“Damn it . . .”
That’s what I said the other night upon seeing the movie “Amazing Grace” for the first time. As most of you probably know, the movie is about William Wilberforce’s life-long fight to end the British slave-trade, which he eventually did.
The reason curses fell from my lips after this display of passion, dedication, and commitment to what is right is because something resonated within me saying this was right; this was good; this is how Christ’s intentions were to be displayed in this world.
The only problem was that it went against every trajectory the past couple of posts of mine have set. I realized that the direction I was going in these posts was close to some sort of moral-anarchistic libertarianism where politics were ultimately not a moral issue and political affiliations were a matter of personal preference and opinion, not moral and ethical worldview.
I now see that this view is equally as narrow-minded and incomplete as the opposing view that it attempts to counter, namely that politics is the chief means by which we assert and change the moral state and opinions of individuals and nations. I am reminded that I am a fallen man with a fallen mind who is as prone to wander to the extremes of opinion as anyone else. So, coming from this place of repentance and humility (hopefully), I’d like to briefly explore the heart of this issue as I now see it.
A few things got me shifting my thinking a bit on this whole politics/Christianity thing. First, Amazing Grace. Second, a sermon by A.W. Tozer called “The Christian’s Relation to Government,” on a passage in 1 Peter. Third, a brief, but influential discussion on this topic with my pastor in Richmond. And lastly, a book I’m currently reading The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark, that shows “how Christianity led to freedom, capitalism, and Western success”.
If you look at the world as Evangelical Fundamentalists would like to have it, it suspiciously looks like a world that lives your Christian life for you.
A world where the poor pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps so the Church wouldn’t have to deal with them; where your t-shirt, tracts, and bumper stickers did your preaching so you didn’t have to engage people where they were; where your music was all so blatantly Christian, you didn’t have to look for God’s work in and through everything else in this world; where abortion was illegal and homosexual relationships were unconstitutional so we didn’t have to actually engage so-called “sluts” and “gays”.
In this hypothetical world, we could keep us godly people close together and keep those “sinners” far away from us so we didn’t “catch it”; it’s be a world where our laws would do the preaching and our lips would do the condemning.
I’m not saying this ease of spirituality is the motive in the front of every fundamentalists’ mind. I think people are doing exactly what they think they are supposed to do as Christians in America, because of this Gospel of comfort and self-determination preached from nearly every pulpit in America that gets significant exposure. This births a worldview that has two primary flawed presuppositions:
(1) that conversion is fundamentally an act of the human will, so every non-Christian is just flat out refusing to do what they must know is true – love Jesus. I mean, if it’s so obvious to us, how could they possibly not know?
(2) that the Gospel makes life “easier” in some sort of way, be it financially, cognitively, circumstantially, and/or emotionally. This leads to the assumption that those who don’t ascribe to it must be absolutely miserable with completely dysfunctional relationships, families, and lives.
These two ideas firmly in place lead to the general idea that if we can create an environment that caters to Christians and encumbers non-Christians, then they’ll see how much better it is on our side and convert. Then everyone will be happy.
Now, once again, I don’t think this is consciously the idea, just the functional ethos underlying much of what is done. However (to put it gently) this is all unbiblical, destructive, unloving, and tantamount to blasphemy against the nature and intention of God.
I mean every word of that, but (here’s where my recent research and thinking has changed my tone), what is so bad about that prevailing worldview unpacked is the heart behind what is done, not necessarily how that’s actually worked out.
What this means is that if you have two people doing the same sort of advocacy for the same political issue, one could be in sin and the other not. Where the difference would be is in the motives of the heart.
My contention is that much – most, perhaps – of the motivations underlying the political involvement of American Evangelical Fundamentalists is unbiblical. It is trying to make the nation we’re in reflect “Christian” ideals so as to ease the burden off Christians to act for those ideals in spite of the government.
“Christian” was never intended to become an adjective. It was only ever supposed to be a noun to describe people – not music, shirts, bookstores, or nations.
These are the wrong motives underlying much of what is going on. In my next post, I’ll tell you what I think is the underlying Biblical principle for proper political involvement by Christians. Leave comments freely.