Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Does It Mean for the Church to Be "Politically Responsible"?

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One of the reasons I think the waning days of Christendom to be a good thing has everything to do with the recovery of the eschatological character of the gospel. When Christians begin to think we are at home in the world our sense that we live "between the times" is not only muted but close to being unintelligible. The recovery of the eschatological vision is crucial for how the church understands her relation to the world.

My oft-made claim, a claim many find offensive, that the first task of the church is not to make the world just but to make the world the world, is rightly only understood in light of these eschatological convictions. Dualities such as faith and reason, grace and nature, creation and redemption are properly to be understood in the light of the church/world alternative. The church/world alternative, moreover, must be under constant reconfiguration because what it means to be church must always be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. rightly understood, however, the presumption that the church exists so that the world might recognize itself as world is in fact good news.

From this perspective the loss of the social and political status of the church may have made it possible for Yoder's account of the "politics of Jesus" to at least be understood and perhaps even be thought to have the ring of truth. As long as the church has to act in a "politically responsible" manner she will find it hard to take her own existence as a political reality seriously.... the church does not so much have a political mission as her very existence is a political mission; it provides an alternative to the politics of the world. Such a view may seem counterintuitive, but I think it nonetheless true. In most matters we discover what makes us who we are or should be when we have nothing to lose.
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Stanley Hauerwas, Approaching the End: Eschatological Reflections on Church, Politics, and Life, pp. xi-xii.

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