Today though I feel compelled to address a topic that comes up every semester with students here at the Focus Leadership Institute (new name!) as well as it seems to be hidden loosely behind articles in Christianity Today, ads I see for Christian conferences, and in the defense of where I work. The issue is the apparent divide in the Christian community between those that feel that Christians belong in the public square and those that believe that the Christian's place is in relational evangelism.
First of all - the question is begged - Why are those two things considered independent of one another? Why do we believe that one cannot engage in politics and be faithful to the Great Commission? Somewhere along the way, those on the public policy side of things fell prey to the cultural argument that we live in a Christian nation and it is under attack and we must do all to save it. Somewhere along the way, those on the personal evangelism side looked disdainfully at the policy guys and felt like they had cooties.
I believe the chasm began as a result of the move from modernism into postmodernism and then to whatever is next. The church of the early 20th century was politically active in small ways, individual ways, and it resided in people elected to office with Christian character. Later in the 20th century when postmodernism began to morph into political issues (abortion, etc.) the lines were drawn. The public square was an ugly place that got messy and confusing.
As the postmodern myth entered the church our theology began to adapt. The nature of the story became increasingly important along with the idea that your faith was about your individual experiences. This heightened view of self expression and our individual relationship with God began to overshadow the larger story of Christians in the culture. The move to relational evangelism began in earnest. We have seen this exhibited in a slight move back to the social sphere with an increased concern for social justice issues amongst young people. Behind that concern is an odd mix of loving God, loving our neighbor and caring about issues.
In the movie Amazing Grace - Wilberforce is sitting at a dinner with some of the early anti-slavery proponents. One says, "we understand you are troubled with whether to serve God or practice politics." The lady next to him then adds, "may we suggest that you can do both." Just like that was a shocking idea for Wilberforce, it seems to be just as shocking today.
I guess I encourage all to think more deeply about the fact that God created all of the spheres of influence in this world - public, private, etc. The state is His creation. The Body is His creation. We exist in both and must figure out how to both love and care for others on the smaller scale and be involved at an appropriate level in the matters of the State, especially those that impact how we are to live our lives as Christians in this culture.
Glad to be back...