Archive for the ‘republicans’ 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!

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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

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.

Christian Perspectives on Abortion

October 17, 2008

Here are a few articles on abortion that essentially articulate three different views on abortion. I ask that you read each of them carefully and critically. All of them affirm the sanctity of life, but take a different approach to living out that affirmation. Here are the links and few representative quotes from each.

The first article is from Tony Campolo, professor, minster, and social activist. 

“Red Letter Christians are overwhelmingly pro-life, even though we refuse to get caught up in the power-centered politics of the Religious Right… Most Red Letter Christians are unwilling to become single-issue voters whose politics are determined solely by abortion.”

“It seems to me morally inconsistent and very unfair for a member of congress to vote against abortion but then not to support those economic measures, which experts say could cut abortions by as many as 500,000 in any given year.”

“Regardless how we vote when considering the abortion issue we will probably make some of our fellow Christians angry. This is not just another issue- for many, its a life and death matter. But Red Letter Christians must face the reality that there are good Christians on both sides of the debate. As hard as it may be, we must show grace toward those who take positions that differ from our own.”

Here is an article, or rather series of short related articles from Focus on the Family.

“Abortion poses risks to women and kills their preborn children. At its root, abortion is evidence of a lack of choices for women in unintended pregnancies as well as a societal disrespect for the value of young human life.”

“Women are certainly not the only ones affected by abortion. The preborn baby human at the center of the pregnancy has no choice, or voice, in the abortion decision yet, in most cases, arguably the most to lose… There is no doubt that this growing entity is fully human and a member of the human family.”

“Focus on the Family opposes abortion under all circumstances, except in the rare instance when the mother’s life is threatened by continuing the pregnancy.”

Here is an article by Greg Boyd, that reflects his Kingdom understanding of abortion, and his personal, non-kingdom, political view on the subject as well.

“Jesus never let the politics of his day determine how he approached issues. Sadly, this is exactly what many Christians today are doing. No where is this more evident than in the abortion debate.”

“These issues will undoubtedly be wrapped up with other difficult metaphysical questions, such as: When does the fetus become a full person? When does it become in “the image of God”? When does it acquire a “soul”? (Many contemporary Christians are surprised to learn throughout its history the Church has never had consensus about these issues).”

“The distinctly kingdom question is not, How should one vote? The distinctly kingdom question is, How should one live? Our unique authority as kingdom people can’t be granted us or taken from us by government. Our unique authority lies in our willingness to live and die as Jesus did, in love for others. The distinct kingdom question we should ask in regards to abortion is; how can we individually and collectively serve women sacrificially who are struggling with an unwanted pregnancy and serve the unborn babies that are unwanted?”

“Numerous studies have revealed that, regardless of whether they vote pro-life or pro-choice, the majority of Americans agree that a) the fewer the abortions the better, and b) the later an abortion takes place, the worse it is. Yet, instead of working together to create a society in which abortion is rarely necessary and later abortions never occur, the two sides are for the most part polarized at extremes, both fearing that giving an inch will justify “the opposition” in taking a mile.”

To be honest I was a bit surprised by some of the things I found from Focus on the Family and Tony Campolo, I had already read Boyd’s article a while ago so no surprises there. What do you think about each of these positions? How can we as followers of Christ be truly pro-life? 

Would Jesus Vote? Part 4

July 17, 2008

To finish this series I thought I would put up a list of resources. These books range from those supporting conservative politics to liberal politics, and from supporting Christians involvement in government to supporting the idea that we should stay away from worldly politics. Some deal specifically with the issues we have been discussing while others only touch on related subjects. 

“God and Government,” Charles Colson

“God’s Politics,” Jim Wallis

“The Myth of a Christian Nation,” Greg Boyd

“Myths America Lives By,” Richard Hughes

“Mere Discipleship,” Lee C. Camp

“The Politics of Jesus,” John Howard Yoder

“Jesus for President,” Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

“Christian Anarchy,” Vernard Eller, This one can also be found free online here.

Here are a few more links on the topic.

Jesus Manifesto

Shane Claiborne on God’s Politics blog

 

This is a very short list. This is a subject that has been extensively covered from a variety of perspectives. If it interests you I would like to hear what you think.

Would Jesus Vote? Part 3

June 19, 2008

I am about to list 20 statements about Christians voting. On their own they are very broad, sweeping generalizations. Therefore, I hope you read them in tandem with the previous two posts on this topic here and here where I have made an effort to explain my position. So here, in short, are 20 reasons I believe Christians should not participate in government, including but not limited to voting.

