Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why American Christians Should be Neither Right nor Left

I have four reasons why American Christians should be neither right-wing or left-wing politically an socially. The first is that the particular version of the left-right spectrum we have today is almost certainly internally incoherent and does not offer the kind of direction and guidance we need (see Crispin Sartwell's “The Left-Right Political Spectrum is Bogus” on this blog).

Secondly, Jesus cannot fairly be mapped on our right-left spectrum. He can be claimed to support some things the right promotes and other things the left supports (probably more on the left according to our current spectrum). Yet to so map him fundamentally distorts his message and ministry. To follow him faithfully is to be politically eclectic in our situation.

Third, to define our discipleship in terms of right or left is to define it in terms of morality or ethics (a shared error of both right- and left-wing Christianity).

Fourth, such a way of defining discipleship obscures or overlooks the distinctive reality that constitutes the church and animates it witness and work. The church, by God's grace and design, bears God's own presence into the world. It invites the world into that presence and demonstrates what life oriented to that presence looks like. God's passion for his world exceeds and implodes our artificial categories of left and right (think of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery). God's love for his world takes the dignity of each of his creatures with utmost seriousness. Ad hominem attacks (the staple of today's left-right politics) deface his image-bearers. In his presence everything that matters to us is transformed into something new. It is just this “newness” that is missing from Christians who are doctrinaire conservatives or liberals. Only our integrating our lives together in his presence can make us a “new” presence in our world, one which sees things differently and bears witness to this difference in politically fresh and creative ways.

In short, then, we sell ourselves, our world, and most importantly, our God short as long as we remain captive to the prevailing ideologies.

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