In my previous post, “Some Thoughts on Christian Participation in Representative Democracy”, I gave some reservations I have with present day Christian involvement in the American political system. Based on the feedback I received it appears that many Christians, or at least the handful of readers that visit my blog, have a difficult time imagining how to confess the Kingdom of God without the assistance of a democratic system of government. That, along with the numerous evangelical leaders eager to proclaim their own “faithful” endorsements (Wayne Grudem for Mitt Romney, Rick Warren for Mike Huckabee,
and Brian McLaren Brian McLaren and Tony Jones for Barak Obama) leaves me in rather small company.
My argument is that while there is nothing inherently wrong with voting, endorsing either parties candidate(s) requires me to make so many contradictions to my beliefs that my Christian confession becomes reduced to a few hot-button issues. A brief example is the option of being either 1) against abortion but for the death penalty, or 2) against the war in Iraq but for embryonic stem cell research. Presently, both options require me to make exceptions that I don’t believe I should have to make.
To clarify for those who responded to my last post, the issue is not my disillusionment and the alternative is not disengagement. In fact, I think the efforts of the last several decades to make evangelical Christianity a recognizable contender in the American democratic system have only served to pervert our sense of Christian political engagement.
The following are some examples that will hopefully illustrate a more faithful picture of Christian political action.
Both political parties believe that health care functions best when it is run as a business. Yet even the most optimistic policies of the democratic party will still leave around 15 million people uninsured.
- The Free Medical, Dental, and Eye Clinic of the Vineyard Church of Columbus places care of the individual above the goal of profit-making and shows that you don’t need an enormous “medical system” to provide health care services.
No Child Left Behind was a well intended but poorly developed effort to improve the performance of public schools in the U.S., but what about children who live outside the U.S.?
- World Vision believes that all children deserve access to basic education and provides services in over 80 countries.
- My personal friends ‘N’ & ‘K’ teach English as a Second Language, as well as other less popular topics, in Ningxia, China. (Link omitted so as not to jeopardize their identities)
Abortion is too often articulated and legislated as a matter of personal choice.
- People like Isaac and Jen, currently adopting a child from Ethiopia at great financial sacrifice, respond that children are both gift and responsibility, and affirm that for children, the church is always a place of welcome.
The US places its own interests in “defense” and “national security” above the welfare and value of its neighbors.
- The Flack Family and Hillside Community Church have correctly answered Jesus question, “who is my neighbor” by caring for the chemical sniffing street boys of Nicaragua.
War is a unique issue because it directly concerns policies of the state.
- Nevertheless, the delegation of U.S. religious leaders visiting Iran demonstrated that policy can be affected outside of legislation.
- Conversely, Christian Peacemaker Teams address the personal elements of war by enacting strategies that require warring parties to enter into dialogue.
A final criticism from my last post involves the idea of practicality, with the view that we are stuck on earth waiting for the Kingdom of God to come, and therefore, must do the best that we can while we wait. The reasoning follows that because American legislation can instantly impact millions of people, influencing democratic politics should be one of our more effective resources. What this philosophy misses is that the Kingdom of God has come through Jesus Christ and that our task, as the Church, is not to wait for, but to actively confess Christ’s Kingdom as we hope for His return. My reservation towards representative democracy is that the Church’s mission is not created by practicality, but confessed through witness, to the most impractical event in history, Christ’s death and resurrection.