  1. If we vote, we play in to the corrupt system.
  2. If we vote, we, at least in part, put our hope in a person or a party.
  3. If we vote, we use power over people as a way of changing things.
  4. If we vote, we give credit to the powers and principalities.
  5. If we vote, we go well beyond giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
  6. If we vote, we don’t follow the pattern of Jesus.
  7. If we vote, we affirm our citizenship in the world and become in and of the world.
  8. If we vote, we buy into the lies of the enemy.
  9. If we vote, we put ourselves at odds with our brothers and sisters.
  10. If we vote, we are guilty of the sins of the nation-state.
  11. If we vote, we get caught in the web of complexity that is worldly politics.
  12. If we vote, we give credence to the idea that our government is right and good and stands for truth.
  13. If we vote, we assert our “superior” knowledge and attest to our arrogance.
  14. If we vote, we potentially make the claim that the choices provided are the only ones that exist.
  15. If we vote, we confuse the Lordship of Jesus with the lordship of the Nation-state.
  16. If we vote, we only have the option to choose between the lesser of two evils, and either way we must choose evil.
  17. If we vote, we ignore the lessons of history.
  18. If we vote, we legitimize the authority of the State.
  19. If we vote, we sacrifice the unique Kingdom-Resurrection power that is ours.
  20. If we vote, we in essence pick up the sword not the Cross.
What do you think?

 

Would Jesus Vote? Part 2

June 17, 2008

Please see part one here.

Here are some other reasons that have biblical foundations but are largely based on my experiences and observations.

I have found that party politics as well as international politics greatly compromise our allegiance to Christ. People act as if they are a Republican or Democrat, an American or an Iraqi first, instead of being a citizen of the Kingdom of God first and foremost. The kingdom is much bigger than that. It is greater, more beautiful. It certainly says God bless America, but it also says God bless Iraq, Iran, Canada and the rest of the world. That is what the kingdom is for, that is why Christians are here, we are to share God’s blessing with the whole world, no exceptions.

 

When one says the pledge of allegiance to the flag isn’t that comparable with the story of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abendigo. The king wanted their allegiance even ahead of their allegiance to God, but these three men were not willing to give it even if it cost them their lives. If I pledge allegiance to a flag and thereby the country that flag represents then I am detracting from the allegiance that I have pledged fully to Christ. Now I don’t deny that the pledge and our country often stand for good, and right and noble things but they are not and cannot and will not ever be the Kingdom of God and therefore they attempt to usurp the authority of God whenever a Christian gives these things his or her allegiance. Jesus taught about money that we could only serve one master. This principle must be true in all parts of life. We either can look out for the interest of the State and serve it as our master or we can live out the Kingdom and make Jesus our Master. When we try to have it both ways we try to serve two masters and our total loyalty cannot be dedicated to either one.

Political affairs are often divisive. The church has enough issues that we like to debate and fight over so why do we need to bring a person’s political views in to the mix? If I say that I am a Republican that automatically makes some people feel a sense of pride while others cringe. If I say I am a Democrat the same is true. I remember years ago while sitting in our school’s chapel listening to a speaker and he mentioned off hand that he was a Democrat. At that point in my life I automatically tuned him out because I was raised in a politically conservative family and to me a person who was a democrat must not be a faithful follower of Jesus. I have heard a lot recently, probably due to the upcoming presidential election, Christian people from “both sides of the aisle” demean and belittle those who hold opposing political views. This is especially sad to me when it is a Christian attacking another Christian. I remember Paul saying something about the way we are a body, now how much sense would it make for the left hand to cut off the right hand because they were from different sides? Not much. But this is what is happening throughout the body of Christ. In recent years I have since come to know that people from all walks of life and all political understandings can be followers of the King, but it is my hope that we all are willing to let go of our labels and even be willing to put our political views aside in order to hold on to the politics of Jesus; the politics of service, of love, of forgiveness, of prayer, and of worship to God and Him alone.

 

The politics of the empire or the republic are too complicated. The politics of Jesus are very simple, albeit rarely easy. If we let the complexity of partisan and national politics muddle up our lives and our time then we often miss out on the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel. We have enough things in our lives vying for our time without having to concern ourselves with who we are going to support in the next election or which amendments we need to vote on, or campaigning for a person who we probably truly know very little about or at the very least is certainly not someone in whom our hope should be put.

 

As we discussed earlier it seems that satan has dominion over this age and the earth. He is called the prince of this age and Jesus doesn’t deny the devil’s authority over the land during the tempting of Jesus. This leads me to believe that all governments, even the best ones, are inherently deceptive. Governments have always felt it necessary to keep certain things a secret for the “good” of the people. The truth is often skewed, obfuscated, twisted, shaded, and spun in an attempt to mold our perceptions of the government offices and leaders. Therefore, whomever we were to vote for, not matter how honest and how good would be stuck in an inherently flawed system. A system that can certainly be revised and improved, but one that will always be, at its core, deceptive because it is under the dominion of the father of lies himself.  No matter how many Christians we get into our government or any ruling body for that matter, it will still fall short of the glory of God because it is an inherently flawed system and no amount of human effort will ever change that. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God takes wretched people, like me, and transforms them, by the power of God in to something much greater, because the Kingdom of God system is inherently holy and good.

