A Disembodied Head? Part 6: Politics

Heading in different directions?

17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come! 18 And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5.17-20)

Today’s post is a follow up to the last two posts (Friday: Allegiance, Monday: America). Let me start with a quote from my conclusion yesterday to set the starting point for my views on how those views affect my view of politics:

It seems, in summary, that our national priority is now with another Kingdom. We are not, however, to use this as an excuse to shirk paying our taxes and obeying the law. We should do this, so as to set a witness that we are not bad citizens, we are just foreigners who want to represent our King well while living in another Kingdom whose claims to power and authority are of a different sort than that of Christ. Where no conflict exists, we may fully be citizens of our country (America for me), but the moment any sort of discrepancy surfaces, my true allegiance must come shining through.

In light of the verses that I quoted yesterday (please check out that post for full reference to the message from Christ, Paul and Peter), it is clear to me that we as Christians must not put ourselves in a position in which our allegiance to Christ would be compromised. This does not necessarily preclude political service/involvement, in my view. However, the above verse that I quoted to begin this post, Paul seems to clarify things in some ways. We are to be ambassadors for Christ. This reframes the question here in a whole new light.

Let’s restate the question in another sense. Suppose someone with dual citizenship in Canada and the US was born and raised in Canada, but has extended family in the States. Further, suppose that she is selected by Canada to be an ambassador to the US, since she knows America customs and traditions. Would we ask what her opinion of US politics were? Certainly, if we assume that we would not like to unintentionally antagonize our neighbors to the north. Would we expect her to offer her opinion unasked for? Yes, if she felt it necessary to warn us of potential conflicts. Would we find it odd if she used her American citizenship to run for elected office while continuing to serve as Canadian ambassador? Undoubtedly! We would ask hard questions about her motivation. Also, if you were the Canadian government wouldn’t you ask her what she was doing? Wouldn’t you be worried that if she won this would compromise her ability to accurately represent your interests?
I wonder if Christ sometimes finds the same thing with us. Those involved with politics must sometimes fight between the things that are best for our heavenly citizenship that might not be best for our country. America, or any other nation, is not synonymous with the Kingdom. Now, I know that other Christians have a theology that more easily lends itself to public office. That is between them and God. I’m simply trying to offer what I see in Scripture. Thinking back to the idea of allegiance, we cannot, in my opinion, fully serve our country and fully serve Christ. There will necessarily be conflict between any two calls for our allegiance and we must be clear which is primary. We cannot serve two masters. Consider the Oath of Office for federal elected/appointed positions in the civil service:
An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” (Source: Cornell University School of Law Legal Information Institute)
This is clearly a competing call to allegiance, and something that I would not feel comfortable agreeing to. Let me ask you a few questions to ponder. Feel free to give me feedback in the comments:
  1. What potential conflicts could a Christian in political office face?
  2. What potential benefits could a Christian in political office work for the Kingdom?
  3. Would a Christian in political office be in some ways a double agent?
  4. Can a Christian swear or affirm to uphold and defend the constitution of the US without compromising their commitment to follow Christ?
  5. What would inability to serve in political office imply about voting? From the spectrum of voting being a sin to voting being a requirement, where does Scripture point us? (I respond to my friend Chris Smith’s stance here, and admit that I’ve moved even closer to his view since that post.)

7 comments on “A Disembodied Head? Part 6: Politics

  1. Thoughts like this are what prompts me to frequently post about needing to distance ourselves from national politics. We can use a prophetic voice to the nation… and sometimes voting can be that means. But too often that prophetic voice gets muted when we engage in the political machine… it seems that the prophetic voice speaks loudest when we use the methods of proclamation outside of the political machine and especially when it is coupled by the prophetic voice of a life lived out faithfully. Yoder and other Anabaptist theologians have called this “faithful presence”.

    • I think our message also gets pigeonholed into a political party and then we lose voice with those strongly opposed to that party. I think I may delve into my views on the separation of Church and state at some point (tomorrow?) which will likely get me in hot water with some. Surprised my political friends haven’t commented or offered a defense at all yet. Wonder if they’re ignoring this series or if the Networked Blogs feed isn’t coming up in their news feed due to Facebook filtering. Might need to occasionally share again. May repost the link personally this afternoon.

  2. […] This is true everywhere from marriage to the boardroom to the Church to whatever political power (if any) we may be granted as […]

  3. […] This is true everywhere from marriage to the boardroom to the Church to whatever political power (if any) we may be granted as […]

  4. […] is a clear lack of instructions for how to exercise power if you are in the government/political […]

  5. […] It seems, in summary, that our national priority is now with another Kingdom. We are not, however, to use this as an excuse to shirk paying our taxes and obeying …read more […]

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