I’ve seen this theme several times recently. Unfortunately, I haven’t saved all of the links, but here is the most recent example that I’ve seen. It makes me uneasy when I read articles like this. They seem to imply that they think the Anabaptists are a rising political power, and may soon “take-over” the government, or at least have more influence. In some ways, I am OK with this. Exerting positive influence over our society isn’t inherently bad. The problem I have is where the Neo-anabaptists seem to differ strongly from the Anabaptist roots they claim to spring from.
First, a brief theological backstory. I grew up in the United Methodist Church where my dad is a pastor. He is very much conservative, and not the stereotypical “social-gospel” proponent that is often associated with mainstream denominations. Still, I had an idea of the social gospel idea, and could see the clear call in Scripture for caring for the poor. I thought then, and largely still do, that this is the responsibility of the Church, not the state. Over the years, I have been troubled by the strong reliance on politics among both Christians on the left and right politically. This was one of the contributing factors in my move toward Anabaptist theology. I appreciated the insistence on the Kingdom of God as having priority over any earthly kingdom.
Enter the Neo-anabaptists. I admit that I like a lot of what those who label themselves this way have to say. However, when it comes to a rise in politics, and an insistence that the government act in ways consistent with any form of Church doctrine, I see a major departure from true Anabaptist thought. This disturbs me. Christ came to call out the elect to join His Kingdom. It is unreasonable, in my mind, to expect that the government can be “Christian” or govern and enforce Christian principles on a nation made up of people who are not all redeemed and empowered by the Spirit. To expect that the government can be truly Christian is naive. Yes, we can hope, and vote, for our nation to uphold more godly principals. We should pray for divine wisdom for our leaders. It might even be nice if our country could practice peace-making, and “turn the other cheek” at times.
There is no way, however, that an country made up of fallible humans, many of whom don’t want to follow Christ, can be a modeling of the Kingdom here on Earth. That is the job of the Church, and no earthly kingdom will ever come close. This is where some of the Neo-anabaptists seem to go wrong. I exercise my right to vote, and I want laws that will support the value of each person. I want laws that allow me the freedom to worship God as I feel led. By nature, though. These laws will give others freedom and rights to choose to live differently than I do. I cannot expect a government to give me freedom, but not give others the same.
I also cannot expect the government to step in and do my job as a Christian. The New Testament makes it clear that the Church is to model Christ. We are to care for the sick, the poor, the widows. If I leave that as the job of the government, or insist that it is someone else’s job, I am neglecting the call of Christ. It is not the same thing. This is where I have long disagreed with the social gospel of many in the mainline denominations. Unfortunately, this is the trap it seems the Neo-anabaptists are being pulled into. They want the government to do what Christ has called us as the Church to do. It will never do as good a job, there will be too many people required to run all the programs. If God’s people, led by His Spirit, out of love for our Messiah, can work together sacrificially to make do with less ourselves so that we can care for those in need around us, there would be no greater testimony to our materialistic society about the Power at work in the Church!
Lord, may I find a way to be Your ambassador to the fallen world around me that You created, and love so dearly. May I see with Your eyes, and never rely on any other person or government to do the job You have given me, and all of Your Church to do. Spirit, guide me to be a witness that points all men to my Father in Heaven. Amen.