political (un)involvement: part deux

OK, so I rail against political involvement the other day on this blog, and then I read two very challenging passages from two very challenging authors that made me think again. What’s a guy to think?

The Irresistible Revolution.jpgFor those of us who grow instantly nauseated at the mention of the word politics, maybe we can break it down a little bit. The English word politics derives from the Greek word polis, as in “metropolis” or “Indianapolis.” The word is rooted in the concepts of “city,” “civil,” “citizen,” “civic,” basically what it means to be a society of people. Anything involving humans living together purposefully is political, a polis. As the people of God, we are building a new society in the shell of the old, a new polis, the New Jerusalem, the city of God. This is essentially a political act. Without a doubt, envisioning the radical countercultural values of God’s kingdom is by its essense political. Imagine the Gospels with every mention of king, kingdom, Lord, Savior, crowns, banners, and thrones (all words from the imperial lexicon) all edited out. A gospel that is not political is no gospel at all. The root of the word allegiance means “Lord”; that’s exactly what the early Christians were executed for, for pledging an allegiance to another kingdom, another Lord — treason. In 2004, as the presidential election rolled around, many of us studied the Scriptures and considered what it means to claim Jesus as Lord, or as president. When people asked who I was voting for, I would say, “My president has already ascended the throne and has already delivered the State of the Union address. I don’t believe that God needs a commander-in-chief or a millionaire in Washington, and I have little faith that either of the likely options will incarnate the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, and the fruit of the Spirit. I will declare my allegiance from the mountaintops, joining the chorus of the saints and martyrs. And I will raise the banner of love above all flags.” After all, we vote every day by how we live, what we buy, and who we pledge allegiance to, so I just resolved to write in my vote, as I did not find it on the national ballot. And I was determined not to let my vote be confined to a private booth, secret ballot, or taboo conversation.

–Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution

Secret Message.jpgI’ve become convinced that although Jesus’ message was personal, it was not private. I’ve been convinced that it has everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular — including economics and aid, personal empowerment and choice, foreign policy and war. The fact is, Jesus called his message good news, intself a public term that evoked the political announcements of the Roman emperors. When they would win an important military victory, they would send out messengers to announce good news. Caesar Augustus, for example, who ruled the empire from 27 BC to AD 14, articulated his good news in this inscription found in Myra, Lycia: “Divine Augustus Caesar, son of god, imperator of land and sea, the benefactor and savior of the whole world, has brought you peace.”

I’ve become convinced that if the good news of Jesus were carried in a newspaper today, it wouldn’t be hidden in the religion section (although it would no doubt cause a ruckus there). It would be a major story in every section, from world news (What is the path to peace, and how are we responding to our neighbors in need?) to national and local news (How are we treating children, poor people, minorities, the last, the lost, the least? How are we treating our enemies?), in the lifestyle section (Are we loving our neighbors and throwing good parties to bring people together?), the food section (Do our diets reflect concern for God’s planet and our poor neighbors, and have we invited any of them over for dinner lately?), the entertainment and sports sections (What is the point of entertainment, and what values are we strengthening in sports?), and even the business section (Are we serving the wrong master: money rather than God?).

–Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus

What do you think?


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