Archive for the ‘government’ category

Christian Anarchy and Voting- A Recap

January 8, 2010

A lot of people have been asking me lately about my stance on voting and Christians serving in government offices. Since I have already written a good bit about my particular understanding of the Christian responsibility in political engagement I thought I would just compile all of those posts here so I can direct people to one place.

I thought I would start with this powerful song by Derek Webb.

This concise non-voting manifesto (and updated version) by Professor Tripp York is also a useful resource, and generally sums up my position.

Mark Van Steenwyk also offers his ten reasons for not voting at Jesus Radicals.

This is an excerpt by Andy Alexis-Baker from the book Electing Not to Vote, and this post is specifically about the 2012 election.

In this piece  Chris Smith writes about incarnational theology and non-voting.

Early American church leader, David Lipscomb wrote a great book on the topic of Christians and government. Here is an excerpt on voting. Historian Mcgarvey Ice briefly examines Lipscomb’s nonvoting stance.

Joshua Jeffery follows Lipscomb and talks about the choice not to vote.

Alasdair MacIntyre says in this piece, “The way to vote against the system is not to vote.”

There are often connections between nonviolence and the Christian anarchy. Keegan Osinski and Mark Caudill discuss some of those connections and their reasons for not voting.

I wrote a fairly popular series of posts a while back entitled Would Jesus Vote? The basic idea was to chronicle some of the reasons I believe Christians should be wary of participating in the government on any level. So here they are:  One, Two, Three and Four.

One of my ethics classes required that I write a paper about Christians and political engagement. It was one of my favorite papers of my scholastic career so I thought I would share it with you here.

The term Christian Anarchy understandably makes a lot of people uncomfortable  so I have this post trying to help people have a better understanding of the phrase. After all, as Tolstoy said, “The Kingdom of God is anarchy.”

Kurt Willems has a new series at Red Letter Christians on Jesus and nationalism. Check out part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

For those of you who arent quite convinced, then at least consider this post before you vote.

I also have several posts that more indirectly get at the issues around the Christian Anarchy stance including this one on True Freedom which lists some of the most important basic understandings of being a part of God’s Kingdom. In a similar vein, this post attempts to demonstrate the radical differences between God’s Kingdom and the nations of this world.

Finally, there are some other issues such as war, abortion, immigration and poverty that play an important part in this discussion so I offer this post of some resources about these issues and this post specifically about war.

My request is that you prayerfully consider these ideas and search out God’s will in your life and in the world, and above all, declare with your life and words that Jesus is King!

Poverty and Advent

December 1, 2009

Its rare for me to hear a new Christian song these days that really hits me right in the gut, but today in Chapel I was introduced to just such a song. The service was focusing on the eschatological hope that we have in the birth of Jesus and his  return, and the lives we should live as a result. This song, by Jason Upton, closed out the service.

There’s a power in poverty that breaks principalities
And brings the authority’s down to their knees
There’s a brewing frustration and ageless temptation
To fight for control by some manipulation

But the God of the kingdoms and the God of the Nations
The God of creation sends his revelation
Thru the homeless and penniless Jesus the son
The poor will inherit the Kingdom to come

Where will we turn when our world falls apart
And all of the treasures we’ve stored in our barns
Can’t buy the Kingdom of God?

Who will we praise when we’ve praised all our lives
men who build Kingdoms and men who build fame but heaven does not know their names

What will we fear when all that remains
Is God on His throne, with a child in his arms,
and love in his eyes
And the sound of his heart cries

You should have heard my buddy Drew sing it as well. It echoed through the chapel and straight into the hearts of my fellow journeyers and I.

Human Trafficking Conference- Day One

October 9, 2009

We arrived at the church and I confess I am already frustrated. This place is a mall, only nicer. I wonder how much money was spent on the fancy decorations and lighting and sound equipment. I also noticed that over 90% of the people here are white, probably middle or upper middle class, attractive,  wearing plastered on smiles. I too am these things, perhaps sans the attractiveness and permanent smile. Where are the blacks, the Asians, the natives and the Hispanics? Where are the poor? Where are the oppressed, impoverished? People are dressed in outfits that are worth more than my car. Is it all a façade? Is it a way to make ourselves feel good about our convictions and conscience? Are we just trying to create meaning in a world that often seems so meaningless? I am guilty too. Lots of words, and anger and guilt for the injustice around me, but very little action, maybe even less serious prayer. How do the wealthy, educated, affluent and powerful combat widespread systemic injustices? Do we meet in million dollar church buildings patting each other on the back and raising awareness or is there something more to this? How do we speak truth to power when we are the powerful?

