Political Christianity: American Style

Political Christianity: American Style October 10, 2016

The tragic decisions of American Christianity to align itself with a political party has now landed in a pool of manure with a plop. You may be thinking of the Christian Right, and you’d be right. You may be thinking of the Christian Left, and you’d be right again. Exhibit #1: the so-called “debate.” Gone are the days of dignity.

Progressives, in sometimes insufferable prose, align themselves and the church and especially the “red letters” of Jesus with the Democrat or Social Democratic party. For them, Jesus’ being for the poor ineluctably means Jesus is for centralized government and federal relief, aid and support for the poor and that, for them, means Vote Left.

Conservatives, in sometimes insufferable prose, align themselves and the church with the Republican party (or its Tea Party variation). For them, to be Christian means to be anti-Left and pro-Right. Jesus and the whole Bible, they seem to claim in one variation after another, are for decentralization, free markets, and the platform list goes on.

Recently (the penitent) Wayne Grudem’s buddies have declared that Christians Progressives need to repent. Here is the statement from the American Association of Evangelicals, which clearly has Jim Wallis and George Soros as their worried center:

Each of us is called to repentance. Our entire nation will be revived as we return to the Lord. We, the evangelical and Catholic signatories below, know we are sinners forgiven by the saving work of Christ. And believers who normally turn the other cheek are, at times, also called to overturn tables. This is a moment for such believers to speak truth to power.

After years of earnest but less public attempts, it is now with heavy hearts, and a hope for justice and restoration, that we Christian leaders urge ‘progressive’ evangelicals and Catholics to repent of their work that often advances a destructive liberal political agenda. We write as true friends knowing that most believers mean well. We desire the best for you and for the world God loves.

Randall Balmer, ironically enough, has called for evangelicals (conservatives are his focus) to become again what they once were: the vanguard of progressivism in the USA. (Progressivism, of course, changes over time.) He’s also argued time and time again that the church works best when it works from the margin, when it ceases its grasping of power, and when it concentrates on its mission of redemption through Jesus Christ. He’s reargued this in his newest book, Evangelicalism in America, and I commend the book for a good reminder.

What to say? The progressive and the conservative are two sides of the same coin: Yes, Jim Wallis and Wayne Grudem are two sides of the coin. Seek the Powers, bend the nation toward one’s particular vision of the Christian vision through the Powers, call the other names and call them to repent from their unChristian ways, and bring in the kingdom.

Their primary mode of operation is to stimulate the amygdala.

One simple observation: the closer progressives or conservatives get to seeing the way to change the world is through the Powers in Washington DC the closer they become to being Constantinian — a conservative Constantine or a progressive Constantine is still a Constantine.

American Christianity, during election season especially (and since it lasts so long and occurs so often that means always), spends its energies on who will be the Next Apocalyptically-crucial Power in DC and in so doing is failing to use its energies — a zero sum game seemingly — for the mission of God in this world and to this world.

The alternative is not Left vs  Right, but Left-Right Powermonger vs. kingdom politics embodied in gospel living and church living.

Evangelical-conservative and Progressive Christianities are corrupting themselves day by day into a pollution of the Body of Christ by becoming variant versions of Constantinianism.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ted Johnson

    You are correct on both counts. If there was ever a year for both ends of the spectrum to turn away from Constantinianism, this year is it.

  • Amen.

  • Brian Evans

    and all God’s people said

    AMEN

  • Terry

    Exactly right Scot. Amen.

  • Cosmo

    Amen, and amen!

  • Tom F.

    “Their primary mode of operation is to stimulate the amygdala.”

    By which, you mean use fear as a sword to gain power. I seem to remember Jesus talking about something about swords….

    I remember back in 2008 when Obama was running and Focus on the Family ran adds saying that Obama wanted to put pornography on every corner. In 2016, we have a Republican candidate who has had a supporting role in pornography himself.

    I remember, vaguely, because I didn’t know any at the time, that Progressives wanted to jail Bush for war crimes (I assume some Progressive Christians as well). In 2016, we have a Presidential candidate who threatens to jail his political opponent not for war crimes but for an email scandal which has been investigated 8 times by the congress and once by the justice department without any charges.

    Abraham Lincoln famously transcended the civil war by speculating that it was God’s judgment on (both!) the North and the South for either carrying out or not stopping slavery.

