In response to those who say Christians should tend to “lost souls going to hell” instead of “meddling” in the political arena…
If we consider that doing something about “lost souls going to hell” to be what Jesus was about, and take what we see him doing and hear him saying in the gospels as an expression of that activity, then It sure looks like his concern is expressed very differently than what I’ve seen in contempoary churches that use that kind of languge to describe their mission. Jesus didn’t shy away from controversy with any of the parties of his day – the local parties that is. His controversy with Rome turned out to be pretty one sided (at least in the short term).
Our American weakness is that we tend to think there are two sides to every issue. Perhaps our two party system strengthens our belief this is so. But that’s not the way it is. In many areas there are many, many sides to an issue. This is especially true when we think of something as big and complex as a Vision for America.
The common denominator between the political groups we call “liberal” and those we call “conservative” are that they are both rooted in modern liberalism (the JOhn Locke tradition), focused on political freedom and individualism. Doubtless there are great differences in the way each group appropriates the Lockean tradition. One side emphasizes absolute freedom in one area, while another defends it an another. Think of private property (and money) and sexual morality as examples.
Our difficulty as modern American Christians is that Jesus is not a
Lockean. He is not an individualist (in our modern sense at least). He is not an American. He – and his teaching – just won’t fit in our boxes.
Would Jesus be “concerned” about abortion? It doesn’t seem to have been an issue in his local world so we don’t hear him saying anything about it; but it was an issue in the broader Roman world so his followers spoke to it within the first couple of generations.
Would Jesus be “concerned” about wars – either of conquest or of
freedom-seeking-revolution? If Tom Wright is right in his reading of
Jesus, then a major point of contention between Jesus and at least the Shammaite Pharisees (and the zealots) was the method of achieving national deliverance. The latter advocated violent overthrow of the Roman oppressors – being better at the power game than Rome was. After all, God was on their side, so size wouldn’t matter. Jesus, however, rejected the way of power, taking instead the way of weakness, the way of the cross. Of course this reading of Jesus necessitates that see him fulfilling not merely OT promises of individual salvation, but also fulfilling promises of salvation to Israel the nation. However we read
Jesus, the early church – and the Romans, for that matter – took his message to be something like, “Jesus is Lord – and Caesar isn’t.”
Would Jesus be “concerned” about government deficits? Would it make a difference whether the deficits came about through financing a war, the reconcstruction of a broken country (or two or three), of massive pork to keep buying votes? Or would he speak against the greed, acquisitiveness (consumption-itis), selfishness and violence of the electorate?