N. T. Wright is right! The separation of religion from “real life,” the separation of faith from politics, from the push and pull of the everyday decisions that impact the lives of persons and communities of persons, is artificial and contrary to the “way” to which Jesus calls his followers. Faith is not just about “then,” but about now, not just about “there,” but about here. Hope is not just about “waiting it out” until we go to “a better place,” but about believing God can and will make this world a better place, with us and through us. The following quote comes from an interview Wright did last year with Christianity Today. You can read the transcript of the entire interview here.
For generations the church has been polarized between those who see the main task being the saving of souls for heaven and the nurturing of those souls through the valley of this dark world, on the one hand, and on the other hand those who see the task of improving the lot of human beings and the world, rescuing the poor from their misery.
The longer that I’ve gone on as a New Testament scholar and wrestled with what the early Christians were actually talking about, the more it’s been borne in on me that that distinction is one that we modern Westerners bring to the text rather than finding in the text. Because the great emphasis in the New Testament is that the gospel is not how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and Resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work. That draws together what we traditionally called evangelism, bringing people to the point where they come to know God in Christ for themselves, with working for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. That has always been at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, and how we’ve managed for years to say the Lord’s Prayer without realizing that Jesus really meant it is very curious. Our Western culture since the 18th century has made a virtue of separating out religion from real life, or faith from politics. When I lecture about this, people will pop up and say, “Surely Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world.” And the answer is no, what Jesus said in John 18 is, “My kingdom is not from this world.” That’s ek tou kosmoutoutou. It’s quite clear in the text that Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t start with this world. It isn’t a worldly kingdom, but it is for this world. It’s from somewhere else, but it’s for this world.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., quoted from an interview with Mark Jacobson:
There is an ancient struggle between two separate philosophies, warring for control of the American soul. The first was set forth by John Winthrop in 1630, when he made the most important speech in American history, â€˜A Model of Christian Charity,â€™ on the deck of the sloop Arbella, as the Puritans approached the New World. He said this land is being given to us by God not to satisfy carnal opportunities, or expand self-interest, but rather to create a shining city on a hill. This is the American ideal, working together, maintaining a spiritual mission, and creating communities for the future.
The competing vision of America comes from the conquistador side of the national character and took hold with the gold rush of 1849. Thatâ€™s when people began to regard the land as the source of private wealth, a place where you can get rich quickâ€”the sort of game where whomever dies with the biggest pile wins.
What is the American Dream? We will hear the American Dream extolled and re-promised many times over during this presidential campaign season. So what is it?
- Is the American Dream an equal opportunity for every one of us for unlimited personal advancement?
- Or is the American Dream a unique opportunity for all of us to make something together for the benefit of the rest of humanity?
And will the candidates, any candidate, be able to discern — and articulate — the difference?
They are out there … those ordinary citizens who have grown up in the midst of all the political and cultural battles, but who have found a way — in their own lives, at least — to make peace with their neighbors, and themselves. I imagine the white Southerner who growing up heard his dad talk about niggers this and niggers that but who has struck up a friendship with the black guys at the office and is trying to teach his own son different, who thinks discrimination is wrong but doesn’t see why the son of a black doctor should get admitted to law school ahead of his own son. Or the former Black Panther who decided to go into real estate, bought a few buildings in the neighborhood, and is just as tired of the drug dealers in front of those buildings as he is of the bankers who won’t give him a loan to expand his business. There’s the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion, and the Christian woman who paid for her teenager’s abortion, and the millions of waitresses and temp secretaries and nurse’s assistants and Wal-Mart associates who hold their breath every single month in the hope they’ll have enough money to support the children that they did bring into the world.
I imagine they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism, to distinguish between what can and cannot be compromised, to admit the possibility that the other side might sometimes have a point. They don’t always understand the arguments between left and right, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting.
They are out there, waiting for Republicans and Democrats to catch up with them.
I have purposefully omitted the attribution of this quotation, because I want you, the blog reader, to consider its assertions as free as possible of the political gamesmanship and polarizing caricaturing it seeks to surmount, and because it is not my intention, as the blog author, to endorse any particular political candidate or party, but to endorse the kind of thinking about politics it proposes — thinking with a healthy dose of humility, a readiness for cooperation, and genuine hopefulness.
Worship as Higher Politics – Christianity Today Magazine
I was pointed to this article while checking out another Christian blog. It is well worth reading.
There is a Christian politics, which is to say that following Jesus must lead us to care about the political decisions, the law-making and law-enforcement, the policies of war and economics and international relations that impact people’s lives in profound ways.
But it is a politics of Jesus. When we wed a Christian politics too closely to the aims of one particular political party or to one particular political entity — e.g a particular nation! — it is not a politics of Jesus any more.
Followers of Jesus are first and last citizens of the kingdom of heaven.