Sunday, August 26, 2012


The Political Church II: "These Folks Couldn't Win a High School Student Body Race"

Location: Bagram Airfield, Bagram, Afghanistan
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is unhappy with those of my ilk.  Generally conservative and very astute in her political observations, Rubin has noticed that Christians can be very unwieldy political allies, except ... well, her lament is rather more colorful:
Christian conservatives are very bad at politics. The left imagines that these people have the GOP on a short leash and are wily operators wielding influence with the best of them. The left tells us the Romney-Ryan ticket is in their grasp. Nonsense. These folks couldn’t win a high school student body race.
Rubin puts forward as Exhibit A the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary, in which social conservatives failed to unite around a candidate until it was too late to change the outcome. Exhibit B, naturally, is Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, who swallowed his foot up to his kneecap last week when he advanced the weird and repugnant theory that raped women somehow don't conceive children.  Akin had only just barely emerged victorious from his primary race on the strength of his socially conservative views.

So is Rubin right?  On one hand, I don't disagree with the her notion that Christians can be politically maladroit. But here's the thing ... I think I'm okay with that. Frankly, I'm not sure I like what happens to the church whenever we really get our political act together.

Now please don't misunderstand me--I actually watch politics quite closely. I am happy when my candidates win their elections, and I recognize that one needs to be both shrewd and principled to win and be effective in office. However, Rubin and I appear to have different bottom-line values, as she demonstrates in her complaint:

In behaving as they do, social conservative “leaders” are often afraid of their own members, or the leaders might be horribly naive themselves. But at moments where common sense and sure-footed leadership is needed, social conservative leaders come across as amateurs. It’s a shame, because they diminish their own relevance and hurt their cause ... If social conservative leaders want to maintain their influence and advance their cause, they better learn how to play politics.
This has the appearance of wisdom, but only if you believe politics to be of paramount importance.  I do not, and the church must not.  Politics can be dangerously seductive and corrosive for the church.  In fact, our own relevance is diminished not when we fail to "learn how to play politics", but when we abandon the work of Christ and deny the power of the gospel, in order to chase after the siren song of secular solutions.  As I pointed out when I first wrote about this in 2009:
... I think that politics can offer a false hope to Christians, that such-and-such a leader will offer deliverance and rescue our spiritual ambitions. Scripture and history also teach us that we are not to trust in princes, and that our citizenship is in heaven.
A Christian's first duty is to glorify God.  A Christian's first mission is to be salt and light in the world, proclaiming the gospel to all creation.  Perhaps if we spent more time on these things, some of the other things would take care of themselves.  Perhaps, in the Providence of God, our faithful labors in His mission field would yield a harvest, and our spiritually revived countrymen might then see fit to place godly people into high office, who would then do what godly people do--acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly would be a nice start.

Regardless, our God-given mission is not to outpoint the secular humanists on the political playing field.  Jesus didn't come into the world merely to reform Jerusalem's government (praise God!), and the Apostle Paul didn't go to Rome to run for office.  Political outcomes are, in the final analysis, a mere reflection of the culture we live in.  That culture has been drifting away from Christ for decades, if not longer.  We will not win it back by putting "our guy" in the White House, getting our legislative agenda through Congress, or getting the right Supreme Court justices appointed.

Look, I like politics.  I am ideologically attuned.  I would like my country to spend less, promote freedom and responsibility, value life and the nuclear family, and have a strong national defense, among other things.  These are important to me, and I believe they would serve the country I love and serve very well.

They're just so much less important than Jennifer Rubin thinks they are.

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