An Integrated Approach

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on politics and religion

The two things you aren’t supposed to talk about in polite company. I know.

I should probably wait til our deacon/soon-to-be-priest Mike speaks on politics and faith in a couple of weeks, but after a few very interesting conversations this past week, I’m contributing my two cents.

I’m going to first talk about confession, an odd place to start a discussion of politics, yes, but only in the light of confession and the restoration of correct relationship, do I think we, especially as members of the faith, have any business discussing what I will briefly review.  Confession in the Anglican tradition is a wonderful thing. It assumes both that we have failed to fully imitate Christ and that through His power we can attempt again, trusting that He is a good God who loves and delights in us. We communally confess every week before participating in the eucharist. Through confession we clear the air as it were, and come before one another and God in full harmony. It is my belief that only in this attitude of communal submission can we approach the humbleness required to delineate a sensible Christian ethic of political involvement.

A quick anecdote: I have a friend who is very angry with God, in part because he believes that his chronic sin is a gift God has given him, but that scripture very explicitly considers his choices hurtful to others and himself. Every time I talk to this friend and see the amount of pain his self-inflicted conflict causes, can only say softly, lovingly: “But, perhaps, you are wrong”.  Perhaps this thing upon which you are building a mountain against God, is not worthy of founding a mountain at all. And perhaps if you gave up trying to justify your choices and simply accepted the wisdom offered to you by so many of the body, that this specific battle would seem much less important. I have seen in my own life that only when I have tremblingly come with Christ and said to God, “Even though I have ample evidence to the contray, perhaps, I am mistaken? Perhaps I really have built my opinion on something so false?” have I been able to cast off an old way of thinking and embrace a more secure one founded in love. That’s what scares me about politics, about so much of the world, about Westboro Baptist, and any given media pundit, the inability to softly and humbly ask of ourselves, “Perhaps I am mistaken?”

Here are a few things I think I can say, as a person of faith. A person o faith being an individual who believes that the healing of our world and it’s reconciliation to its Creator is found only through the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ and His continued work in the Church.

Our true and primary identity is found in God, the creator of heaven and earth, and the Church.

Government is not His chosen vehicle for healing society.

Government can affect change on the structure and practice of a society.

The American government is not His chosen vehicle for healing American society.

The American government can affect change on the structure of the lives of it’s citizens, but it should not be excepted to carry out the mission of the church.

If the government has more to do with structure and function, then how should a Christian approach elections? Legislation? Judiciary review? What should our over arching goal be? Since the American model of government is responsible for organizing and adjudicating various structures of life, perhaps we should hold it to its most broad convictions, allowing us the space to make our own decisions about how to live and work. What would it look like if we voted with the goal of creating a world were it is easy, not mandatory, to live like a Christian? It seems to me a permissible society that values the traditions and truths of others and restricts little of human dealings except in instances of harm and abuse would be the safest and most conducive place for Christians to live radically according to the love of Christ preserving the mysteries and praying as Christ taught us.

It seems to me that as contemporary, protestant, American Christians we most often abdicate our role as the image-bears of Christ, of those called to heal the world through the power of the Holy Spirit, but then blame a government for not protecting the fantasy of moral purity that so many truly devout people hold. In this we are mistaken. Perhaps if we said, the responsibility of truth, love, wisdom and grace lies in us, not in our laws, perhaps then we could continue the work of healing the world. We will constantly be doing the work, well or not. Let us stop acting as if we can’t live like Christ taught us until we have x, y, or z policiy passed.

Like the reading from James in this morning’s service said, we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires”. and maybe if we all started our political discussion with a posture of confessionally humbled hearts, with the question: “Perhaps, I am mistaken?” softly on our lips, we would begin the process of true discourse, both to heal our world through the work of the church and to wisely select lawmakers who understand the limitations of government and are not saddled with an issue-centric moral imperative.