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Political Discussion

April 24, 2008

I had a great discussion over at Faith 2.0 with John Alan Turner on several posts about Christians and our involvement with politics. I ran across this discussion that took place at the National Pastors Convention on Tyler’s blog.

I love what Greg Boyd has to say in the discussion. I don’t know a lot about him or his other positions but I really connect with what he had to say in the discussion. I hadn’t heard my position articulated so well and why. Check it out here.

I would be interested to hear what others have to say about these three positions. I think it is a great discussion about Christians and their involvement in the political world.

In the end I don’t think it is right for us to want to make our nation Christian. I think as you may have observed that I think our goal is to get the Christians to be the Kingdom. That is daunting enough without trying to make a government and nation match the values of Christ.

If church goers don’t how can I legislate others to?

This is a great discussion I recommend that you listen.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Gill permalink
    April 24, 2008 2:00 pm

    As you probably know, I love NT Wright’s inaugurated eschatology, especially in its relation to “the nations” as they stand today. In essence, we need to recognize the tenuous relationship between the kingdom of God and the nations of men, but knowing that God has plans for those nations, and that all things will come under his healing and restorative judgment.

    I’m especially intrigued by the idea of the leaves of the tree of life, “which are for the healing of the nations.”

    At a practical level, no, we do not need to make America a Christian nation. We work from the bottom up.

    We work like Neo in the Matrix – we get INSIDE and the power of God bursts forth in new life!

  2. April 24, 2008 4:06 pm

    Good post Darin. I’ve always said that you can’t legislate morality. God has not called us to establish theocracies on earth. Jesus didn’t come to establish some earthly kingdom that would overthrow the Romans, he came to bring created man back into relationship with the creator… To call people back to God’s lifestyle.

    At the same time, we can’t be isolationists. We have a responsibility to engage our culture. God has given us the responsibility of being salt and light. This responsibility permeates all aspects of our life bot interpersonally and politically the government allows. If there is an issue that goes against God’s way and it comes up on a ballot or in the public arena, why should we shy away from engaging our culture in discussion. We have a privilege and right in our country to make our voice heard.

    One of the problems, IMHO, is when Christ-followers make the political arena more important than people.

    Enough of my rambling. Good post.

    jh

  3. April 24, 2008 4:15 pm

    Good post? You are the one with some thoughtful words.

    I hear what you are saying but I would probably disagree when it comes to action that attempts to get the government to conform to Christian principles.

    I would say we should shy away because when we attempt to make a lost world a little better we first are missing that Jesus saves, not our values, and secondly we are making our light less distinct.

    If we allow the world to fall deeper into darkness then the light of the church should show brighter. If the church looks too much like the world that is a problem but for me that solution is not to insist the world look better so we don’t look so bad.

  4. April 24, 2008 4:21 pm

    P.S. One does not have to retreat from the world simply because he retreats from politics. In fact I think we must engage the world more and more but as the Kingdom.

    Our tutoring program came as a direct result of teachers who were concerned with No Child Left Behind. Our job skills training comes because of an economic downturn and I simply smiled when one of the candidates said that part of his plan was retraining so that people could find higher paying jobs.

    Our free healthcare for those without insurance has a direct impact on the issue of our day. I think it much more powerful when the church steps up instead of trying to get the government to fix things.

    I believe that is how the church once was but we have lost that vision because we are coming out of a time of great political involvement. The government is not the answer, Jesus is. We do what we do in the end to show the nature of God, to be light in hopes that people will see Jesus.

    I’m not sure that will happen if government takes over healthcare or starts job training.

    Now who is rambling?

  5. April 24, 2008 4:21 pm

    that was quite the interesting discussion between those 3 men. glad you enjoyed it. i tend to lean more your way on this subject.

  6. Nick Gill permalink
    April 24, 2008 6:16 pm

    I appreciate the sentiment, but the next time a policeman apprehends a murderer, please stop him and remind him that he can’t legislate morality.

