Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Part III

I'd been meaning to get to this third part for a while now, and Clayton (in the comments of Part II) inspired me to get to it "sooner", rather than "later."  I've had friends in town, and lots going on, so but anyways...here goes:

My point with Parts I and II re: Church and Politics is not not not to suggest that Christians should completely remove themselves from the public square.  Far from it.  I absolutely think that Christians should vote, discuss the issues of the day amongst ourselves, avail ourselves of our rights (and responsibilities) as citizens, and yes, even run for office and serve in any and all branches of government.  We desperately need the witness of Christians in every aspect of politics, without a doubt.  We need Christians who understand our Lord's concern for the world, and who understand that He works in the world in ways outside of the institutional Church.  We need Christians who will challenge the status quo about the very way that politics works.  Any Christian who feels that he or she has been called to serve in that arena should do so.

My quarrel is with those who see politics as being an effective means in general for accomplishing the Church's goals.  When "The Church" uses the political process as the primary means to achieve her ends, she is rarely successful.  This doesn't mean the Church should be politically stupid, shouldn't know what's going on and how the game works, and so on.  Not at all.

But so often we as "the Church" get caught up in this game of "there are poor people out there who don't have enough to eat - we should yell at the government to do something about it."  No.  We, the Church, should do something about it.  Jesus tells us to feed the hungry - he doesn't tell us to tell other people to feed the hungry.  If and when we can partner with the government in a way that maintains our confessional integrity, then certainly we should.  But politics is not our Savior - when the road that Christ calls us to seems tough, Congress isn't going to appropriate money to repave it.  Although the President may share similar (intermediate) goals as us, he will never be our confidant, because his job is wholly different than ours.

Like I said in Part I, the Pope didn't go to the Kremlin and beg the USSR to tear down the Iron Curtain.  He went to Poland and started praying with the people.  

Ultimately, the Church's goal is to proclaim - in what we say and what we do - that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  The concreteness of "what we do" may at times overlap with the state, but our ultimate goals and motivations are different, and therefore we must always be careful that Jesus doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

If that makes sense...

Finally, a word about pastoral care to the politically involved/connected:

To pastors who have Presidents, Congressmen, Senators, state legislators, governors, mayors, city councilmen, etc... in their congregations: know who those people are, be aware of them, and love them.  From an elected dogcatcher to the President of the United States, these people are under pressures and temptations the likes of which the rest of us might never know.  Think about it this way: If you had a major sports star or entertainment figure in your congregation, and the opportunity to build a relationship with/care for him or her, how would you do that?  Do the same thing for politicians.  Do not think that this is your route into getting her to vote the way you think is best - this is not an opportunity for you to make a power play.

When your Congressman is home on recess - take him out for coffee.  When things are getting crazy at the state capitol, invite your state legislator to lunch and tell her it sounds like things have been a little ridiculous lately and you want to make sure she's doing okay.  These are people who desperately need someone in their life who cares about them and is guaranteed to not have an agenda.  Be that person.

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My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23