Emails From a Christian in Exile: Christianity and Politics

When I first met Jason, he had long curly hair and had already wallpapered his dorm room with Bob Marley posters. We couldn’t have been more different – he was a free spirit, a wild child, and I was pretty much a rule follower. But there was always something that drew me to him, some familiarity, like finding a long-lost brother (maybe it was simply the fact that we were born on the same day).

Our spiritual journeys have probably matched our exteriors: the free spirit and the rule follower. Yet the old familiarity remains, and our quests for truth, while often taking separate roads, criss cross with incredible regularity.

I once asked him, “Jay, are you a Buddhist or what?”

“No,” he said. “I’m a Christian in exile.”

One of the questions that came up recently in our conversations was this: How much has Evangelical Christianity’s political ties kept you in exile (if at all)? This was Jay’s response: 

“Not really at all. Okay, maybe a little. I consider the type of “Christians” that run the far right to be plain silly. I guess they are a good example of what can happen when you just sit on fixed beliefs. You can manipulate them, use them for power, and lead inauthentic lives. Most people don’t lead the lives they believe in, myself included. We try but fail miserably and need to be more honest about failing.”

A few questions this brought to my mind (Shawn here again) is the following: How has modern Christianity’s involvement in politics, and especially the subsequent use of politics to legislate morality, affected the church’s ability to reach out to people? How does taking a political stance on something limit our ability to be transparent (if at all)?

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How to Change the Church
Emails From a Christian in Exile: Today’s Christianity is Man Made
How Bo Jackson Made Me an Enemy of God


7 Replies to “Emails From a Christian in Exile: Christianity and Politics”

  1. From my view, I see Christians on the right and the left; and neither side is an encouragement. We are called to be transformers of society, but I see both sides as easily swayed by the politics of the moment. Our duty is to the Kingdom of God which is a radically different agenda than any political party offers.

    1. exactly. we cannot bear prophetic witness if we let ourselves be co-opted by any political faction.

      our faith should infuse our politics, certainly, but the two can make for an especially ugly marriage. dogmatism just isn’t that compatible with the Spirit or grace which actually draw people into faith.

  2. I think it is important, as a christian, to be involved in politics. Politics is really just standing up for YOUR beliefs. Too often we just spout talking points. One example is abortion. I believe the Constitution to be accurate when it says we have “the right to life”. As a christian I believe it is my responsibility to put people in office that agree with me on this issue. I also believe though that by the govt. legislating some things (welfare for example) it has given “the church” an out when it comes to our responsibility in taking care of the widow, fatherless, jobless, and all those in need. It makes for a great conversation. You got my brain flowing now. I might have to continue this in a post tomorrow :-)

    1. Thanks for your comment John. Do you think that the way that today’s Christians “stand up for their beliefs” tends to attract people to Christ, or turn them off?

      1. Unfortunately Shawn I think the way we do a lot of things turns others away from Christ. I was let down big time this year at how my own church’s softball team didn’t do competition well one night. So yeah we could definitely do politics better! I am often reminded (by my own faults) that we as Christians aren’t perfect just forgiven. Thank God!

  3. I think the way that the political machines on the right and left pander to Christians is damaging. I also think the way that Christians on the right and left have tried to use political power to force certain political points is very damaging to Christ’s witness.

    By right and left, I guess I’m picturing Pat Robertson and Jim Wallace.

    Pat Robertson and his ilk seem to serve a very punitive and angry God, and Jim Wallace advocates for men with guns to take my property and reallocate it in ways he deems righteous, in the name of social justice. Neither one of these positions are particularly helpful to attract people to Christ. Both sides align themselves with political allies to attempt to influence and shape policy. This just doesn’t seem like the right path to me.

    As to this question: “How does taking a political stance on something limit our ability to be transparent (if at all)?”

    I think we all would agree that ‘policy’ matters in people’s lives, and ‘bad policy’ affects people negatively. As such, to the extent that any one follower of Christ is called to bring influence in the sphere of government (where policy is enacted) (and a sphere that God is sovereign in, I might add), that follower of Christ should attempt to do so in a way that influences ‘good policy’.

    It doesn’t seem to me that an authenticate Christ follower should prescribe to certain political views out of loyalty to a party, but indeed should prescribe to these views out of love for his neighbor.

    I have several examples in mind, I won’t bore you with all of them, but one such example would be the ‘Prohibition’ laws, of the early 20th century. Political progressives enlisted the help of the church, and worked tirelessly to stamp out the evils of alcohol. This ended in ‘Prohibition’, which we now look back at as incredibly foolhardy policy, that cost many lives, wasted many government resources, and generally did little to constrain alcoholism. This is, it seems to me, an example of how the church really blows it, and ends up influencing policy that is really unloving towards it’s neighbors.

    There are other examples, of course, i.e. the failed war on drugs, the failed war on poverty, et. al… wherein well meaning Christians have been hoodwinked into empowering political machines that create policy that ends up decimating large swaths of humanity.

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