On another note, this morning we met and had a formation in common session with just our group. We started with 15 minutes of silence, which was uncomfortable yet peaceful. The we read together from the Asbury reader and discussed, Lectio Divina style, what the text was speaking to us. Mostly I took away that I need to just rest in the peace of God’s presence and the joy of his salvation, but now I am struggling with how that is tempered with God’s lament over our condition, especially our unawareness of the fetters of wealth, comfort, self-righteousness and homogeneity that bind our souls and keep them from soaring. I want to live and work with joy and peace, but I also want to feel the sense of outrage that I believe God feels when he sees a bunch of rich white folks bantering about changing the world in our million dollar facilities when our battle should be more in the trenches.

God, I am sorry if I am being judgemental. I am simply trying to express what I see and feel. Help me love church folks. Help me love myself. Help me love in a way that I see the image of God in those who trying so hard to create it in themselves. Help me love myself. Help me love those who only fight injustice from the safety of their pew and the comfort of being a safe distance from the bleeding hands and feet and human slaves. Help me love myself. Help me love those who shed rivers of tears on behalf of the oppressed but never shed any blood. Help me love myself. Help me love the readers and speakers, those full of knowledge and vision but lacking in practice and lifestyles of redemptive suffering and love. Help me love myself. Help me love, Lord, help me love.

As I hear the speakers give their various spiels I am much more encouraged, but still skeptical about what each of us does when we leave this place. I love the creative ideas been tossed about and the deep concern on behalf of the presenters. I am impressed with the fact that more people than I would have imagined are actually getting their hands dirty. However, I am wary about the ideas being put forth that we msut somehow depend on law or government to end these atrocities. This simply isn’t true. I don’t think it comes down to prosecutions or threats or coercion. The change we seek can only come through changed lives and hearts. I don’t think it’s the governments job, its our job to see this through. We arent ultimately aiming to end slavery, we are seeking to particpate in and promote the new humanity of God’s kingdom. Prosecution isn’t the answer. Love is.

Some of the quotes that stuck out to me are

“People are willing to leave their theology at the door to come together and combat this issue.” We cannot and must not leave our theology at the door because it informs our actions.

“We should aim to make these grass roots movements a part of the establishment.” Really?!?!

I know some of these thoughts may be a bit disjointed, but there is so much information being thrown at us and I havent had much time to process and reflect on most of it. Look for more to come.

Christians and Politics: Abstinence is the Best Policy

June 28, 2009

This is a short paper I wrote, for an ethics class, about responsible engagement of the political sphere by Christians. I of course take the position that Christians should not get themselves tangled up in the worldly political game, but I was required to give a brief positive assessment of competing views so I did that although I am not convinced that the “positives” of other views are truly strengths at all. It is a very basic, perhaps even elementary, assessment but I believe it to be a sufficient introduction to this position.

The Distinct Polity of the Church is Political Enough: Why Christians Should Abstain from Civil Governmental Politics

by Justin Bronson

I am persuaded that the most faithful way for Christians to engage the political sphere is by being a distinct polity unto themselves operating on the principle of imitating Christ’s example of cross-bearing love. In my view this precludes the participation of Christians in government, but requires us to transform the political sphere by questioning the powers, and exposing any sin by openly provoking them to direct their evil towards us just as Christ did. This could perhaps be viewed as a sort of mediation between Niebuhr’s Christ against culture, and Christ the transformer of culture.[i] We participate in what I will call selective engagement, meaning not that we choose when we are going to engage, but how we are going to engage the political sphere; specifically that we reject governmental positions and create our own peculiar polity of Christ-like living.