    Both progressive evangelicals and conservative evanagelicals face political judgment right now, perhaps for the very sins you are talking about, Scot. But make no mistake, the sword of judgment is none other than Trump himself, whose devastation could well rival any plague of the apocalypse, on both modern conservatives and progressives alike. Remember, we are a nuclear nation….

  • Patrick Barton

    Very thoughtful post.

    It’s obvious the church in the USA is too attached to a party or the state. This is not a new thing, there is a really interesting book about the church causing US entrance into WWI titled, “The War For Righteousness”.

    It is entirely lamentable as you point out and is doing grave harm to the body of Christ in this nation and I suspect beyond.

  • jeffcook

    Scot I trust your wisdom and think this post has much to offer, but the argument (like many this political season) feels like a false equivalency.

    Do you really see the identical “Pollution” on both sides?

    Much love to you and Kris.

  • scotmcknight

    Same pollution, different pollutants.

  • darrylrlewis

    This post reminds me of Lee Camp’s book, Mere Discipleship, which, if I remember correctly, you have mentioned before.

  • RustbeltRick

    Right-leaning politics leads to grotesque inequality, the unchallenged power of Corporate America, and increased misery for the poor and middle class. The last 30 years serve as proof.

    Left-leaning politics leads to things like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. Programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and Pell Grants.

    Sorry, but I’m perfectly comfortable being a politically-active, left-leaning evangelical. Do I see my politics as any sort of national deliverance? No. Do I see it as the best path forward for a modern, just society? Of course.

    Right now, we are seeing the Republican Party imploding, the result of decades of intellectual rot on the Right. I think your article is a last gasp attempt to somehow suggest “but but but the Left is just as bad.” Please. This argument is more of a stretch every week.

  • Christians can and must be involved in politics but the involvement of the Church is another matter. It is almost impossible to resist the urge to grasp and wield power. We fail to understand the basic physics of Power and where the actual mass is. It is Power that grasps and wields us.

    The infection of the church leadership by feudalism should have taught us this. We have learned nothing.

  • Steve Crosby

    Admittedly, at first, I found myself feeling a bit defensive – several “yeah, buts..” Soon I realized I needed some ownership, and to allow the Spirit to convict. Still, one large “yeah but…” I understand it is a challenge of the medium, but the general tenor of the post is broad brush and either-or positioning with little nuance. “Working from the margin” doesn’t mean we don’t challenge and speak up against positions, platforms, and policies that fly in the face of kingdom ethics and gospel living. Gospel living can include the long tradition of a strong prophetic voice against the mistreatment (typically accompanied by hypocrisy) of its people by a government. Sometimes that means pointing out to (as some of your posts have) brothers and sisters that their preferred candidates or policies seem to contradict egregiously that which Jesus calls his followers to. This can be done without in any way having sided with the “Powers” as the way to accomplish Kindgom tasks. Yes! – it must be done with dignity and Sermon on the Mount ethics, but calling out my Evangelical brothers and sisters for being one of the primary bases of support for the current Republican candidate doesn’t mean I have become a corrupt, polluted, Constantine. There are times when we must speak out – even in the realm of the politics and government of the nation. For sure the Kingdom supersedes the powers and realms of this world. The other side of that coin, however, doesn’t have to be loss of vision and energy for the ‘”mission of God in this world and to this world.”

  • I think there can be equivalency here, if and when Christians on the left or right see the kingdom’s chief focus as (human) governmental power and sway. The issue, for left and right, would be the primacy given to human political power, if any. The point here is not, as I read it, that both right and left are equally wrong on substance of their proposals and policies and candidates, but that both left and right have Christians who have prioritized human government as the most important instrument of God’s kingdom.

    That said, I don’t think the traditional anabaptist view of eschewing virtually all involvement with or call to the political powers is correct either, especially in societies in which a vote is given to its citizens. Nor should human governments and its governors be exempt from the calls to deal with the ultimate lordship of Christ. That leaves us with, among other things, a problem of how much is too much in relative terms, or a question of emphasis and primacy rather than an all-or-nothing choice to speak or not speak to governmental matters. I don’t think, for instance, that Scot is saying here not to vote, or not to ever advocate for the application of Christian views of justice and even ultimate Lordship to the decisions of governors and governments, which would be odd given our scriptural narrative.

