-heads you read about. America if sull of good people like me too." How is the girl saying she's sorry but the scary man should know that not all Americans are X any different than Brian saying he's sorry but the liberals should know that not all Jesus-followers are Y?

tee bee said...

I think a better question may be, does Brian have the authority to apologize for the church (and is it necessary), and does the woman in question have the authority to apologize for America?

We may all be charged to be priests, but I don't think that gives Brian the authority to apologize for every or any church.

Of course, the need to apologize presumes that someone is out there disseminating as fact that all churches are both unbendingly culturally and politically conservative. That's hardly the case. For every Pat Robertson you have a Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton.

We also well know that though there are many wounded hearts in need of grace and mercy, there are an equal number for whom the name of Christ inspires anger and hatred. Not because of anything anyone has ever done, but because of what Christ has done.

And Christ tells us who draws the people to Him: the Father.

As His messengers, we are to be truthful and merciful in dealing with those outside the church, but above all we are to follow Christ and be an example, encouraging others.

If someone expresses anger at the church, Brian or any of us should certainly consider that fact, and acknowledge that the church on earth is of sinners seeking the sanctification of the Lord, but "all fall short."

We're called to seek forgiveness of our trespasses AS we forgive those of others. We can't counsel others - especially nonbelievers - that there is an earthly church that won't require that of them, but we have to remind them also that it offers forgiveness to them.