A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Kingdom Without King, Kingdom Without Church: Manipulating Jesus to Serve Our Agendas

It's been a problem almost since the inception of Christianity-- the rejection of Jesus' agenda for us and the twisting of Jesus' message and ministry so that he might conform to our easier more palatable way of life. Atheist Richard Dawkins once stated that as intelligent as Jesus was, if he were here today, knowing what we human beings now know in the 21st century, Jesus would be an atheist.

Now, it is not the purpose of this post to interact with Dawkins' assertion. What I want to highlight is the continual practice of Christians twisting Jesus to fit their particular political and social agendas. Since Dawkins is an atheist, he can be excused; but what is the excuse for those who claim to follow Jesus, those believers that insist Jesus follow them in support of their pet projects and sacred cow issues? There are those who think that if Jesus were here today he would be a conservative Republican and a Tea Partier. Others assume that since Jesus was concerned for the poor that automatically means he would vote Democratic as if there is an automatic straight line from one to the other. Yes, I have heard and read pastors and parishioners say just that. I have to say that it is hard for me to understand the reasoning of any persons who believe the above. Apparently I must be reading a different New Testament.

Years ago I was at a church dinner during a presidential election season. I was sitting at one table with parishioners who were talking politics and like-mindedly saying that they could not understand how a good Christian could vote for the Democratic candidate for president. A few minutes later I was at another table as I was making my "pastoral rounds" that evening, and those folks, also talking politics, were having the same conversation... but they couldn't figure why any caring Christian would vote for the Republican.

Several years ago Brad Wright wrote a post that is well worth reading. In it he writes,
Trying to fit Christian beliefs into a specific political stance seems to be putting a square peg into a round hole-- it just doesn't fit.... I think it's fine that people bring their religious convictions into their political decisions, as we should with every aspect of life. However, I've become skeptical that there is any one "right" way of doing this. Moreover, I’m uncomfortable with any message, either explicit or implicit, that suggests that "if you're a Christian, you should be a _______ (fill in the political party)."
Wright is certainly correct, but I do not want to leave the issue there. What happens all too often is that someone basically says that Jesus would not be Democrat or a Republican, and all thoughtful Christians on both sides of the political aisle agree, and then they proceed to go back to their Democratic and Republican corners as if such an important affirmation determines nothing. So we agree that Jesus would be neither, but most of us his followers choose to be one or the other. Surely I cannot be the only one that sees the problem here.

In my book, The Politics of Witness I wrote,
I have come to believe that as long as we believers identify and line up too closely with one side or the other, with either the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, Christians will unintentionally eclipse the politics of God's kingdom and our prophetic voice and witness as the church will be undermined if not completely muted.
I am well aware that among Christians I am embracing a minority opinion. But as long as we divorce the work of God's kingdom from the king and as long as we separate the work of the kingdom from the church, we will continue, with good intentions, to make Jesus subservient to our agendas, while the church becomes nothing more than the handmaiden of state power. Unfortunately, Christendom is alive and well... and Christians on the left and the right are in it up to their activist armpits. And that will not change until the kingdom and the church are once again intrinsically related to what God is doing in the world in King Jesus.

Richard Dawkins wants Jesus to serve his agenda. We may excuse him for that. We Christians are without excuse in making Jesus subservient to our wills. We should know better.

3 comments:

mike helbert said...

I'm not disagreeing. You've provided some good food for thought.
What do you think of McColman's approach?
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/2016/01/the-2016-presidential-candidate-prayer-challenge-are-you-in/

Russell Morton said...

Alan:

Good post. One of the problems we as Christians have in America is the desire to turn the nation into the church and vice-versa. de Touqvile noticed how Americans integrated religion into the American experiment, and while this has positive benefits, there are negative connotations, not the least the "law of unintended consequences" (remember the lesson from Prohibition, anyone). When we equate the Christian position with a political party we immediately rule out the possibility for courteous disagreement, and accrue to ourselves an omniscience that belongs to God alone. I don't advocate quietism, but I am also wary about the sin of the Garden of Eden. We all want to be God. This also is a problem of why people often want a Jesus without the church, because who likes accountability, but that can be for another discussion.

Scott Hughes said...

Really good thoughts Allan. I agree that a big part of this issue is regarding identity. Do we really have our identity wrapped up in Christ or in a political party? Just FYI, I'm doing a webinar on this topic through Discipleship Ministries is a couple of weeks - http://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/courageous-conversations-why-is-the-church-so-politically-divided