  • I am an outsider. I am not left or right, but I believe that governance is the chief topic of the Old Testament. There it is manifestly obvious that God has a preferential option for “aid and support for the poor”. Just read the Psalms. Whether you believe this should be done by corban-like giving (I gave my money to the church so I can’t support my parents – the church will), or good or bad private foundations (paying your legal bills with donations or dealing with HIV victims in a foreign country), or good or bad governments (obstructive of care or operating by pork-barreling special interest groups and lobbyists, or accepting one’s responsibilities for refugees caught in the crossfire), you have got government as the vital problem in the canonical history which, in case the NT folks don’t know, was written for our learning. For all the nations. Wouldn’t it be better to reject the pawn-king and make the levers of government in a single nation work again?

  • It’s not Left versus Right, but Power versus Gospel; I love that. Thanks! I think it might be bad form to post a link in the comment section, but I have found the work of Dr. Barry Johnson very helpful in framing the political polarization in the church. I think it echoes your point exactly. Here’s link: http://trentdejong.com/christians-cant-be-conservative/

  • davidt

    isn’t evangelicalism Just a political dressed in religious drag?

  • If I’ve got Scot right he’s not saying that there’s no difference in terms of policy. this post is not a defensive of the Right. He’s saying that both sides are wed to the world’s politics and are essentially Constantinian.

  • Samuel Burr

    O Dear. So much of this reminds me of growing up in the middle of the Civil Rights struggle in Birmingham. Would a discussion of Dr. Martin Luther King’s letter written from the Birmingham jail be worthwhile? I don’t have any misconceptions about anyone using the power structures to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus has taught us a different way. But I do believe that one should live as humanely as one can in the fall. To me that means that I am going to stand with those who suffer injustice, oppression and marginalization. Those are not political buzz words for me. They deal with flesh and blood people who are suffering. I am going to try to include a link to a short plea issued by Bryan Stevenson. I want to know how it fits in with this conversation. I am confused. I really mean this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrYQvhFMO_0&feature=share

  • Samuel Burr

    Thanks for the link. I found it helpful.

  • danaames

    Thanks, Scot.

    My favorite Orthodox blogger, Fr Stephen Freeman, studied with Hauerwas. Fr Stephen often mentions Hauerwas’ dictum: When you make yourself responsible for the outcome of history, you are agreeing to do violence.

    I think this is applicable to both the Right and Left, including the Religious Right and the Religious Left. It’s more subtle on the Religious Left, but the potential is certainly there. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1.20).

    Dana

  • This article froths with false equivalency and privilege.

    The assumptions and presuppositions inherent in such a missive are striking — decrying “centralized government” all the while members of this caste sup upon its largess and live a cushy life due to it — ensconced in university chairs, almost entirely empowered by that *federal* aid in the form of various modalities. What it screams, yes for me but not for thee.

    And to equate MLK (go read his words, he is in much alignment with a lot of liberal & Democratic policy, and urged them to *do more* with federal dollars) with Wayne Grudem — well, that’s a dandy of a false equivalency.

  • You and others here are seeing ‘false equivalence’ here because you’ve misunderstood Scot’s point. He’s not writing about whether the policies of the Left or the Right look more or less like the ethics of the Kingdom; he’s not commenting on policy per se.

    Rather he’s saying the mode of political engagement, specifically the grasping of governmental power, is the same in both. In both left and right that power-grabbing detracts from true Christian politics, which is the life of the Church.

  • Very interesting connection to violence there. There’s a lot of triumphalism kicking around, on both sides, and that produces violence to the truth (because you’ve got to describe your own position as positively as possible despite the facts), and violence to the enemy (because you must describe them fully negatively).

  • Cosmo

    T,
    Well written. Both sides, in their own ways down through history, have been culpable of giving primacy to human institutions. Not a good thing.

  • John William Brandkamp

    I think on the meta level this post by Scot is spot on. I have many friends on every side of the political and theological aisle and see the impulse towards Constantinian power plays all the time. But on the details of this election cycle, we are faced with a stark case of choosing the lesser of two evils, or as some have said, the evil of two lessers.

    To paraphrase Derek Webb, I’m not looking for a Savior on Capital Hill, but I am trying to avoid voting in a potentially apocalyptic candidate, and I believe Trump fits that category, even though Hillary is also unbelievably flawed.

