There has to be a third-way for Christians to engage in our political system.
That’s what I have been thinking about lately. But what is that third-way? I don’t have any idea, and so this blog is only me thinking out-loud.
One thing I do know is our present political system is not working, or at least not working efficiently. Our country is more divided than ever, and these divisions are creeping into the Church.
Right now, among a lot of my friends, there seems to be only two-ways: You are either a Republican or a Democrat; you are either conservative or liberal; you are either Evangelical or Mainstream; you are either one or the other. There seems to be no room for a combination of the two. If you are not one or the other, you have compromised. If you are one and I am the other, there is a 50/50 chance I am the one who is wrong.
I like this article by Jim Wallis, http://blog.sojo.net/2011/09/29/defining-“evangelicals”-in-an-election-year/ but I know by referencing this article, some of my more conservative friends will think I am liberal. But I am neither liberal nor conservative. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, trying to find my way in a difficult world.
There has to be a third-way.
Some how or another, I believe, as a disciple of Jesus, I must engage in politics by staying above politics, not aligning myself too closely with any single group or ideology. My first allegiance is to Christ, which means, at times, I will be at odds with Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Conservatives, Liberals, Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists. Part of my purpose, as a follower of Jesus, is to live my life in such a way as to give glimpses into what life is like, and will be like, in God’s Kingdom. I know I will not get it right all the time, maybe even most of the time, but that is what I am to be doing. When a disciple of Jesus boxes himself or herself into one ideology or another, they lose their ability to be salt and light in this dark and decaying world.
Maybe the third-way is based on truth and hope. Listen to these words from a book first published in the 1980s:
“We want to assert, for the church, politics that is both truthful and hopeful. Out politics is hopeful because we really believe that, as Christians, we are given the resources to speak the truth to one another. Fortunately, hope is not limited to the programs of the right or the left. Hope is described as the church—a place, a polis, a new people who are given the means to live without the fear that inevitably leads us to violence.
Our politics is truthful because it refuses to base itself on the false gods that make us so prone to violence. Here is power politics, not as the world usually defines it, but power derived from ordinary people who are trying to base their lives on what is true. As the story of the gospel becomes our story, we are given the means to be a people without cynicism or lies.
What we want to say is, We are neither liberal nor conservative. We are hopeful…we mean to indicate that the challenge facing the church is political, social, ecclesial—the formation of a visible body of people who know the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay. As far as we can tell, both liberal and conservative Christians have abandoned that task, though they both will speak wistfully of the hope for ‘community.’ We doubt that such hope will be fulfilled through theologies intent on maintaining individual prerogatives and autonomy, ecclesiologies that mirror and are supported by political visions other than those which are biblical.
By ‘truthful’ we meant that the church could become a people capable of facing the hard realities about ourselves without flinching…The world regards as an incredible moral hero anyone who can be honest about himself or herself without flinching. The Christian claim is that such an ability is given to ordinary people through the gift of the gospel. Failing to be truthful, about the best we can expect of ourselves is to live by the least hurtful in our lies…The times are too challenging to be wasting time pressing one another into boxes called liberal or conservative. The choice is between truth and lies” (Resident Aliens, Location 2052-2105).
The third-way, whatever it looks like, has to be both truthful and hopeful. To put it another way: Only God’s truth will get us out of our mess and sustain us. When we stand on God’s truth (and not promises made my parties and politicians) there is hope. (Of course this opens the questions, What are God’s truth? How do we know God’s truth? How do I know my interpretation of Scripture is God’s truth? But those are questions for another post.)
There has to be a third-way. A way that says…
…all men (and women) are sinners, which is why power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
…abortion is murder.
…it is wrong to allow people to die on the streets (or in their homes) for lack of basic healthcare.
…an unjust war doesn’t become just by sacrificing more lives.
…right-to-life includes criminals on death row who have been placed there by a corrupt and inconsistent justice system.
…greed is sin, materialism a disease, laziness is wrong, and capitalism is not utopia (neither is socialism or theocracy-ism).
…standing up for justice is as important as standing up for tax-breaks.
…only God has a monopoly on truth, and only God offers hope.
…unless you are Native American, you are a product of immigration, legal or otherwise. It’s all a matter of perspective.
…separation of church and state applies just as much to the church as it does to the state.
…the government does not have the answers.
…the government doesn’t even know the questions.
…the place to look for answers is the church.
There has to be a third-way; a better way; the Only Way.