In Scripture we can see both apodictic and casuistic[ii] teachings[iii], and examples, particularly in the person of Christ; as well as an overarching, at least in the NT, principle of humble, self-sacrificial service[iv] as opposed to “fighting” worldly political battles as the means to transforming the world. This informs a position of selective engagement. Themes such as Satan being the god of this age[v], Jesus’ example of rejection of earthly power[vi], the demonic influence in government[vii] and of Christians being foreigners in earthly kingdoms[viii] all point to an idea of selective engagement. Our primary grounds for this selective engagement is, as already mentioned, the life of Christ. Instead of taking the kingdoms Satan offered,[ix] entering Jerusalem as the conquering earthly king, calling legions of angels,[x] or getting caught up in the politics of his day; Jesus rejected Satan’s offer of power,[xi] entered Jerusalem on a lowly donkey, died alone on a cross[xii], and called all people to take up their crosses and follow him.[xiii] Perhaps the best representative verse of Christ in this light is Col 2:15, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”[xiv]

Many early Christians, the Anabaptist movement, and multiple contemporary theologians/ethicists, have also called the church to be its own polity as a way of influencing the world and subverting the current political sphere. Tertullian will, for this essay, serve as an example of the early Christian call to selective engagement. According to Hollinger, Tertullian believed “Christians were to refrain from political life because it involved emperor worship.”[xv] Although the American context does not require emperor worship, it does demand allegiance. This is something we as Christians cannot give because our sole allegiance is to Christ. This is where I would fall in line with Niebuhr’s assessment of Christ against culture when he says this approach “uncompromisingly affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and rejects cultures’ claims to loyalty.”[xvi]

The Anabaptists picked up on this thinking and refused to let the church be defined by geography, and believed that government was unnecessary for Christians because the church was the their polity.[xvii] The Schleitheim Confession unabashedly declares that Christians should not be involved in government, pointing to the example of Christ[xviii] and the need for separation from the evils of the world[xix]. However, it wasn’t that they, and others like them,[xx] just wanted to be against culture. This is evidenced in Yoder’s critique of Niebuhr’s assessment of Christ against culture. Yoder points to an amalgamation with “Christ transforming culture”[xxi], when he says it’s “about devotion to the way of Christ, which at points conflicts with culture and society.”[xxii]

Contemporary theologians[xxiii] have also delved into this idea, including Stanley Hauerwas who says “The church does not exist to provide an ethos for democracy or any other form of social organization but stands as a political alternative to every nation, witnessing to the kind of social life possible for those that have been formed by the story of Christ.”[xxiv] Martin Luther King Jr. did not completely reject the notion of Christians in government, but he witnessed to the conflict between government and Christian ideals and called for a negotiation that ultimately seeks justice.[xxv]

Christians have also taken opposing views, each with particular strengths. Many, like Calvin, believed the church should indeed be involved in government[xxvi] claiming that those who refused to do so were “frantic and barbarous men are furiously endeavoring to overturn the order established by God.”[xxvii] The focus on God’s sovereignty, even in the political realm, and Christians’ use of the established order to advance kingdom ideals are strengths of this position. Others, like Luther proposed, that it is acceptable, but not necessary for Christians to be involved in government. His distinction between the two kingdoms[xxviii] allowed for Christian participation while not mandating it. He also proposed that the government should not be governed by Christian ideals. This has a particular strength because it attempts to keep the church and the state from getting too muddled while allowing for freedom of Christians to pursue any vocation in which he or she can do good. These views, and similar ones, have the three primary strengths of a broad range of influence and the possibility of “immediate” effectiveness, as well as the necessary power to enact proposed changes. The belief is, if a Christian can rightly participate in government he or she can enact good over a large number of people and possibly in a relatively short amount of time and to a great extent make sure it happens.

All of these things considered, it is my belief that Christians should actively engage society and the political sphere by being a separate and distinct polity. We therefore should avoid direct involvement in government such as serving as a governing official. The witness of Christ, the New Testament, various historical and contemporary individuals and movements have persuaded me that although the church can certainly bring about good through government; ultimately our responsibility is to be faithful to Christ as Lord and we must therefore take up our crosses and not the sword of power. We must imitate Jesus and not Caesar if we are ever going to change the world.