    As an aside, I’m constantly reminded of the deep wisdom from Richard Hughes’ book “Myths America Lives By” written quite a few years ago, but as relevant as ever. It should be required reading for every American Christian before each election cycle.

  • John William Brandkamp

    That book by Richard Gamble is brilliant!

  • John William Brandkamp

    Amen Ted, amen.

  • Brian Arbuckle
  • Rick

    Great post. If you haven’t read it, “How to Change the World” by James Davison Hunter has most to the same points. Does a great analysis of how Christians (on both the Right and the Left) have tried to relate to (use?) politics and the inadequacy of both. He poses Faithful Presence as an alternative.

  • jh

    There is a false equivalence in this article that needs to be addressed. It’s not a case of “but both sides did the same thing”. How did we get to Hillary’s emailgate? Oh wait,,, it was yet another offshoot of another failed Benghazi investigation.. And what was it before? It’s like being investigated for murder, the police finding absolutely no evidence except that the murderer was a man.. and being investigated again and again for the same murder. And finally, they catch you for.. wait for it… running a red light. Right now – the conservatives are in a lather about immunity deals in the investigation. They don’t mention that immunity deals are the norm in these types of investigations. It would be far more unusual if there were no immunity deals. Or the uranium deal … that had to be okayed by numerous other federal agencies that Hillary had no control over. Or ACORN, an organization that was smeared and destroyed… and found to be innocent of the republican driven witch hunt.

    In point of fact, the progressives wanted to investigate because they found out that Bush and company had lied about numerous facts that lead to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where was the yellowcake? Where were the WMDs? Why did certain companies financially benefit from these wars? Where was the link to 9/11? Why did Bush and Company ignore the information of other national intelligence agencies including the Israelies, the Germans, the French?

    These are legitimate questions that needed to be answered. And unfortunately, while the republicans had time to waste on Benghazi, they weren’t and still aren’t as interested in getting to the bottom of why there were so many lies to justify a war that led to the death of not only US soldiers but numerous civilians in those regions. (Obama caught Bin Laden in Pakistan. Not Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, it appears that Bin Laden had been enjoying a peaceful life in Pakistan while we had been wasting years in a two-front war that only increased political instability around the world.)

    This is different from the endless republican driven investigations. First – the republican investigations are based on allegations that are always found to be invalid. How many Benghazi investigations do we need to confirm that Hillary wasn’t guilty of malfeasance? And what was the original investigation that led to Clinton and the whole Lewinsky scandal? Was that what the republicans were originally investigating? Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades? You will find that republicans, with tireless zeal, will pick any nutjob conspiracy theory and decide to put Hillary through something worse than an IRS audit.. at this point, they’ve violated Hillary’s right to double jeopardy.

    No – it’s time to stop pretending that both sides do the same thing. One side is leagues better than the other side. That’s probably because that side deals with reality rather than promoting fringe conspiracy theories and supporting a man who told people they should kill Hillary Clinton. If religious leaders couldn’t see the character of this man before this latest video, I have to question their intelligence. I saw this a mile away… I wouldn’t trust an idiot who was stupid enough to fall for Trump’s nonsense after this many months and weeks of coverage. Even a child can figure out the man was a liar within the first week. Even a child could have figured out that this man was all talk and nothing else. Even a child could have figured out that he wasn’t nice when he demonized entire groups of people and dehumanized them. (nice go with the skittles reference. What a fantastic way to dehumanize a group of people and turn them into objects rather than human beings.)

  • Tom F.

    I agree with no “false equivalence”- just because Lincoln felt that the civil war was judgment on both the North and the South didn’t mean he shrugged and said, “Well, I guess I can’t end slavery then, since the North is just as bad as the South”. And I pretty much compared Trump to an angel of death, metaphorically speaking. Perhaps by your lights the Bush analogy does not hold; I certainly find them different in terms of substance in many of the ways you point out.

    Perhaps on the left the move to power becomes clothed in social justice when underneath is just cultural antipathy. Consider Obama’s “guns and religion” and Clinton’s “Deplorables” (I think she would be spot on: “people who believe deplorable things”). Are you so sure that the left never indulges in (irrational) fear-mongering about those “crazy” republicans, in a move towards power that is sometimes self-motivated rather than noble?

