Monday, July 04, 2005

Local Church Involvement in Politics, Part Three

Position Two: Cautious But Active Engagement
Strengths: 1) The congregation gains a judicious understanding from the man they trust to lead them of ways in which to politically engage. This has potentially great ramifications, particularly in contemporary days, when every cultural inch won or lost can significantly impact life for Christians. (Hate-speech laws today, no evangelizing tomorrow, and the like). The average church member, who does not know The Weekly Standard exists and never will, nonetheless knows how to vote on key issues. That's a potent idea.
2) The church knows well its identity, and so do outsiders. Coherence emerges from clear statements. A transparent witness to the church's ideals greets those who wish to find it. Members know that they stand together against immoral ideas and are confident that their leaders do as well. Non-members experience no confusion over whether social issues are unimportant, as the church makes clear that such issues, while not the gospel itself, lie close by it.

Weaknesses: 1) Unity may exist on the basis of social, not theological, positions. What a sad thought, that a church might simply preserve a codified body of political thought, and there find its identity. In so doing, it ceases to fulfill the essential duties of a biblical church, and becomes a political club with some hymns and childcare. This is a great potential pitfall, one that cannot be overlooked, and one which has perhaps dominated in certain churches and even regions of churches.
2) That which is gained in political awareness is perhaps lost in theological awareness. This need not be so, but without a very skilled mind and conscientious preacher, this can easily happen. This one is also easy to prove. Look back over the twentieth century, particularly its first three decades, and you see many strong men of God drifting in concert toward politicking, all the while neglecting their call to proclaim God's truth. Fast forward several decades, and observe as several Christian leaders experience great conflict and hardship over political meddling. With sexual temptation, the tendency to politicize the pastorate has to be considered one of the great potential pitfalls of the office.

Conclusion: There is No Easy Conclusion
Each side makes a strong case here. Each considers the culture, roots itself in the Word, and seeks to respond in a biblical fashion. Each has its shortcomings, each has its strengths, both seek the glory of God. The question actually defies an easy answer. It calls for much more conversation, much work on the part of individuals to engage responsibly in the political process, and great care on the part of pastors to discharge their duties with the Word of God in their heart and the knowledge of heavenly accountability to God for their shepherding ever on their mind.


Anonymous Keegan said...

Owen, I like these little brief articles. Your main points are really thoughtful. I like your changes too in the title and the bio--did I shame you into that?

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Keegan said...

Oh wait, those aren't changes, just another section. I like them though.

1:22 PM  

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