Critics of the Faithful Democrats movement raise a point that is actually quite fair: “Aren’t you just reacting to the unhealthy closeness between the Church and the political right by luring the Church into the arms of the political left instead? Are you really any better?”
Critics of the Faithful Democrats movement raise a point that is actually quite fair: “Aren’t you just reacting to the unhealthy closeness between the Church and the political right by luring the Church into the arms of the political left instead? Are you really any better?” That is an insightful question, and one which any responsible Christian on either side of the aisle must continually ask. The 20th century Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones famously stated that “if the church marries the spirit of the age, it will be a widow in the next generation.” It is easy for us to identify the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy of the religious right’s fusion of faith and politics–and much more difficult to perceive our own blind spots where we are tempted to compromise the Gospel.
The danger of this happening can be reduced (though, of course, never eliminated entirely) by keeping in mind three principles:
First, we must recognize that we will never–by our political actions–bring about the Kingdom of God. That is way above our pay grade. We are rather, as Augustine writes in the City of God, pilgrims on our way to an eternal city who work for the temporary peace of the earthly city where we’re staying now. It is not our job–or within our power–to create heaven on earth. With a good bit of prayer, a lot of hard work, and a little help from God, however, we may be able to hold back hell on earth–and temporarily ensure that our political communities are characterized (however imperfectly) by a little more order and justice.
Second, time may change the “right” decision for politically involved Christians. Lord Palmerston, a nineteenth-century British prime minister, once famously stated that Britain had “no permanent allies-just permanent interests.” I would argue that the same principle applies to the Church. Our political interests–making sure that evil is restrained, the poor are treated with justice and compassion, the environment is properly cared for, and the Gospel is given a fair shot at competing in an open marketplace of ideas–are currently best served by aligning with the Democratic party. Will this be the case forever? Looking at how history has changed both parties, the best answer is “probably not” (even though the current foibles of the Republican Party make it unlikely that it will be able to compete seriously for our votes in the next few years). A political alliance that was right in one decade may be wrong in the next. Even once a believer figures out which “side” she’s on, she is not relieved of the ongoing responsibility to hold her political beliefs in an open hand–constantly reevaluating them in light of her progressively mature relationship with God, further study of Scripture, and the ebb and flow of current events.
Finally, our political categories are not God’s political categories, and we’re certainly not perfect. We take the political positions we do because we believe that they are the most faithful application of God’s Word to the complexities of politics. But, even so, as fallen humans who will inevitably get things wrong, nothing we do is completely free of sin and error–and little, if anything, that our opponents do will not have at least some moral or pragmatic validity. Ultimately, we have to acknowledge the truth of Lincoln’s observation that we should be much less concerned about whether God is on our side than with whether we are on God’s side.
So, if you are a critic, we welcome your good-faith disagreement–and we covet your prayers. May God continue to guide all of us toward more faithful ways of doing His will, and may non-believers know that we are God’s disciples by our love for one another (and for them)…regardless of our political leanings.