    I can’t really clean up the mess that has happened for the conservatives. My intuitions tell me that people start cleaning up their own messes when they see others do the same, rather than rubbing their noses in it. An instinct that says that the left can never admit a mistake or the other side will twist it is what almost led Hillary to bluff her way through on the emails situation, which I think would have been disastrous. Instead, she decided to own it and I think that it will begin to pass. So when I hear Scot say “The impulse towards power in a Constinatinian sense runs through all the main currents of American Christianity” (I think that is what he is saying), I say to myself, pause, hear it out, and the left will be stronger if we can hear what Jesus has to say to us about power. God knows Trump certainly isn’t doing any kind of pausing and repenting, so I figure “be the change you want to see” sort of thing.

  • Finally, someone who can name what is truly deplorable. Thank you.

  • whoops – replied to the wrong comment

  • Susan F Jolly

    If the implication of some is that conservatives don’t have a moral conscience, I object. I was brought up in a conservative Republican home, and I was horrified by what was happening in the South. I still tend to vote conservative, and I still care about human rights–including those of the most helpless of all, pre-born children. I try not to be political, but I still have to make political choices. My conservatism colors those choices. I am not authoritarian, but I am a bit of a libertarian. I prefer not to have the government try to solve all my problems, while poking their nose into every cavity of my life and making me pay for the privilege. I think we sometimes not only enable helplessness, we promote it, and make it hard for some to trust their own abilities and God’s, too, while relying on Big Brother. So you see, I am conservative in philosophy, holding to Paul’s maxim, If they won’t work, they don’t eat. Have you heard of “rice Christians”? Americans all have a great heart! We have proved it again and again. But wisdom is justified by her children or so Proverbs claims. We need wisdom in our charity. That is not best done by bureaucrats, I don’t believe.If the implication is that conservatives don’t have a moral conscience, I object. I was brought up in a conservative Republican party and I was horrified by what was happening in the South. I still tend to vote conservative and I still care about human rights–including those of the most helpless of all, pre-born children. I try not to be political, but I still have to make political choices. My conservatism colors those choices. I am not authoritarian, but I am a bit of a libertarian. I prefer not to have the government try to solve all my problems

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would say the church is absolutely right to engage in society and politics: the problem is how and how much.
    When the church’s engagement with governments and politicians is one of protest and “speaking truth to power” it is doing what it is supposed to by e.g. speaking up for the poor or protesting at political immorality and corruption. The Bible is full of this.
    When the Church’s involvement becomes promoting its favoured candidates or party for office, or brokering its members votes for political influence, that’s when it goes horribly, horribly wrong.

  • As long as politics in the U.S. is centered on the ‘Two Wrongs Make a Right’ ground, then everything that gets touched will be pretty poisoned from the get-go. Even when otherwise reasonable people try to think through things.

    Take the quasi-defense of Donald Trump’s sexually predatory activities to pointing to Bill Clinton’s philandering. One bunch of bad things is something made good by… another set of bad things.

    Not any more evolved, really, from hearing: Toddler Steve says that he needs to break toddler Benny’s toy because Benny stole his lunch.

    I don’t know how this ends.

    (Note: I say this not as a condemnation or criticism of what McKnight thinks, just an observation. Don’t mean to sound mean or anything.)

  • Andrew Dowling

    Government is how human civilization distributes shared goods and resources. You can’t talk about human well being and government as these two separate spheres-that is already accepting right wing presuppositions. Name one great advancement in human social welfare in which government was not a major player/driver? That doesn’t mean the answer to all problems is some “big government” program, but if you care about the world’s major problems and social injustice (IMO the major concern uniting the Old.and New Testaments), you are going to have to care about public policy and government’s role in alleviating them.

  • Darrin Snyder Belousek

    Yes, indeed. Thanks for this, Scot.

    As you may recall, I made a similar argument last year over on the Pangea Blog:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2015/03/17/politicized-christology-in-christianized-politics-constantinianism-of-right-and-left/

  • You’re still drastically missing the point here by imagining that this is about blaming ‘big government’. I can’t speak for Scot, but my personal political intuitions are Left-leaning from way back and I’ve voted that way. New Zealand is generally far more left-leaning than is America too.

