Monday, June 4, 2012

What Do Christians Do with Politics?

It's that time of year - and it will likely be that time of year all year. Election year. The stakes are high, with emotions to match. The place of the Church in the midst of the clamor can be an ambiguous question. Of course there is the right-wing affiliation with particular realms of evangelicalism, but this is by no means the definitive word for the Christian tradition. More than simply left versus right, politics for Christians raise questions of power and allegiance and the Lordship of Jesus: reminders that Christians are members of a kingdom whose king established his reign on a cross. How knowledge of this kingdom shapes my political engagement in the secular world is not always clear.

So I was very grateful when my friend Greg forwarded me a link to Wheaton's upcoming theology conference. The theme is Christian Political Witness. Hauerwas and Cavanaugh will be there, as will Leithart, among others. Enough for a lively, diverse, and relentlessly Christ-centered conversation. I am very much looking forward to it.

I was also very grateful when, toward the end of Paul Weston's reader on Lesslie Newbigin, Newbigin turns the conversation toward the public nature of the Gospel and the implications of that nature for Christians in politics. Newbigin rightly asserts that a Christian political order would necessarily provide for and reflect the freedom to dissent that God manifests and makes possible in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus; that a Christian society is better poised to protect minorities, especially in matters of belief, than the current secular model. In a much longer thought whose whole logic I won't rehearse here, Newbigin finally contends that "The only ultimate secure ground for religious freedom is in the fact that Almighty God, in the act of revealing his sovereign power and wisdom in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has at the same time established for his world a space and a time during which faith is possible because unbelief is also possible."

I am still digesting much of Newbigin's contention. It is so foreign to my experience of the Church with respect to politics that I find myself a little bit dizzy - and also hopeful.


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