    Darin, you’ve got me confused. All of your programs “make the lost world a little better.” I don’t understand how your programs suggest that “our values” save (or make your light less distinct) just because they make the world a better place.

  7. April 24, 2008 7:00 pm

    Nick,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Obviously I’m not articulating myself well. Yes our work is intended to impact the world but make it better? That is a very ambiguous number and how would we measure that? More students learning? More people with jobs? Everyone with jobs? Almost everyone educated? What about the fact that no matter what some won’t want to take the classes or make use of the tutoring? One could easily say that our paltry efforts don’t make the world better at all.

    My effort is not to make the world better but to show the world the nature of God. He cares about the widow, orphan, poor and alien. If the church does not we are not a proper light but that is my main concern. How much do we look like Jesus?

    My goal is not to rid the world of any one thing but to be light, to show what the coming Kingdom will embody when all is restored. I think it is a fool’s errand to try to restore the world today when Jesus promised and creation waits for the King to do so. I simply want to give people a taste of what is to come. To be Christ ambassador in a world where I am an alien.

    Does that help or make it worse?

  8. Nick Gill permalink
    April 24, 2008 7:45 pm

    No, that’s much more clear.

    I would simply suggest that the restoration of all things began in 2000 AD. When we act in faith to spread the power of God’s kingdom, that work will not be destroyed, but consummated, in that restoration.

    Soak into what Paul says: Creation waits for the sons of God to be revealed! How will we be revealed? By the Holy Spirit working God’s resurrection work is us and ESPECIALLY through us.

    It IS a fool’s errand, trying to restore the world! We can’t do it, and we’d be fools to try!

    But God CAN do it, God IS doing it, and if we’re on mission for him, that mission IS restoring all things. If we think WE are making the world a better place, we’ll be sorely disappointed.

    in HIS love,
    nick

  9. Nick Gill permalink
    April 24, 2008 7:45 pm

    umm… “IN us and ESPECIALLY through us…”

    Boy, I’d be dangerous if I could communicate.

  10. April 24, 2008 9:00 pm

    I know that is what is being put forth by some, I just disagree.

    Romans 8:18-25 speaks of the future. We wait for a day, we look forward, we have hope.

    So I would just say that God WILL do it and our mission is to SHOW and TESTIFY to what that will be on that day as best we can. Loving neighbor is still paramount it is just to show what the kingdom is and will be not to bring it about today.

    This may seem minor but to me it will impact our expectations in a very dangerous way.

    I appreciate the discussion.

  11. April 25, 2008 2:22 am

    Darin,
    First of all, I’m not finished with this topic over at my place. I’ve just been traveling and out-of-sorts for the past week. Look for more next week.

    Second of all, you’re using the word “politics” in a very narrow way here. Of course, the government should legislate morality. As Nick pointed out, we have laws that restrict people from murdering. That’s a good thing. And it’s just what governments do: they legislate and determine what is considered moral behavior in a particular culture. The question has always been, “Whose morality gets legislated?”

    Finally, your statement that God will do it while we simply show and tell is, I think, an oversimplification. God will accomplish his purposes. For some reason he has chosen to accomplish most of those purposes through the work and activism of human beings like you and me (and William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King, Jr.).

  12. April 25, 2008 3:08 am

    JAT,

    Who invited you? I thought you were packing.

    Just kidding.

    I would be interested to understand your major concern with my POV. I want to see the world impacted, I think we just disagree with the best way to see that happen and the best way to give God glory. Am I tracking on that or not because I do misunderstand others POV from time to time?

    Okay, a lot. Want to wrestle over the word politics?

    Yes I am using the word in a narrow sense because I think that is its common usage in our country. I use it that way in hopes of framing the conversation. Maybe I am not.

    I don’t think there is very much that is “simply.” I think what I believe is much harder because it doesn’t simply rely on votes or power but is one person gathering with another and another to show love to their neighbor where they live. There is nothing simple about it.

    My only issue with activism is the wrong people get the glory, humans, and the wrong group ends up with the credit, government. I think that is all wrong.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be activists, just that the activism should be motivating the church to do what the church is called to do, defending the widows, orphans, poor and alien.

