BLOG 10/4/19. POLITICS FROM THE UNDERSIDE
For these coming months, our news is going to be consumed with politics, its battles, its controversial personalities, and the coming election. This is nothing new. The Christian community was conceived in an intensely political culture. Its world was dominated by the Roman Empire, and its god was Caesar. The Christian community/church had no status, no prestige, and it was counter-cultural through and through. Ah! but it had a very clear message and mission, both given to it by its one true Lord: Jesus Christ, which made it the more controversial: Jesus was Lord, not Caesar.
But, one more thing to note: it was inaugurated at the margins of society, outside of the established religious and political structures of its day, and was frequently outlawed. It was conceived, we can accurately say: on the margins of society. It is in that context that one of the early formative voices, wrote his Letter to the Romans (or to the church in Rome). After laying a good foundation in the teachings of Christ to them, he comes to the un-mistakable challenge, namely that they were not to be conformed to the thinking and power-structures of this world, but rather to transformed by the renewal of their minds so as to discern what was the will of God, what was good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
They were not primarily citizens of Rome and its power structures, but they were primarily and self-consciously the citizens of the kingdom of God and his Christ. They were to be formed by the teachings and mission of Jesus. And here’s the ‘bite’ in that mandate: Jesus’ mission was to the helpless on the margins of society, to the homeless, to the hungry, to the poor, to the sick, and without hope—those on the margins, those outside the gates of power. And, note now, it was among those on the margins, those of the underclass that the Christian church became a major force that dominated the Roman world within a few centuries. Jesus commendation to those who followed his mission to the underclass was: “In that you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
Shift gears and leap over two millennia, and now observe politics quite different, i.e. a democracy in which we choose those who will govern. Jesus’ priority on ministry to those on the margins remains the same, … but all too many of those within contemporary church institutions have forgotten the message, and court wealth and power. There are the voices that are raised on behalf of those on the margins, and some of them are up for election—but all too many those running for office are dominated by the priorities of those who are indifferent to the poor and helpless. And, more tragically, there are too many who (falsely?) claim the name of Christ, who support politicians whose platforms are 180 degrees away from the teachings and mission of Jesus.
Our role and responsibility in this political scene as Christ’s followers? Look for candidates whose life and convictions and platforms see the role of government as seeking the welfare of all of its citizens (even though that candidate may not be a professing Christian). We are stewards of the passion of Jesus for the marginalized, and any government (or church institution) who does not become a sharer in that passion is part of the darkness.
The good news is that there are some good candidates out there who do share that passion. Stay tuned …