Monday, February 28, 2005

The need for preaching politics

Dignan's 75-Year Plan quotes Marc Porlier on the Emergent church movement. Mr. Porlier has some strong insights into a variety of issues. This one in particular caught my eye:
I'll go out on a cold, bare limb here: I think pastors should preach about politics and social morality. Not in the partisan manner that it is often done in Fundie circles, but avoiding politics (and policy) altogether makes Christianity a pious, but irrelevant existential exercise. Why do we avoid politics in the pulpit? I think it's because Americans and the rest of the West have digested the Kantian subjectivising of religion. We instinctively want to keep it in the personal, private sphere of our lives. We don't even know how to think of it in public terms, except as a form of tyranny. This is a mistake. Politics is ethics (both economic and behavioral) at the corporate level. The Bible has plenty to say about corporate ethics. So should our preachers.
Very good points that have me thinking. I avoid preaching (or blogging) about politics not because they are a private matter, but because they are divisive--primarily, I think among the spiritually immature (whether in the pew or in the pulpit). I try to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the repentance, sacrifice, and transformation it engenders. If we truly allow ourselves to be transformed into the image of Christ, our views on political issues should begin to move in a godly direction. Until then, I'm afraid preaching about politics will cause the spiritually immature to interpret my preaching as partisan rhetoric while missing the real issues of dying to self and living for Christ. Is this approach simply being escapist or naive?

Update: You might want to read Doug Floyd's comment here.


Blogger Doug Floyd said...

This might depend on how you define politics. I am not convinced that Jesus and the apostles paid much attention to the ruling structures of their culture. They did address the temple and the worship in the synagogue, but had very little to say about Rome. If one equates politics with structural change, we must be careful not to assume that change comes through the power manifested in our structures such as the federal government.

Human power is an illusion that is not real power. And when Christianity tries to mimic the power structures of this world, we are doomed to repeat their flaws. Just look at our history when Christianity functioned in absolute power or hand in hand with aboslute structural powers.

Jesus comes to save persons. If being political means addressing the particuclar person and working for social change--through relational networks, then we "must needs" be faithful witnesses. We must stand with the impoverished, we must speak for the oppressed, we must live and act in the kingdom reality in the midst of all our social dealings.

I must realize that being a person means that I am not an isolated individual. I am connected to other persons in ways I may not fully understand. I am not simply an independent reality. I didn't give birth to myself and I don't live without the help of other people. Other people rely on me as well. In these social networks of family, community, church, workplace, etc. I am responsible to stand up and live out the values of the kingdom.

This does address Mr. Porlier's concerns of social responsiblity, but it does not indicate that social responsiblity equals voting or political activity as defined by electing specific officals or supporting specific legislation.

Federal legislation often has often had the opposite effect of its intended consequences because it is by nature non-personal and can only address externals. It tried to address poverty and destroyed the social fabric of many African American communitities. It tried to address racism but may have actually engendered hatred and unforgiveness for more generations.

While I am not suggesting complete withdrawal from participation in the national politics, I am suggesting it has much less power than we think. I am convinced that the greatest social power we effect are the places of proclaiming and living our kingdom values in the midst personal relationships and relational networks. (Which may ultimately makie a stronger case for local involvement in polictics over national).

I realize this is incomplete and can be challenged, but they are just a few thoughts that need to be thoughts through more clearly. Hopefully to push us forward in thinking about what "kingdom centered" political discousre might really look like.

11:04 AM, February 28, 2005  
Blogger John said...

Amen! Doug, the pulpit is for the preaching of the Gospel and if it is preached correctly and with passion to the congregations, we might just see "Kingdom Reality" in our communities!
God bless you and yours,
PS. Great post Milton!

12:44 PM, February 28, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, John, and thanks for stopping by. I hope to write about your "forceful" Christianity this evening. Peace.

1:05 PM, February 28, 2005  
Blogger John Schroeder said...

Old friend Transforming Sermons points to a post from Dignan's 75 Year plan on the EC movement and concludes that maybe on some level politics is a matter for the pulpit. This is all part of the 'relevancy' that the EC group seeks so carefully. Of course, Chirst is relevant -- He has to be. See my full post here

11:34 AM, March 01, 2005  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

John, you've written a dynamite post. I hope anyone reading this will follow the link you've posted above. You've really hit the bull's eye on a couple of points: that Terri Schiavo is a human being, not a "symbol," and that movements need to die and leave behind the good they bring. Great stuff. Peace.

12:23 PM, March 01, 2005  

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