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On government and the direction of society

Posted by Chance on November 8, 2006

I found an interesting blog post about a pastor’s experience with Jim Wallis. For those who are not familiar with Jim Wallis, he is author of the book God’s Politics and a contributor to the Sojourner’s website, a website that, like Wallis, focuses on “social justice” issues from a Christian perspective. Greg Boyd, the pastor who met with Wallis, had this to say

My conviction is that our target should rather be to motivate Christians to engage social justice issues in unique Kingdom ways, without relying on the help of government or politics. Jesus was all about transforming society, but never by political means. As much as people tried, Jesus never let himself get drawn into the political issues of his day. I believe we should do the same. While I’m of course not opposed to Christians voting and participating in politics however they feel led, the particular way a person does this isn’t part of their uniquely Kingdom identity. Of course Christians should vote their “faith and values” – and Jim encourages people to “vote all their values “ (in contrast to the Religious Right which he believes overly focuses on the pro-life and marriage amendment issues–at the expense of social justice issues). But what is uniquely Kingdom about this? Doesn’t everyone try to vote all his or her values? Does anyone intentionally try to vote against any of his or her values? (By the way, I strongly suspect these sorts of slogans arise because one group of people can’t believe that another group could share their faith and values and yet vote different then they do. So it looks to them like the other group isn’t really voting their “faith and values.”)

In any event, our uniqueness as followers of Jesus isn’t in how we vote; it’s in how we live, how we love, how we’re willing to sacrifice our time and resources for others. Following Jesus doesn’t give us any privileged wisdom on how to fix and run society by political means, but it should give us a greater willingness to transform society by Jesus-looking means – that is, through the power of self-sacrificial love.

In other words, a Christian society should start with ourselves. If we want a society that is moral and regards the sanctity of marriage, we should first look at our own lives, see if we have any sexual impurity in our lives, and we should look at how we regard our own marriage. If we want a society that regards the poor and needy, we should look at our own efforts to look at the poor and needy. As someone who is limited government, this post resonated with me. However, one does not need to be limited government to appreciate the idea that we should not rely on government to produce the type of society that we want. That does not mean we cannot vote our values, or that we must support limited government, it just means government should not be our first resort in producing the type of society we believe the Bible supports.

This post especially resonated with me today. As anyone who reads this blog knows, the Democrats believe in many things I disagree with. Any any time an election does not go our way, we feel, or at least I do, some degree of frustration because we have less control. Society appears to go a way different than our ideal one, and we wish we could do something to change it. However, as Boyd’s post points out, somewhat indirectly, is that the way an election turns out does not dictate God’s kingdom. Just because a party is in power that holds values contrary to our beliefs does not mean we cannot still act out those beliefs within ourselves and within society. Government is only one facet of society. And I say this to people of any party. It may not apply to the Democrats now, but it did 2 years ago and may 2 years from now. Just because the government at the time does not promote certain values, does not mean those values cannot become important in society by other means. All of us must make sure our vision of society is in line with God’s, and we must ask ourselves what we are doing as individuals to ensure that happens. To what level government should be involved is another question. But we do know for sure that as individuals, we need to live out God’s vision for our lives and society.

The point is not to discuss how horrible I think society with the Democrats gaining some power. The point is, that for myself, I see a party I disagree with gaining power, and when that happens, I fear society go in a direction with which I disagree. However, I am working on realizing that God has ultimate control over our lives and society, not election results.


8 Responses to “On government and the direction of society”

  1. preacherman said

    Great post.
    In order to have a Christian society and nation; each one of us has to live up to the calling. Each one of us has to live the Christian life. I think it is good to have a fresh start. Something new. Just like the Christian life. Remembering that God looks and shines on those who are godly and follow Him faithfully no matter how we feel politically, or what is going on in our lives. May each Christian make a difference in the world in which we live.
    Thanks for this great post.
    God bless you brother.

  2. Wasp Jerky said

    The point of the American experiment is that power should not be concentrated too greatly in the hands of any one group. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. One need only look at the past five or six years to see that.

  3. The Prophet said

    An interesting point about the recent election is that conservative issues won on the ballot even though the Democratic Party won.

    You know, so many people say Christ didn’t get involved in politics, but really He got killed because of politics. It’d be like me saying I’m going to be the new president and getting killed for it.

    Not much may be found in the Gospels, but I wonder what else Jesus and His disciples did that wasn’t mentioned in the Bible?

  4. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Since most elections since 1980 have been painful experiences for me, I understand most of your feelings. I am hopeful that the Democrats will take us in a much better direction, but both parties are flawed.
    “It was the war and the corruption, stupid!” should be the Republican mantra if they ever want to see a majority, again. The doctrine of preemptive war is now dead and good riddance. The K-street project is now dead and good riddance.

  5. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Prophet, some conservative ballot measures passed, but others were rejected: Arizona (of all places) rejected a Constitutional ban on gay marriage. South Dakota repealed the abortion ban that was designed so tight as to be a deliberate challenge to Roe v. Wade. Pro-stem cell research referenda passed in many places (about which I have mixed feelings). Increases in the minimum wage and tighter controls on carbon emissions passed everywhere they were on the ballot.

    Several conservative Democrats were elected, but come January the largest ideological caucus will be the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

  6. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    Ben Witherington, an evangelical NT scholar, has a good post-mortem on the elections on his blog here:

  7. Chance said

    “An interesting point about the recent election is that conservative issues won on the ballot even though the Democratic Party won.”

    I think you are right in many cases, although Michael does mention that many liberal issues passed as well. Arizona, I believe, was the exception to the gay marriage ban issues, and right now, gay marriage is one of the banner issues of conservatives. I’m curious what the margin of victory was on the abortion issue in S.D.

    Stem-cell research is primarily a liberal issue. Even though the issue should be whether government should such medical research in the first place, people no doubt voted on whether it was moral or not, and in the mind of most voters, good = must be gov’t funded. I’ll check out the link, Michael.

  8. Michael Westmoreland-White said

    60% of South Dakota voters, a clear majority, thought their ban on abortion was far too sweeping and voted to repeal it. This in a state that has only one abortion clinic!

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