The Spiritual Landscape
God's Politics? No Such Thing.
But the decisions are neither as easily made, nor are they as baldly endorsed by Scripture as some at either end of the political spectrum might make it seem. And the setting in which we live makes it no easier to discern the way forward—whether we are talking about the ethical agenda of social conservatives or the social agenda of activist liberals.
We don't live in a Christian nation. Christians are not, by definition, Americans and Americans are not, by definition, Christians.
Apart from the individual Christian's vote, there may not be a public case to be made for certain kinds of private morality—but, likewise, that means that there may not be a Christian case to be made for certain kinds of social policy.
The personal and communal Christian priority to practice mercy will not translate easily into social policy, any more than the practice of mercy will always translate into effective care.
The Christian priority to forgive may not always find easy analogues in the foreign policy of nations.
And there is no economic system, past, present, or future that has a counterpart in either the Old or the New Testament.
As Christians we will always live in some tension with the way in which our nation navigates history. If we do not have the same sense of tension with the world around us, in fact, we are probably not paying attention to God, the world, or both. We can and should engage political question, but we will often be forced to do the complex work of evaluating secular priorities in light of the tra nscendent claims that God makes on our lives.
God's politics? No such thing.
In fact, we will also discover that more often than not, it's not about God-given government—it's more often about government that acts too much like God. But that shouldn't trouble us too much. We aren't called to nation building. We are called to participate in the reign of God.
Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: http://frederickwschmidt.com/