 

It is my view that political power is always destructive to the kingdom when Christians get involved. When a government involving Christians makes a decision then it is often viewed as the Christian understanding whether it represents the views of most Christians or not. If our government goes to war, no matter what one thinks about a particular war, then it is viewed by much of the world as the Christian thing to do since it is often claimed that the USA is a Christian Nation. This is undoubtedly bad and destructive for the Kingdom of God.  It is also destructive because when rulings are made by Christians trying to convert others to their understanding of morality it inevitably drives those people further from the Cross. For instance, however one feels about homosexuality or gay marriage, when Christians vote to pass laws forbidding homosexuals from getting married it drives an unneeded wedge between Christians and the Gay community. It puts up a wall that prevents dialogues, relationship building, and truly meaningful evangelism. If you are too busy trying to change people’s actions you will never find time to show them to the God that can change their hearts.

 

History shows time and again that religion and politics make a poor couple. When the church and the empire get married it is bound to be an abusive relationship and will likely end in a resentful divorce. It is usually harmful to the empire and is always destructive for the Kingdom. Take for instance Western Europe, the Church thrived there for centuries, but most of that reign was tyrannical at best. Now the Church in these countries has dwindled to nearly nothing and often is only held on to because of tradition. It only took two years for the first “Christian” empire to start killing dissenters, labeling them heretics. Christian empires have shed as much blood, perhaps more than any others in history. It was Christians who headed up the slave trade, slaughtered native Americans, led the crusades, fought against civil rights, supported the rise of the Nazis, led the imperial oppression of countries like India, committed the genocide in Rwanda, contributed to apartheid, and still can be heard as the loudest voices of bigotry today. All of this was “justified” by Scripture and all of it related directly to Christians being involved in governments.

 

Our priorities seem to be out of order. We need to work on reforming and restoring and reviving the church instead of trying to get in our two cents in with the government. If we want to change the culture around us then we do it by loving, by serving, by living sacrificially as examples of Jesus Christ. That is what truly changes a culture, that is what changes hearts and minds, and that brothers and sisters is the only way that we bear witness to the Crucified and Risen Messiah.

 

In Paul’s writings he reminds us that we are like soldiers on assignment who have been deployed in to hostile territory and that we should not get entangled in civilian affairs. This seems like a pretty clear directive to me that we should keep our battle against the powers and principalities of the air and not concern ourselves with the politics of civilian life; we leave that to those who have not joined the Lord’s army. Again, the only way we can battle the powers and principalities is by doing what Jesus did, taking up our crosses in selfless, sacrificial service to all people even those who would call themselves our enemies. This doesn’t sound like the way this world’s political system works. It seeks self-preservation by out maneuvering, out campaigning, out witting, or out fighting the opponent, not by loving them and blessing them at the cost of our own lives and well-being.

 

Both 1 Peter and Hebrews also tell us we are aliens and strangers here. With the recent debates over immigration in the States this should be a picture that we can understand with ease. Do aliens have the rights of a citizen? Do aliens have the same vested interests in the foreign land as the citizens do? Of course not. We, as aliens and strangers here are not supposed to fully comprehend the culture, we are not supposed to shape the culture at large through the present political system. When Paul wrote this I believe he also knew that aliens and strangers in a foreign land are a persecuted minority without the power to win in the political arena, but they can win people over to their worldview and lifestyle, or at least to accepting them through their kindness, which by the way is exactly the way God wins us to repentance, through His kindness.

 

In conclusion, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. At the end of the 40 days, Satan took him to the mountaintop and offered Jesus Christ dominion over the world… if Jesus would kneel down and worship him. Satan offered Jesus political power. Jesus would not give in to the temptation of political power because He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus turned down political power. “Was Jesus wrong?”  Of course he wasn’t. That along with the legacy of people like David Lipscomb and the obvious abuse of the church by any government lead me to believe that Christians should stick to our commitment to the kingdom of God and that should be enough for us.

 

Please don’t take my feeble reasoning and understandings as an important source on the subject. Others who have written much more extensively and articulately on the subject include, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Dr. John Howard Yoder, Dr. Vernard Eller, Dr. Lee Camp, Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, Dr. Richard Hays, Shane Claiborne and David Lipscomb, just to name a few. 

What do you think?