  13. April 25, 2008 5:14 am

    I’m not moving until the summer! How long do you think it’s going to take me to pack?

    Sometimes the best way to defend widows, orphans, poor and alien is through legislation. Thank God for child labor laws. Thank God that women can vote. Thank God for minimum wage hikes. Thank God for the fact that hospitals must treat injured people — regardless of immigration status.

    I suppose my major concern with your POV arises when I read that you’d actually like the world to get worse so that the church looks better and brighter. Maybe I misread that, but that’s what it sounded like.

    And I do not get the total mistrust of government. Jesus didn’t seem to have a problem with it. The Apostle Paul used the legal system to his advantage (and to the advantage of the gospel, for that matter).

    Anytime anyone suggests that Christians should vote, you seem to think we’re advocating a theocracy. I’ve said it before: I think your presuppositions are preventing you from hearing what we’re actually saying.

    Perhaps my biggest concern is that your reasoning has been used by people to completely divorce themselves from living as good neighbors and good citizens (things that God calls his people to excel at).

    Let me also say this: I’m enjoying our dialog. I’m glad we can disagree over this, enjoy a healthy debate and avoid any kind of negative personal attacks!

  14. April 25, 2008 2:10 pm

    I don’t know. Breakables take some time. You want to get them each individually wrapped.

    All my negative thoughts are in my mind plus you can’t see me gnashing my teeth.

    I hear what you are saying and your concern. You may be right.

    I don’t want to see the world get worse I think it already is worse and always has been. It is broken and waits for redemption.

    Did you get a chance to listen to the discussion? I think Boyd makes some great points.

    I hear what you are saying about my point of view and I know that. Abandon the world because it is broken, my only point is you can both be engaged and still think that. I suppose the only reason I think I have a leg to stand on in the discussion is my involvement in these different areas.

    I agree that no one had an issue with government in the Bible but I would also say no one was looking for the government to fix anything or make a situation right. I don’t think my issue with voting is that a theocracy is being created but that Christians are abdicating their responsibility to be Christ to the government. My issue is when the government does it they get the glory not God.

    Maybe you are right though. Maybe both are reasonable expectations.

    P.S. I still think the government is terrible at solutions. The same government that requires health care is also throwing people out on their ear. The same labor laws that protected kids also helped break up families because a child couldn’t go to work with dad and the same country that has worked to right past wrongs has a jail system with over 40% coming from the African-American community. It seems we fix what we fix which is a fix for what we fixed which….

  15. April 25, 2008 2:53 pm

    JAT,

    By the way, was it the link that gave me away? If so next time I’ll just give the url. 🙂

  16. Nick Gill permalink
    April 25, 2008 2:57 pm

    I know you disagree, but I believe the Resurrection says that the future is NOW. As the church is called to model a redeemed society, the curse is slowly reversed as the kingdom of God infiltrates, seeps up into the cracks and crevices, the broken places of our communities. Compassion is evangelistic, but it is also restorative. I do not believe this is going to be a progressive thing, however. I think that until death is destroyed, evil will abound no matter how much of the curse is reversed. That’s probably why I’m not much of a “post-millenialist.”

    I agree with your frustration with the government’s inability to solve things. I would add that the same minimum wage hikes that are intended to help the poor are simply translated into increased prices at the other end of the spectrum, because companies dominated by the spirit that rules this age are not going to sacrifice profit margin to aid their most voiceless employees. Most people who work for minimum wage also shop at places staffed by people who work for minimum wage. The cycle continues.

    I’m not as much in agreement with you about voting, per se. Voting, like any other speech-act, shapes the world around us. When we vote, we speak prophetically to the government we have. If we don’t vote, we must find another way to speak that is equally active. If we rely on government to solve the problems of our community, though, we have misplaced our faith. If we give the glory to the government for solving anything, we have misplaced our faith.

    Since Nixon, though, I’m pretty sure the government is done getting a clear stamp of approval.

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