 


[i] Hollinger, Dennis, Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002) 191-197, 208-213

[ii] Pohl, Christine- Class Handout,  Forms of Ethical Guidance in Scripture

[iii] Luke 9:48, John 10:37

[iv] E.g. Matt. 5:3ff, 16:24, Acts 20:18-21, Eph 6:12, Phil 2:3

[v] E.g. 2 Cor 4:4

[vi] E.g. John 6:15, Luke 4:7f

[vii] E.g. Luke 4:6, Eph 6:12, Col 2:15

[viii] E.g. 1 Pet 2:11

[ix] Luke 4:5f

[x] Matt 26:43

[xi] Luke 4:8

[xii] E.g. Matt 27:46

[xiii] E.g. Mark 8:34

[xiv] RSV

[xv] Hollinger p192

[xvi] Hollinger p191

[xvii] Hollinger p194

[xviii] Boulton, Wayne G., Thomas D. Kennedy, and Allen Verhey, eds., From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics p286

[xix] Boulton p284

[xx] See for example Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, Jacques Ellul, Vernard Eller, David Lipscomb and Various Monastic movements

[xxi] Hollinger p208

[xxii] Hollinger p194

[xxiii] Notably Vernard Eller, John Howard Yoder, Greg Boyd, Lee Camp and Richard Hughes

[xxiv] Hollinger p55

[xxv] Boulton p429

[xxvi] Hollinger p209

[xxvii] Calvin, John. Of Civil Government Ch. 20 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.vi.xxi.html

[xxviii] Pohl, Christine- Class notes Christ and Culture in Paradox from Martin Luther

My Favorite MLK Speech

January 19, 2009

Everyone knows Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” which is certainly one of the best speeches given in modern history, but it is not my favorite speech by this prophetic visionary. I prefer his “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top/ Promised Land” speech given on April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, just one day before he was assassinated. 

In this brilliant homily, Dr. King seems to foreshadow his own assassination. What strikes me most is the way that the truth, “true love drives out all fear,” is evident in both his voice and word. Because he loves God and his fellow man and knows that God loves him, he is confident that even though his flesh may be harmed he need not fear for his soul will rest safely with the Almighty.

This speech gives me chills every time I hear it. Now it is my hope and prayer that I can live a life without fear of those who can hurt my flesh and that I will love unconditionally and serve sacrificially, trusting in Jesus, so that I too will someday see the promised land.

Christians Before You Vote…

November 3, 2008

Before you vote…

Remember your allegiance is to a King and His Kingdom.

Know your unique and real power comes from taking up your cross not your sword (or voting lever).

Keep in mind you are an alien and stranger here on earth.

Be mindful that others may be faithful Christ-followers and disagree with you.

Ask God what He wants for you, the nation and the world. 

Think about other ways to make a difference in the world, even and especially those that require sacrifice.

Make sure that you realize that God is sovereign and is in control no matter who sits in the oval office.

Take into account that not voting is also a faithful witness and an option for Christians.

Christians and Politics, Some Resources

October 25, 2008

Here are some more resources you might want to read before the coming election. 

Stanley Hauerwas writes about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s view of Truth and Politics, and a review of the impact of John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus, and an insightful theological look at abortion.

Gabriel Salguero, The Election, Immigration, and the Gospel.

The Problem with “Under God”, and interesting article by Rodney Clapp.

A Non-Voting Manifesto? A concise but very insightful look at Christians and voting, by Tripp York

An article about a practitioner of Christian Anarchism.

Between Sojourners and the Simple Way? Rethinking Radical, Evangelical Politics in ’08 with John Howard Yoder, a long title but a great article dealing with a few views of post-religious-right Christian political action.

The late great John Howard Yoder on the limits of our obedience to any government in this article. (Its a pdf and it might show up funny in your browser, just open it with a different program)

Some Websites with more resources.

http://www.theotherjournal.com/

http://www.jesusradicals.com/

http://www.christarchy.com/

http://www.jesusmanifesto.com/

http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/

Hope you enjoy!