    The point is about Christians, who ought to belong to an alternative politics that is in the world but not of it, who are wed to the world’s politics as if the Kingdom of America was the Kingdom of God. The easy line you’ve drawn from the OT to the modern nation state betrays exactly that kind of Constantinianism.

  • Andrew Dowling

    It’s not about being “wed” to any institution/government but seeing it as a means to an end-the end being alleviating suffering and injustice-which I think Christian living is all about. And again, if you care about those things, you will care about things like elections and public policy.

    Constantine was about establishing Christian primacy and dominance via a theocracy. That is not what I’m talking about at all.

  • Christian living ought to be in the first instance all about the Church which bears witness in it’s life and words to the Kingdom of God. I’m happy for that witness to include speaking to the Government, even voting.

    But we in the west are still, if not wed, then infatuated with the politics of the world. Whether or not we’re right on the issue, we begin to be wrong in our method. Exhibit A is the vitriolic discourse that flies between progressive and conservative Christians, and the violence done to one another and to the truth as we seek to bolster ourselves and demonize the other.

  • BT

    It’s a very very fine line. Am I a democrat because of the way I’m situated in life and am trying to preserve that image/illusion/privilege? Or do I identify as a democrat because I identify first as a Christian and being democratic just fits best within the way I view my faith? And could I switch to republican if that became more consistent with my world view, or is my affiliation based on something less noble?

    There be the questions and the monsters.

  • Ian Thomason

    Scot, kudos for the post.

    The overt politicisation of conservative Christianity is one of the things we Australian evangelicals don’t really understand about your lot. That, and the apparent love affair with guns! I consider myself an informed believer (BTh, MTheol, PhD), but I often struggle trying to reconcile the (cultural) positions adopted by certain powerful American evangelical leaders, with the (counter-cultural) ethic I find in the New Testament.

    ἐπὶ νεκρῷ κλαῦσον ἐξέλιπεν γὰρ φῶς καὶ ἐπὶ μωρῷ κλαῦσον ἐξέλιπεν γὰρ σύνεσιν ἥδιον κλαῦσον ἐπὶ νεκρῷ ὅτι ἀνεπαύσατο τοῦ δὲ μωροῦ ὑπὲρ θάνατον ἡ ζωὴ πονηρά
    Σοφία Σιρὰχ

  • profwatson

    Why don’t we just trust God instead of attacking other members of the faith? The church’s mandate from Christ (Matt. 28:18-20) and the God-given priority as a pastor/teacher (Eph. 4:11-16). Since God left the church on earth to make disciples (not Democrats or Republicans), the best way a pastor can spend his time, energy, and influence is by preaching God’s Word. The proclamation of the gospel unleashes the power of God to produce the miracle of regeneration.

  • James

    Evangelicals own Trump and everything puerile he represents – don’t deflect by blaming the left. Own some responsibility here – the Christian right has been in bed with the GOP to a vastly greater degree than the Christian left ever has been for the Democrats. Trump is just the latest and more disgusting symptom of the intellectual and moral rot the Christian right has championed all along.

  • Paula Freeman

    I share your sentiments, Ian, about America’s love affair with guns—how strange. One conservative radio personality indicated that it had to do with our legacy of “shooting our way across the West” in order to claim the land!
    Try reading Greg Boyd from Minnesota. He is a breath of fresh air in this culture, as he is a pacificist and one of the most brilliant thinkers in the Christian world!

  • LOVEisNeverWrong

    WOW!
    What a bunch of PUFFED up hogwash.
    Anyone who doesn’t PRAYERFULLY take they’re duty to vote and support those who are in agreement with SCRIPTURE, don’t deserve the blessing of living in such a great country.

  • Eric Peltz

    Agreed. As community organizing 101 suggests, Power Over (i.e. maintaining systems and structures) is much different than Power With (i.e. building power with coalitions of the marginalized and oppressed). Certainly, power without the marginalized as the lifeblood is not Christianity; but to say that all attempts to do so are distractions from the kingdom of God? The Exodus, OT prophets, Jesus whole life, etc are all forms of non-violent resistance seeking to build power among the marginalized to overcome systems of oppression. The slaughtered lamb is slaughtered by the powers that be, with the promise that the One from whom all blessings flow uses the sacrificed one to bring victory to the audience of the Magnificat (Luke 1).

