The church, Scripture teaches, is where God’s politics becomes reality: it’s a city governed by the Sermon on the Mount. But does any such place exist?
At the outset of my Christian journey, I was taught to keep politics and religion separate. Jesus came to save sinners, not society. Our citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth. It’s the soul that counts, not the body. What matters is one’s eternal destiny, not social betterment.
This attitude may be appealing to some, but the good news is good because it holds promise not only for the next life (which it does) but also for this life and how we live it now. After all, Jesus healed bodies as much as he forgave sins, and he shared everyday life with his followers – eating and drinking and traveling with them – as much as he prayed alone in the wilderness. He announced the arrival of God’s politics, which means the end of politics as usual: good news for the poor at the bottom, bad news for the power-elites on top (Luke 6:20–26).
The 2016 presidential campaign made two things painfully clear: Christians do not agree on how to apply the gospel to political issues, and when Christian leaders do get involved in partisan politics, the consequences are hardly benign. Compromise is inevitable, and political intrigue is always close at hand. How, then, to do politics Christianly?
- Thomas Merton, preface to The Seven Storey Mountain, Japanese edition (1966).
- Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens (Abingdon, 1989), 80–81.
- John Howard Yoder, Discipleship as Political Responsibility (Herald, 2003), 63.
- John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution (Herald, 1977), 156.
- Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997), 16.