Monday, July 14, 2008

POLITICS AND THE CROSS

I hope Mike doesn’t mind my picking up his comment on my previous post, “I can honestly say that I have not seen anything of Republican or other politics in the church that I attend, or others that I have visited in the last few years. I really don't see partisan politics in the church as a problem, at least not in the small circles where I travel. Maybe it is a problem in other parts of the country and other denominations -- I don't know.

To the contrary, I think my pastor makes a conscious effort to avoid anything political, even to the point of not addressing issues within broader Christianity that probably should be addressed, perhaps for fear of offending someone or being accused of being political.”

Mike, I applaud your pastor and his leadership. And I also can say that my pastor avoids things political. If he got political, I’d probably take issue with him.

But I see politics as a real problem in the church in America, even though it may not be a problem in some churches. Have you never heard of the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, the American Family Association and all the others? Their leaders make political pronouncements all the time. Evangelical leaders even endorse presidential candidates.

And even in churches where politics is avoided in the pulpit, politics is still a problem, because the average everyday evangelical Christian doesn’t get all his or her input from the pulpit. Nor from the Bible. He gets it from many other sources: religious radio; religious TV; talk radio; religious and other books and literature; the Internet; and, e-mails from well-meaning friends.

What I’ve seen is that the average evangelical along with other Americans is able to hold many contradictory beliefs in his mind at the same time. (Didn’t James say something about a double-minded man?) If you disagree, how do you explain the Pew Survey that came out a few weeks ago?

I fear that we not only suffer from biblical and theological ignorance, but from an inability to think, or even a fear of thinking.

As far as the gospel itself being offensive: Yes, it is! “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). “But we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness” (verse 23).

It should be the message of the cross that offends. It should not be politics.

It seems to me that those who seek political solutions, who want to make America “rediscover” a generic “god,” are the ones trying to remove the “stumbling block of the cross” (Galatians 5:11).

In fact, Paul calls the message of Christ crucified “… a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away” (1 Corinthians 2:6). “The wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (verse 8).

If the rulers of Paul’s day were ignorant of God’s wisdom, do we really expect the rulers of America to do any better?

Bill Ball
7/14/2008

7 comments:

Mike said...

Bill,

I do understand completely what you are saying, I'm just not sure that I wholeheartedly agree; but maybe in time I will, as I continue to think through these things.

I really pondered quite heavily this statement that you made:

"What I’ve seen is that the average evangelical along with other Americans is able to hold many contradictory beliefs in his mind at the same time."

I am sure that I fall into that category of average evangelical American. On the one hand, politics per se is something that should be left outside the church doors, as it contaminates the gospel in its purity, and serves to drive people away from the Lord.

On the other hand, I still believe that there are places where politics and "religion" or--more specifically--"morality" intersect, and as a Christian I am having difficulty in seeing where we should walk away from the moral issues simply because they are also political.

I think that this is where the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, the American Family Association, and all the others are coming from. They are taking a stand on the biblical/moral issues. Does that drive people away from the gospel? Yes, it does--and that is certainly a problem. Are these issues not, however, part of the message of the cross? And, as we know, the message of the cross offends.

So the line between Christianity and politics, at least for me, is quite broad and very much out of focus. Maybe as I continue to read what you have to say, that line will be brought more into focus for me. Your perspective is quite fresh, and extremely challenging to a guy brought up in the tradition of the old firebrand fundamentalism. But I have thrown off many elements of fundy thought and practices where they have been non-biblical (i.e., many of the dont's--I still practice the two or three fundamentalist do's). Maybe I will soon be completely in your camp on this one, too.

Bill Ball said...

Mike: You might want to read a previous post, SIN, POLITICS AND RELIGION

Mike said...

Yes, "Sin, Politics and Religion" is an excellent post. It is hard to argue with the points that you made.

I have often said that change must come from the heart, not from the end of a club. I do agree with you about that.

Still it seems to me that the organized church does have license to speak on things that are in the realm of morality that, perhaps, are thought of as overtly political to non-churched folks. To not speak, I think, can be paramount to sanctioning.

I am thinking of such big issues as abortion and homosexual marriage. I think that we should make perfectly clear where the Bible comes down on these practices. They were moral issues long before they became political ones.

At the same, would I not have a homosexual friend? Or could I not genuinely love one who has had an abortion? Personally, I have gotten past that. The greatest commandment is "love," and if I have not love in my heart for all people, then that becomes a sin in my life that I must reconcile to God.

So, it seems to me like the double-edged sword. We have often heard it said that we are to "love the sinner, but hate the sin." I think it is much more appropriate to love the sinner, and grieve over the sin; but continue to love the sinner, or whom I, like Paul, am chief.

Bill Ball said...

Mike: A couple more of my posts you might like to read are: THE CHURCH AND HOMOSEXUALITY (10/26/2007) and MY FRIEND (6/2/2006).

Mike said...

Bill,

Thank you for pointing me toward those two earlier blog entries.

In THE CHURCH AND HOMOSEXUALITY, the nuts and bolts of a biblical perspective of homosexuality are so well presented that there is nothing really more to say.

In MY FRIEND, your story of Keith, I confess, made this grown man fight back tears. This is true Christianity, fully displaying the awesome power of God. It makes me feel a little silly trying to engage in the intellectual arguments that, in the end, really have no eternal value.

Thank you for taking the time to write as you do. You have really made an impact on my life today.

Bill Ball said...

Thanks, Mike.

Sherry Ball Schoenfeldt said...

Mike ~

I agree with you that the church does need to speak out against the moral deficits of our society – for the reasons Amos did and, more importantly, I believe, to bring sinners to Christ. However, what I have noticed is that we (the church) tend to speak out against the sins we don't practice (abortion, homosexuality) while ignoring the sins going on within. In addition, some extremists go so far in their vitriol regarding certain sins that any view of Christ's love is totally obliterated.

Where is the church's preaching against the sins within its walls: idolatry, materialism, greed, self-righteousness, failure to help the poor and oppressed? Usually these aren't chastised becuz it might cause a massive emptying of pews - I know I personally practice a couple of those sins on a regular basis. How about heterosexual immorality or the oppression of workers?

My pastor is teaching thru Titus and last Sunday he taught on politics from Titus 3:1-2. I am sure it was not the sermon that some expected. The first sin he named was greed (and that was probably the third time I heard him do that) and he spoke frequently about acts of service to the community.

When the church is so selective in its condemnation and so unloving, it doesn't glorify the gospel. People will never be perfect. But becuz of God's amazing grace, they can be forgiven.

Our job is to help them see they are sinners so they can see their need for Christ.

~ Sherry