  • Jeff Y

    Thank you, Scot. I could not agree more. I also think that as we turn to an idolatrous solution (the powers) we will ultimately, and always, unleash some form of injustice – which also cuts both ways, left and right. In the prophets, Idolatry always produced injustice.

    It is interesting that we see this in Ahaz, king of Judah, in Isaiah, who had the Syro-Ephraimite (Israel) immediate threat on the one hand, and the Assyrian power on the other (2Kings 16:5-9; 2Chron. 28:16-21). He chose to align with Assyria in hopes they would invade Syria and Israel (this had dire consequences). The Lord exhorted Ahaz and Judah to trust in Him (Isa. 7:3-9; 8:11-14; 12:1-6; cf. Isa. 24-27). Aligning with Assyria led to several compromises. Of course, Ahaz was full of Idolatry & injustice (2Kings 16:1-4). Hezekiah, trusted in YHWH (Isa. 37:16-17, 35-36) and was rescued. Later he falls short (39:1-8).

    While the circumstances are different, the nature of the kingdom is not a political theocracy, there are similar lessons to be drawn about where we put our trust and how we go about solutions to societal problems (love vs power), imo.

  • Rev. Michael A. Tanner

    I could not agree more with this statement: “The alternative is not Left vs Right, but Left-Right Powermonger vs. kingdom politics embodied in gospel living and church living.” The kingdom of God does not come from the ways of power, but of vulnerability. No argument from me on this point. Still, we Christians are also members of the body politic and cannot act as if we, as members of a democratic society, can relegate government to irrelevance. Government is often the best way for “We the People” to work for the common good. It is often the only means available to address societal ills comprehensively and equitably. It often offers the most effective vehicle for loving our neighbor. The church and various non-profits perform essential social services but do not have the capacity to address systemic ills. Can we not work for the common good using whatever tools are available, including government, without falling into the error of confounding our governments with God’s? This article appears to ignore this option and leaves the impression that Christians may ignore opportunities to do good, to pursue justice for all, through government. I hope that’s not the intent. I believe that we can be citizens, even political partisans, and Christians as long as we are Christians first and yield our politics, as best we can, to God’s call for us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God (and one another).

  • Al Cruise

    Remember, we are a nuclear nation…. People who study leadership agree that Trump has the traits and vulnerabilities to take that step into nuclear war. More than Un or Putin. Trump would think he could survive it. Un and Putin know they could not.

  • Andy

    “Gospel living” (to use Michael A Tanner’s phrase, below) _isn’t_ an “alternative” to Right and Left, because Gospel-living isn’t a means or method of governing a nation. Obvious for-instance: in living out the Gospel, I’m not about to apprehend and punish criminals. That’s a matter for the justice system.

    But a justice system requires (1) a law-code and (2) proper use of power. This in turn requires a rational, ethical basis for understanding both the purpose and the methodology of government. The most important biblical passage on this subject, though brief, is Romans 13:1-4.

    It just so happens that the most Christian philosophy of government will end up having more affinity with libertarianism and American constitutionalism than any other secular political ideology.

    Ironically, while I don’t really know Scot’s politics, I find it’s almost invariable that Christians who rail against evangelical-conservative politics have a corporate tendancy to embrace socialism.

  • Andrea

    No mention of the prolife and pro abortion stance that has forced conservative Christians to identify with Republicans. It’s unfortunate that any believer would put their politics ahead of their faith. I often remind people that we’d be believers in communist countries, Muslim countries etc etc but I absolutely vote LIFE!!!!
    I try to not talk politics with unbelievers, not expecting them to hold the same values as believers but I’m very disappointed in any Christian that votes for a proabortion candidate. Hillary supported even late term abortion.

  • jimknight99

    You may want to reread Scott’s blog.

  • William AndAnn Akers

    Mixing politics and religion is like mixing manure with ice cream. The manure is not affected too much but the ice cream really takes a big hit.

  • Bill

    Enough of the bs that Republicans are the pro life party. The 1973 decision affirming the right of a woman to have an abortion was brought to us by none other than 5 Supreme Court justices nominated by Republican presidents. The vote was 7 to 2 and of the seven five were Republican appointees. Of the two that voted no one was a Democrat.The Republicans have been blowing smoke now for 35 years or so but haven’t done squat to overturn the decision. Of course the Republicans know the just saying they are prolife and love Jesus will always get the evangelical vote. Look what that mindset has brought us.