Our Role

November 5, 2008

I was thinking today might be an applicable day to have this discussion:


To what extent are Christians called to be involved politically?


Sean, Flowerdust, and others had posts dedicated to this very subject. I was speaking with my friend Danny, who is very against how intertwined politics are with the Kingdom, and he had this to say:


“I advocate that Christians ought to find their identity and citizenship in the worldwide Church over any country they find themselves in. This stems from a deeply-rooted belief that we Christians are in missiological ‘exile’ the world over — as Paul calls us, we’re ‘resident aliens.’ We’re an odd people who don’t conform to certain norms, who keep strange practices (communion, baptism?) as signs of identity, and practice a seemingly counter-intuitive set of ethics (love for enemies, giving to the poor?) that go against the grain in many cultures. I believe that the Church is the true polis for the Christian and that membership in that body seems to preclude certain political stances and most certainly precludes fanaticism. I think Christianity has always been a religion that feels pressure from the nations because we don’t fit — we’re countercultural, but not really by intent: you just can’t help being contra certain aspects of culture when you turn the other cheek.

So, while I believe that the United States may matter somewhere in God’s global economy, I don’t think it can lay claim to any special blessing and I think it’s extremely unhealthy for Christians within Babylon…er, America…to embrace patriotism for this country in any capacity (US bombs have killed many Iraqi Christians, to me that is very scandalous).

I guess the short answer is that I don’t believe it matters who becomes the elected head of this particular Principality because the Church (it’s ethos, hope, and practice) exists outside of the State. When I confess and affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord, I point towards the fact that, in the cross, Caesar is subjugated and Christ reigns; it’s hard for me to get too riled up about a ruler whose governmental machine was already made a mockery of by the cross.”


I am curious about others thoughts on this subject. I am not 100% sure what my own are, in all honesty.



  1. This is only possible, Josh, with a unified notion of what the church is. There is no global communion, formal or informal, to which we as individual Christians can appeal. There is no unified interpretation of our sacred texts, contrary to the dogmatic assertions of conservatives and liberals alike. There is no unified theology–even the creeds are being, rightfully, deconstructed by the best (and most “orthodox”) theologians in the “business.” There isn’t a shared notion of Sacrament. (The Eucharist in the Evangelical churches of my youth was little more than an individual plastic cup and a cracker.) There isn’t a shared history. Personal revelation is, increasingly, taking priority over the one revelation of God in Jesus, the only Word of God. (I’m not coming down on mysticism, which has a deep tradition in Christianity, but more so the worst of the wackiness of the charismatic movement.) There isn’t a shared morality, or even a shared politics. After all this, and much more, there is no unity within the body of Christ. If there is a church, at all, its foundations are very much laid in the sand.

    Whether or not there is a Christian politics is beyond me. I take the route given by some Jesus scholars and liberation theologians–the Reign of God is a reign of justice, is thoroughly “democratic,” is distributive.

  2. Also, I don’t think it’s a sin or anything lame like that to participate in electoral politics. State worship is silly, and absolutely sinful, but governments, essentially, are not.

  3. Perhaps, finally, until Hauerwas gives up his office at Duke, gives up his citizenship and his right to nationality, and actually practices what he preaches among the truly destitute of the world, (I think) his calls to some romaticized notion of exilic life should be taken with a grain of salt.

    You cannot take refugee-status lightly. What it means to not be in the world: what it means to have your citizenship stripped from you: what it means to truly participate in a different economy is Auschwitz, Dachau, etc. I doubt Hauerwas would give up his library to live with those who have no authority to appeal to (but God) in refugee camps in Syria or Palestine or Jordan or the Sudan or the Congo. (Even Paul knew this in the context of his own time, though he was trying like hell to protect his citizenship.) That is what it means, really, to not be recognized by this world. It’s not a NOTW bumper sticker on a car, nor is it an academic essay: it is a reality. If Christians claim they belong there, and if that is where they believe they can unify, I wish them the best–and perhaps, in my best moment, I’ll be there with them.

  4. thanks for the input, nathan.

  5. Good Lord, that is a lot of input. I need to not rant when I’m low on sleep. Today I only really agree with the first point. The latter two are a little too snide for my taste.

  6. I disagree with your first point, Nathan, in that it is not a unifying doctrine or practice that gives the Church its essence – it is the Holy Spirit. So, while the Church the world over may think, look, act, and seemingly [i]be[/i] different, I firmly believe that the common denominator remains the same. Though the human foundations of the Church are, as you said, laid in the sand, I believe the tapestry still hangs together: by the miracle that is the Body of Christ, I think our ecclesial citizenship still must supersede all other things.

  7. lulz @ trying to use board code to make italics.

  8. Danny, I still don’t understand the complete withdrawl from politics. I don’t see how voting interfers with my trust/relationship with Christ.

  9. It doesn’t — not necessarily. I’m not ideologically opposed to the idea (though, I perhaps have been in the past).

    But I don’t think it should really interest us all that much, since we proclaim an entirely different lordship and the way the Church changes the world isn’t from the top down. For me, withdrawing from voting and symbolically recanting my ‘citizenship’ — or at least no longer identifying myself as ‘American’ — is helpful because it serves as a constant reminder that what I’m about could never really be represented by what Caesar is about.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’m no anarchist. I think the State should exist and it should have a limited amount of power to keep other States in check, but it exists and does its business beneath Christ, even beneath the Church. If there were a candidate that recognized the reality the State operates on power on loan from God and then aimed to reign in its power to reflect that reality, I would certainly vote for him or her. In a heartbeat.

    Is that any more clear? I’m enjoying this discussion!

  10. Me too, man! I think it’s a healthy dialog.

    I just don’t see, for me personally, that following or being involved politically, changes that hierarchy. I think it’s a dangerous/slippery slope when people start incorporating their politics into their faith, and vice versa, because it breeds a culture that can be very easily manipulated. Now, is that to say that my faith doesn’t persuade me in how I vote or get involved? Of course not. However, it would be wrong of me to make a blanket statement saying “All Christians should vote for XXXX candidate or on XXXX issue”.

    Ultimately, God is in control, and we truly possess nothing.

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