If you were at the Thursday (30th Nov) session on politics I recommend having a look through the ‘Government‘ category on this site.
Some summary points:
- Blood and Chocolate trailer
- Politics is basically the relationships that give us power over others.
- Power over others is a facet of fallen society.
- Power over people is being superseded by the new enabling power of the New Kingdom.
- The New Kingdom ushers in an upside down paradigm – the last shall be first, the least, the servant, submission, love.
- The Messiah was expected to be a political power – to relieve Israel from the conquering nations that had troubled it and the Romans who occupied it. However, Jesus Christ did not so much as lift a finger against the Romans, who’s empire later caused immense damage to the church.
- We see the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-25) who Christ recommended to give away all of his wealth. This would result in the giving up of power.
- The church has historically decided to utilise the power of the state and has not kept itself as a separate entity.
- Evil is separation from God and as such cannot be stopped by legislation.
- We are judged on our heart, our motives, not our actions (although our actions display the nature of our hearts!).
- Sin is simply separation from God – the acts we do are not either more or less sinful, they are either sinful (coming from our separation from God) or not (coming from our relationship with God). When we focus on sinful acts we tend to forget that the thing that matters is the sin inside – the Beattitudes (Mat 5:21 etc.) illustrates this sea change from the Old Testament where the focus was on sinful acts.
- Law cannot bring justice, it is merely privilege and counter-privilege piled high.
- Justice and freedom only come through a relationship with God. The New Kingdom of submission and love for one another is the only way that we will see true freedom and justice.
- Accept persecution rather than legislate to prevent people doing it to us – Romans 12.
- Even though we become Christians we remain in a world that continues to oppress us. Christ was oppressed, but simultaneously had freedom from oppression. Similarly Christ has relieved us of oppression and set us free.
- In the same vein we can still be fulfilling God’s mission for us even when we are in submission to the authorities and powers that God has allowed to rule (Romans 13, Matt 22:15). However, everything we do should be in obedience to God – just that a lot of that will also be obedience to government or simply submission to others.
- We do see a difference between how Jesus acted towards the leaders of God’s people and towards others. He did bring critical prophetic word to leaders of God’s chosen nation of Israel.
- We see ‘easy Christianity’ where people just have to chant a formula to apparently meet God, but we mustn’t forget that we often practice ‘easy evangelism’ where we duck out of the ‘hard’ submissive, powerless lifestyles that Christ’s example urges us to take. Often we try to paint an attractive picture of Christianity after we fail at living a sacrificial life.
- Using legislation to force our society to do ‘good’ to others actually includes forcing people to pay more taxes or lose their ‘freedoms’.
- George Muller of Bristol never asked for money for his five homes for orphans. He focussed on God’s task and God proved to be the provider, meaning that George never needed to push people to provide.
- Non coercive power is basically the power to persuade people whilst giving them freedom of choice. Christ’s power is persuasive, but he does not negate people’s free will.
- We do see that Christ will bring judgment, vengeance, get rid of oppression, rule with an iron rod, but this is to come and is not now.
Some points that I missed:
- Talk is our major form of interaction with others and as such can be our major source of coercion as we attempt to bend people to our wills. We need to ensure that our talk liberates others.
- Other forms of coercive control include temptation. This could include deceptive marketing (as per lifestyle consumer goods) . Are certain forms of evangelism merely types of deceptive marketing that don’t spell out the truth of the total cost and the total gain of following Christ?
- Look at the accounts of Jesus reaching out to various people throughout his lifetime – do you see a tendency to control?
- Moderation of those inside the church appears to be by exclusion rather than control. We are called to judge inasmuch as to understand whether it is healthy or productive to our mission to spend time with particular people. However, our response is still to love, but bearing in mind that we are called to love others too.
- Some in the church are trying to usher in a utopia, trying to create a poor copy of the New Kingdom, by using fallen methods such as coercive control.
- Education can be a form of non-coercive power. It is therefore very political, but in a very different manner to attempts to control the behaviour of others. However, education done without humility is often coercive. Education is best imagined as a fellowship of explorers rather than a structure that brings one person’s ‘truth’ to many.
- We need to ask ourselves whether we should be utilising the power of the state – such as using the police (as we have a civil right to) or using our vote.
- We see that the most extreme form of persecution, martyrdom, is a greatly effective and persuasive act. However, it takes the ultimate sacrifice (this is not to be confused with being killed whilst killing others).
- If we feel that we need to abandon behaviour that seeks to control others we should not only question whether we should work in the military sphere, but also whether we should participate in various areas of law enforcement.
- We also need to assess whether our trading habits involve unfair control of others. Are our trading partners on a level playing field with us? Do we reinforce the controlling behaviour of some businesses by trading with them? Do we strengthen the hand of exploitative and manupulative employers?
I recommend visiting the Ekklesia web site. It is an interesting approach to politics for Christians. Whether they get the balance right is up for debate, but this is a very interesting outline The King Maker buy from which I have learnt much.