Christians and Politics

After reading this piece from Shane Claiborne, I decided it was time to fire the blog back up again.

I guess what I want to do is be more disciplined about writing. Namely, I think its time for me to start expressing my ideas and creating dialogue, hopefully with some new people as well as some of the old readers.

I was thinking the other night, about what Jesus meant when he said, “Repent, and believe in me.” I recently read that Josephus, a Jewish historian who wrote during and after Jesus’s life, chronicled a story about a military officer with an unruly squad of men. They would not listen, they had their own agendas, and they were not coming together as a cohesive unit. What’s important about this story is that the squad leader, whom, if I remember correctly, was also named Jesus (coincidentally) used the same exact phrase that Jesus did when talking to his troops. But he didn’t mean it the way we’ve commonly come to understand it. I would argue that this is because the way we understand it is wrong.

When Jesus Christ, as well as Jesus the Army commander said “Repent and believe in me” they were telling their listeners to turn away from their own agendas, and follow the way of life of the speaker. This is telling because it gives us a whole new frame of reference for looking at Jesus’s message to his followers. He’s not telling them only to have this personal change of heart and try to stop sinning. He’s calling them to abandon their current worldviews, whether it be that of the Pharisees who believed that through strict adherence to the law, they would eventually be saved (from Rome, not to heaven) or that of the zealots, who believed that if they rose up and started a war, God would swoop in and save them (again, from Rome). Jesus, in telling people to repent and believe in his way of doing things was warning them of the destruction of following their own agendas, of trying to do things the same way everyone else does them. He warned of the hell that was to come if they didn’t repent, namely the destruction of Judiasm and their entire culture and religion that would come with the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.

And this is where I am right now. I see the financial destruction that looms over our heads every day… I see how we’ve put our trust in our way of doing things, which in the grand scheme of things is better than things have been before, but it is still sinful, and I see Jesus saying “turn away from how you’ve been conditioned and follow me. America may not make it, but the goal isn’t America, the goal is to live the life God intended for you.”

And Jesus and the early church gave us a pretty clear example about what that life looks like. Its one that often times consists of poverty, it is willing to lay down ones life rather than kill to protect your life, its one that proclaims freedom for those who are captive, that shows that the power structures of this world are hell bent on not doing things God’s way, and that our job is to be a prophetic witness against them.

And that’s why, in conclusion, I will not be voting in this, or hopefully any other election. Our salvation does not come from a good government…. because a good government outside of the reign of God does not exist. When we participate in the process, it is essentially endorsing violence and injustice, something that we as Christians should be standing against. Shane says it better than I… so if you haven’t, check out that article.

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7 responses to “Christians and Politics

  1. rogueminister

    This is the topic of the hour apparently. I just wrote four posts on the topic. I have also read several other blogs about this including a few posts by Brian McLaren on the God’s Politics blog.

    I think you and I have come to the same conclusion, but perhaps through different routes. Great thoughts. Let me know what you think about the posts I put up recently.

  2. I agree as well…see my blog for something I had just written on the topic (via some thoughts I had while watching the movie Amazing Grace) and I also just had a discussion with our pulpit minister about this. I guess the upcoming election is spurring these talks along. Hope you and Carrie are well Justin!

  3. Good thoughts, Justin. That word “repent” definitely has more to it than what we hear from our religious leaders.

  4. I didn’t see Paul give up his Roman citizenship. In fact, he used it to his advantage. I didn’t see John the Baptist tell the soldiers to give up military life. I didn’t see Peter tell Cornelius to stop being a soldier. Jesus said to pay your taxes. No where in the Bible do I see anyone tell anyone to shun Government.

    So, pretty much, what you are saying is that anyone who works in Government, works in the military…even pays taxes, are wrong. Are sinners. When you say “When we participate in the process, it is essentially endorsing violence and injustice, something that we as Christians should be standing against. ” you are saying just that. When we pay taxes, we are participating in the process.

  5. No, you’re correct. Paul didn’t give up his citizenship, and he did use it to call the government to uphold the standards it claimed to follow, but that’s a different thing entirely from trying to make the government Christian or good or anything.

    No, Peter didn’t tell Cornelius to stop being a soldier, but just because it wasn’t recorded in the story doesn’t mean that he didn’t stop being a soldier. The first generations of the early church refused communion to people who fought in the Roman army… that should be enough right there. The people closest to Jesus understood that their Kingdom was different, and at odds with the Kingdoms of this world.

    Why do you think that they were persecuted? Rome was one of the most tolerant states in the history of the world religion-wise. Yet they persecuted Christians in a huge way. The reason is because they claimed to have a new King, one who ushered in the reign of God in the world, and they they followed that and that alone, and they refused to believe in the power of the state over them. Remember the whole Caesar is Lord thing… and how Christians said “Jesus is Lord”… that would be like saying Jesus is greater than the president, or saying the American government holds no authority over me because my government is God.

    We pay taxes, as we are commanded. We are not to cause undue trouble. When we stand up against injustice, we want to be blameless. We don’t want to look selfish, and that’s how it looks when we refuse to pay taxes.

    And yes, I am saying that military service, police service, most government service is wrong for a Christian. Just like I think prostitution is wrong, running cash in a flash places is wrong, etc. Some careers Christians should not be a part of because through working in those jobs they are acting contrary to the gospel.

    And paying taxes and voting are not the same thing. Paying taxes isn’t voluntary. Voting is. The government will force you to pay taxes if you try to evade… but voluntary participation in the process means, whether you like it or not, you are endorsing injustice.

  6. Justin, you are about as consistent has Mark Elrod. lol. So, if voting WAS mandatory, it would be ok? You are saying we need to take a stand…but only if it is mandatory?? That makes no sense at all. If, as you said, participation in Government is wrong, it’s wrong whether it is mandatory or not. If it was mandatory to burn all our Bibles and torture Christians, is that something we should do?

    Let’s look at a few of your points:

    “that’s a different thing entirely from trying to make the government Christian or good or anything.”

    Simply working for Govco does not mean you are trying to “make” it anything. I have a friend who is a Govco employee and works with abused children. Yeah…he is such a sinner.

    “but just because it wasn’t recorded in the story doesn’t mean that he didn’t stop being a soldier. ”

    Yep and since the Bible doesn’t record the death of John, that means he lived forever. Since the Bible doesn’t record this or that must mean it happened. That kind of logic is faulty on so many levels.

    No where does the Bible make a specific, definite stance on Govenment/military service. You are really reaching with this one, especially with voting.

  7. I didn’t mean to come across harsh Justin. If that is what you believe, more power to you and you are to be comended for it. I just have an issue with judging someone so harshly on something that the Bible is pretty much silent on.

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