apolitically political

August 25, 2005 | 4 Comments

This is as close to a political post as I’ve ever gotten. It is definitely not the first in a series, so don’t come looking for a sequel. I don’t post about politics, because I am forever wrestling with what the mix of church and politics should look like. But this might be a good start…

A few weeks ago, in our home gathering, we were talking about our church’s value statements. One of the things we wrestled with was how could we care about social justice issues. Often these issues are considered to be political in nature — or at least these are issues that many typically think are best dealt with through politics. The question was raised — how can we care about social justice issues without becoming a political church?

Pat RobertsonTo press it a bit further, should the church even deal with social issues and justice, or should those best be left to politics? There is a something ugly that seems to happen when politics and religion mix as Pat Robertson has proven this week.

Perhaps the church must find a way to be apolitically political. We have to care about these issues. They matter to Jesus, and they matter to the church. But is there a way that they can be dealt with which transcends politics?

NT Wright provided a fascinating thought this week in a message I was listening to. (The transcript of that message is here.) He commented on the trial of Jesus before Pilate in John 18:28-40. Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?”

Certainly Jesus has an answer to that question. It was only a few chapters earlier in John 14:6 that Jesus claimed the HE is the truth. Wright suggests that Jesus remained silent because Pilate would not be able to accept the answer. The work of Jesus is far greater than the politics of Pilate can understand. However, Jesus goes on to demonstrate his answer by his death and resurrection.

Can this be a model for the church today?
Can we interact not by getting mixed up in politics, but by transcending them?
Can we deal with issues of justice better than politics can, without getting stuck in the muck and mire of politics?

Mere DiscipleshipI think it we have to. I think it is our call. If the church believes that following Jesus is the best way, then it must be able to demonstrate that it has the best response to the injustice in our world. We simply must do the dirty work of sorting though what that response can and should look like.

I leave this with one example of what it might look like. This is a quote in Mere Discipleship (pg 45) from a pastor’s sermon in Colorado Springs a number of years ago:

What if there were abortion clinics but nobody went in? What if abortion was a legal choice, but it was a choice nobody took? Changes in the law, blocking abortion clinics, demaning name-calling will not stop abortions. They history of the church through the ages has been the history of changes brought about in society through the church demonstrating and living an alternative vision of life. We need to stop telling our nonbelieving neighbors how wrong their way of life is, and we need to start showing the power of the gospel in the way we live … Let me ask you: Which has greater power? Ten thousand people who fill the streets in front of abortion clinics and shame those seeking abortions, or then thousand people in California who take to the state capital a petition they have signed stating they will take any unwanted child of any age, any color, any physical condition so that they can love that child in the name of Jesus Christ?

  • I love that book – almost done with it.

    I believe that Christians should be involved in social action and justice – but I think we should leave out the political agendas and processes. If we just decide to help one person at a time (the problem is that politics always sees the big picture, but in their attempt to solve the big picture, they never get anywhere because they don’t focus on the individual), I think we can see things happen that are worth talking about in the Christian arena.

  • Yeah…I do think that a big part of it is doing it is an individual thing. The challenge is that too many are willing to just look up to the sky longing for Jesus to return rather than believe that can actually take part in redeeming this world! The church has to call people to live in this way!

  • Well as we discussed last week, I think that quote is AWESOME! I wish that the “Christian” church as a whole thought this way. Instead of the pointing of fingers (guilty), instead of telling people what they should and shouldn’t do (guilty again) , we need to do something about the problem. We all know there are these problems, so why do we keep complaining about them. (I am rambling again, and I am sure John will not let me post anymore.) Not to make light of this topic, but it reminds me of another thing Comedian Brian Regan talks about. You go to the Dr. for heartburn, and they hand you a list of things that cause Heartburn. You already know that, what you want to hear is how to take care of it, or how to deal with it. (Trying to wrap up), the world knows that Christians are against abortion, but do they know what or even if, we are doing anything about it? Same is true I think with all social injustices. I like what Adam says about one person at a time. A lot of people don’t want to come to a large church or gathering and be told what they are doing wrong, they just want someone to care for them and love them, isn’t that what Christ was about? John 8:7 El Fin.

  • Justin


    This is a great conversation to be having. It seems as though the current Christian political movement is interested in tightening the moral code (put the 10 commandments back in the Alabama courthouse; do not allow abortion; do not allow homosexual marriages; etc). Whereas, the kingdom of God lifestyle, or movement, is primarily interested in unbinding the oppressed from their current state (“…but I have come that they may have life to the full” – Jesus of Nazareth). My dream is that the church of Jesus supercedes political platforms for fighting injustice because we are already in the fight. We can be proactive, we can be creative, we can be redemptive, we can dramatically reduce the suffering in this world, but much effort is required.