An interesting article from the NY Times about a pastor of a megachurch drawing the line between faith and politics. Personally, I found the reporter’s efforts to describe the pastor’s theology to be humorous because they seemed to hint the reporter is completely ignorant on matters of theology and doctrine. Anyway, here’s the gist:
Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.
“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”
I can’t speak for other Christians, as I feel I have little exposure to the political thoughts of conservative Christians since finding a conservative Christian in Seattle is like finding cheap beer at a ballgame, but I know I struggle with the general idea this pastor is teaching his congregation. There is a very real danger when faith and politics are intermingled too much. As Rev. Boyd put it, it is the danger of losing the cross and becoming the world. The specter of this coming to pass disturbs me deeply. However, this world is full of dangers, and the temptation to flee to one extreme or another to avoid the dangers can result in even more danger. As with many things, it seems the safest route is the one down the middle.
I find it impossible to believe a sincere, consistent Christian would not allow his faith to inform his politics. It seems to me, a sincere Christian faith will affect all aspects of one’s life, and to segregate the faith into it’s own little box is dishonest and foolish. So, there should be some degree of intermingling between faith in politics. Now the question remains is what should this intermingling look like. I believe it’s safe to say it’s dangerous territory when politics start to hold sway over the faith. Only a one way road, going from faith to politics, should be open between the two arenas.
I guess the real question that I think needs to be answered is how is faith-informed politics lived out in the real world. This is a question I’ve been pondering for a long time now. I’ve written down some of my thoughts, but I haven’t gotten anything substantial written. So far I’ve come up with two (unoriginal) distinctions that should guide my political thinking. The first is the goal should not be to win political battles but to win disciples for Christ. Ultimately, this is probably the highest calling a Christian has in the world and should be in the forefront of my mind (usually it is not). Second, political solutions are very different from — I’m cringing as I say this — heart solutions. It seems to me political solutions are too often used as a replacement for virtue and the inappropriate application of Christian morals. Let me give a quick example to illustrate what I mean by the first. I believe taxes and welfare to a great degree to supplant the moral virtue of charity. There’s no charity to be found in an individual who lets all of his feeding of the poor be done through the forcible taking of money which is then anonymously dolled out by a governmental bureaucracy. I believe no Christian escapes this responsibility via Big Brother’s “charity.” Tax sponsored welfare may do a lot of good in the country, but it is a poor, impersonal, and even less efficent replacement for personal charity. So, I would argue this political solution to poverty (taxes and welfare) is not the Christian response to poverty. Obviously, to just ignore those in poverty is even less Christian.
I find this to be a difficult subject. I struggle with a lot of the concepts, many which are frustratingly vague. I would also describe this as a Big Idea for me. Once I get this subject sufficiently fleshed out, it will be a framework around which I will make many important decisions in my effort to both live out my faith and be a good citizen.