This Article's Contents
Here’s a condensation of Martin’s recent comment about Christians being engaged in political activity. I’ve made a few changes for the sake of flow. Obviously I think it is worth our while.
Here are a couple of quotes to whet our appetites:
“Jesus ACTED politically, e.g. … as he reprimanded the Pharisees (a public party, religious, but also very much beholden to political kinds of considerations) for ‘making the Word of God of no effect by your tradition’.”
“…’cross’ is the unique fate of the uncompromising critic of the very kind of political (Roman) power structure that prevailed in those days.”
“So, I think Iâ€™ll leave it at that, and continue to assume that love means working, striving, voting, and in any case hoping for the benefit of my fellow human beings, friend and foe, just as for myself â€“ ‘on earth as it is in heaven.'”[See also Jesus Stayed Out of Politics.]
Satan is the â€œLord of this Worldâ€?, conceded, but … he also is the tyrant of our personal worldly lives to a frightening degree …
Political efforts count for two reasons:
- Love towards those whose lives (and also spirits and consciences!) are (sometimes very much) affected by starkly diverging political rÃ©gimes, and
- Honouring truth in every field of our lives (i.e. also in the field of public life, which we consciously or silently partake of).
What you (seem to me to) imply, LS, is firstly the idea that the â€œborderlineâ€? between political and private affairs [can be]… drawn out in such a way that the state of the individualâ€™s heart and mind of anyone concerned is not relevant for it …
… faith is only as real as [are] itâ€™s effects, â€“ be it by words, deeds or thoughts …
[You say,] “I do not vote …”
Then, let me ask you if you are giving â€œCaesarâ€? really all the things which â€œare hisâ€??
[And you say,] “… nor do I engage in any purely political debates …”
Who does? … among those, I mean, who feel their Christian conviction commits them to one or the other stance in politics.
I see the Christian right engaging in political debate for the sake of clarifying the intellectual groundwork of faith and morals, and I see Larry Harvey and others opposing them for the sake or recuperating the gospel from the obscurities which this (rightist) stance of engaging politics casts upon the moral credibility and authenticity of faith and upon the functioning of the polity.
Any honest political debate has its depths, where a pertinent way to deal with the issues must abstract from strictly biblical grounds, and retain contact only via motivation, â€œspiritâ€? or intention of the debaters.
… the Apostles â€“ who, unlike moderns, were political by the very mention of the name of Jesus, crucified and resurrected, see below â€“ , but this is NOT authentically available for modern Christians to emulate …
[You say,] â€œWhy do Christians focus on changing outward actions, yet ignore the internal realities causing the outward actions?â€?
Because it is the outward actions which bespeak the inward realities, especially when you deal with a field of â€œactionsâ€? … so near to opinion, mindset and truthfulness as is general politics for all those not in highest offices.
Weal and woe of nations, which make political action worthwhile for the sake of those concerned, is much more intimately related to the moral and spiritual condition of the broad population than with this or that fiercely contested issue. And for this reason, it is commingled and basically inseparable with Godâ€™s chief interest of â€œchanging hearts and mindsâ€? of individuals.
THESIS AND EVIDENCE
What is this authority of Jesus?
It is our allegiance to (witnessing) the truth that duty and sin are (in the last resort) derivative from thankfulness. Sin is not a matter of (worldly defined) duty, and thankfulness is not primarily for remission of (such) sin.
… Romans 13:8-10 … is NOT some transmission of authority, allegedly wielded over us by the rulers in the stead of God … but it is the general principle of long-suffering (non-resistance) of Christians, as expounded in the Sermon on the Mount …
This difference in motivation also elucidates the limits of Christian loyalty to the world powers. For itâ€™s not only that we need not, but we MUST not â€“ not even by passivity and tolerance â€“ compromise our witnessing to the truth that God demands peace and rightfulness of anyone, especially of those who act as His servants (as do the worldly â€œkingsâ€?) …
… such authority, any venerability of power, is entirely restricted to persons, to â€œkingsâ€? and rulers, never to the political power of Mammon, of (unknown and unaccountable) financial oligarchies, which is consistently and effusively denounced throughout the Bible …
So where do we see the Bible portray us Christians … wholeheartedly engaged in debates of political relevancy?
Quite simply, the Lord himself said and did so:
Jesus ACTED politically, e.g. (among many), as he reprimanded the Pharisees (a public party, religious, but also very much beholden to political kinds of considerations) for â€œmaking the Word of God of no effect by your traditionâ€? (Mark 7:13).
… political considerations of preserving some social stratification … came into conflict with the authentic intention of Godâ€™s law …
… the core of this distortion which Jesus rebukes is not the human addition [to the Biblical law], it is the lovelessness towards those weak members of Godâ€™s people (society) who get bullied or outcast by such legislation.
… and the huge silence which traditional Christianity keeps about the entire subject of WHAT exactly Jesus rebukes with the Pharisees, in my eyes, betrays a good deal of bad conscience.
Jesus NAMED discipleship as a politically relevant thing, as he said that all Christians must â€œtake up their cross …â€? (Luke 9:23) Some years ago, I wondered, what the average Jew who heard these words might have thought them to mean at a time prior to Golgatha …
… itâ€™s absurd to suggest any other meaning to such phrases than that which would readily disclose itself to the average listener, who understood that â€œcrossâ€? is the unique fate of the uncompromising critic of the very kind of political (Roman) power structure that prevailed in these days.
By defining the congenital opponent of the believer – the basically irredeemable one – to be the prevailing worldly powers, not some misguided spiritual ones, Jesus rejects the Pharisaic-quietistic way … just as he rejects the zealot one by demanding [non-violence].
WHO RULES IN POLITICS?
LS, you say that â€œevil spirits dominate this worldâ€?. Indeed …
… yet … the Bible states these spirits (or â€œpowersâ€?) were DEFEATED by Jesus Christ … and itâ€™s our task to preach this conquest, and make it relevant for every aspect of worldly life, be it political or private, i.e. concerning large communities or small ones.
… let me tell you that diffidence and defeatism is just as treacherous to our Lord as bravery.
IF we shall have to suffer for the Lord, then itâ€™s because He wants to honour us, by letting us glorify his name. But we do not strive for our honor, but very much pray: â€œlead us not into temptationâ€? (Matt. 6:13) and feel responsible for not bringing others into such (Luke 17:1f).
Seeking the worldâ€™s weal for its own â€œimmanentâ€? reasons, and preaching the gospel as a separate intention but in the same effort. This is the only way to preserve the original character of the gospel as â€œgood newsâ€? and helping every generation to its own choice of freely surrendering to the Lord.
… those worldly powers who find the open insurgent (Barrabbas) easier to pardon than the One who debunks their false pretenses.
So let me sum up: There ARE better and worse times of history, the better ones being the fruit of some grace which cannot be politically planned or spiritually schemed. I do emphatically contradict your (fatalistic!) assessment that â€œpolitical gains mean nothingâ€?. This is Stoicism, life itself means nothing, as long as you keep true to your â€œessential natureâ€?.
So, I think Iâ€™ll leave it at that, and continue to assume that love means working, striving, voting, and in any case hoping for the benefit of my fellow human beings, friend and foe, just as for myself â€“ â€œon earth as it is in heaven.â€? [Matt. 6:10]