Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Gospel and church is unmistakably political, but it must not become partisan

NOT-SO-UNBIASED VOTER GUIDES. I turned away a campaign volunteer trying to deliver Christian voter guides at our church facility earlier today. "We try to keep this a partisan-free zone," I explained. The worker tried to insist that his organization was not partisan. "Are you trying to tell me that Eric Miller is not a right-wing Republican? Is there any Democrat or Independent recommended on his notorious voter guide?" I queried. The man was quickly out the door.

PRESSURE TACTICS. So, with the Presidential and state elections just two weeks away, the pressure and tactics from all sides is being ratcheted up. Evangelical churches will be inundated with calls and pressure to help congregants vote "God's way." I suppose many pastors and congregation leaders will dutifully or unwittingly succumb to this age-old strategy of getting out the conservative vote. Is the evangelical church that predictable? Does being Christian mean voting Republican?

GOD DOESN'T HAVE A POLITICAL PARTY. I don't think God has a political party. I can't imagine Jesus smiling upon the distortions, misleadings, innuendos, and sleight-of-hand tactics that are being circulated both by political parties as well as special interest groups--even so-called Christian interest groups. Therefore, there will be no overt partisan politicking within our fellowship. I have been careful not to be partisan in my preaching, writing, and conversations in the context of our church (though I have certainly tipped my hand here on Bikehiker as to my progressive sympathies).

POLITICAL VS PARTISAN. This is not to say that the Bible, the Gospel and the church are not political. The church cannot help but be political. The Gospel is thoroughly political. The Bible makes strident declarations of values and commitments and intentions for individuals and communities and nations in relationship to God and one another. But the politics of the Kingdom cannot be reduced to the politics of a political party. God's politics transcend human ideologies. In fact, human-contrived ideologies masquerading as "God's party" lure many into idolatry. The church has come to be "used" by political parties in America over the past 30 years or so. Political parties have benefited with power but left the values and issues that the church really cared about unaddressed and unresolved. More clearly, as former White House faith-based operative David Kuo pointed out in 2004, partisans mockingly took the evangelical church for a ride.

BE THE CHURCH. It's time for the church to reclaim our identity and mission. The church is not a slave or beholden to right or left. When we become synonymous with a political party, we have lost our way. But let us live in such a way that the community and its fallen institutions, images and ideologies will see something of the redeeming intention of God in the world through our lives, fellowship, and service. May, indeed, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven."

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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