Earlier today I posted about the state of complacency in the American church compared to that of the Church worldwide (specifically India). Catching up on some links that I had yet to read, I found this from the desk of Dr. Dave Dunbar, president of Biblical Seminary. (HT: Rob Martin, surprised?) In this article, he calls out the American Church for allowing itself to be overly politicized. While there are exceptions, the American part of the Church is probably almost as often segregated by politics as it is by race. Both should not be, but the focus of this post is the political segregation. Is this healthy? No!! What message does it send to the world when they walk into a church building in the US, and find people who, for the most part, look alike, talk alike, and think alike? This doesn’t look like the body of Christ we are told to expect in Revelation where we will see men and women of every nation, tribe, and tongue. There are a lot of good parts in the article/letter, but here are a few segments to give you a taste. (His article is also full of citations, if you want to follow up. I have removed any in these passages, since I don’t plan to copy the endnotes for them.)
Let’s face it; Jesus was not really in touch with political reality. How else shall we understand his obvious gaff in recruiting Zealots and tax collectors for his fledgling Messianic community? Would any right-thinking leader believe that such extremes of political practice, cultural outlook, and personality type could be melded into a powerful expression of the in-breaking kingdom?
I suspect that Jesus would not be well received in many churches in our land. We have a much more realistic understanding of Christian community. We know that it is easier to get along with people who look at the world pretty much the same way we do. After all, politics is an explosive topic that surfaces passionately held convictions, cultural prejudices, and profound anxieties about the current condition and future outlook of our culture. And that means we find it particularly helpful to associate with folks who share our political outlook. Many churches have a definite political flavor; they thereby send the message that to be a member in good standing requires allegiance to a specific political party or ideology.
The challenge for the church is that we are called to bear witness to the gospel in this cultural climate. In every culture and in every generation the church has faced the danger of syncretism–the absorption and transformation of the good news into something more agreeable to the world’s assumptions and preferences. I believe the American church has succumbed to a form of syncretism. We have allowed the church to become politicized. This is Hunter’s central concern: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the dominant witness of the Christian churches in America since the early 1980s has been a political witness.”
The danger associated with politicized churches is that we lose our vision for the reconciling power of the gospel. We forget that the kingdom of God is the peaceable kingdom that forms one people of God from myriad languages, cultures, nations and tribes. And this includes the Democratic and Republican tribes.
It appears that Jesus loves Democrats and Republicans. If that is so, American churches need to reevaluate how their political posture has shaped their proclamation and embodiment of the gospel. In a culture that politicizes nearly everything, politics itself becomes an idol. We assume that politicians can do much more than is really the case. We exchange kingdom hopes for political promises, and we are bound to be disappointed–all idols disappoint their worshipers in the end.
We need to take politics and politicians less seriously. Perhaps our churches should consider a fast from politics. Fasting is temporary abstinence from food to remind us that food itself can become an idol. We don’t live by earthly bread alone but by the bread that comes from heaven. Worshiping and serving the living God is more critical than caring for our needs and our agendas.
Maybe we need to step out of the arena of politics, at least until we can get our eyes back on the kingdom of God. Until we realize that politics is not everything. Until we stop taking politics so seriously. Until our churches can extend the love of Jesus equally to Democrats and Republicans.
I think the article is worth serious consideration. As Christians, we need to insure that we remember our allegiance is to Christ, not America. I am certainly thankful to live here, and I do exercise my right to vote. I appreciate my freedoms, and I don’t take that lightly. However, I also know that even if I lost all of those things, I would still need to be faithful to Christ through all things. I am a part of the family of God. Everything else that claims my time and attention must make it through that filter first. Can we love those on both sides of the aisle politically? If not, we need to remove the plank from our own eye before attempting to take the splinter out of others’ eyes.
Thoughts are welcome. Feel free to comment below. 🙂