Evangelicalism and Politics: Beginning of the End?

Many people that I have been around recently say that politics is too closely tied to Christianity to the detriment of both, because the Church becomes a political institution and politics becomes muddled in religious wars and cultural wars. A ray of hope may be breaking forth on the horizon.

First of All, I’d like to thank my lovely girlfriend for drawing my attention to the article in the first place. Seen here:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080503/ap_on_re/evangelical_manifesto;_ylt=At4QSytfrvEuUD7Ujn10xIE7Xs8F

I think that the downfall of Evangelicalism has been to conserve enlightenment ideals alongside traditionally Christian ethical practices. This marriage between Christianity and politics has proved to be detrimental to Evangelical culture, since the faith was watered down to primarily political collectivism rather than a dynamic faith community. Christianity is not about becoming a collective body of angry people united as a massive superorganism of political activism without being informed by faith. The downfall of the evangelical model of Western Christian Culture has been in being politically active at the expense of dialogue with faith.

The Christian conception of culture needs to be informed by faith, and what today are labeled “liberal”
concerns as far as social issues go. The Christian faith should not have a single political party, that’s absurd, what we need is careful evaluation of the direction of culture as issues arise. It seems ridiculous to me that the “Christian” political party is more concerned with keeping people out of America than with helping devise a new method of economic wealth for the planet, than with espousing a positive view that would empower minorities and women to run for president, that would be concerned with protecting and cultivating the environment.

It’s sad that the conservation is not of the teachings of Jesus but Enlightenment superiority of the white race, conservation of capitalist economics without social concern, conservation of oppression rather than liberation, biblicism rather than biblically informed dynamic life within scripture. It strikes me as odd that Christians are largely the beneficial idiots to either party rather than being actively engaged in culture.

We are an eschatological faith that looks to the end of time when all things will be reconciled to God, and in that faith we seek out the end, but it should not cost us our awareness of the present reality as unimportant. We need to look to the end as the source of the final hope, but that should nto remove us from culture or politics today. Republicans pander to Christians telling them what they wish to hear in order to easily win votes, and the recent trend to incorporate faith into Democratic politics is no better. Both sides are pandering to a culture that is dry, dominated by old money, and seeks to retain that money. We should be actively concerned with human rights, not torture, and taxes.

As a Christianity, we need to be Christianity, not a political body, but a faith community first. Everything else is secondary. It’s sad that Christianity is not known for its spirituality or personal connection to faith, but to politics. On the popular level, we are a civic religion, conceived of as a political party with a tax exemption.

Faith is always independent of culture, and it should be. This does NOT mean cut off from. They need interrelation, dialogue, and dynamic life as expressed in the idea of perichoresis, or interpenetration that is dynamic and alive. Culture and Christianity are not to be opposed to each other or removed form each other, but as Christians in culture, we have to meet the judgments of both God and culture in out advance forward.

The way to do this is not to retreat as is the case of many fundamentalists, or to accept cultural virtue as the highest virtue as is the case with theologically liberal people. We need an Evangelicalism that supports itself by being a faith community first, then engages in politics, perhaps as a whole, but still actively and dynamically weighs the issues, not with cursory glances and ignorance, pandering to the soundbyte culture that is so prevalent, but really researches the country we should be.

I find that my professor was right in saying, “If you salute the American flag in your church, I doubt your salvation.” We are not the state, the state is not the church, it was exactly that mentality that led to Hitler’s Germany. If we follow down the path that Evangelicalism has seemed to be on, I doubt we can live actively without becoming another military state in the long line of civic religion nation states that have manifested themselves since the Enlightenment.

As a country, our greatest weakness is our belief in our own innocence, someone once said. If we are to advance in cultural engagement, it is not as Americans, but as Christians first.

I am in full favor of the idea of the manifesto. It’s high time we got ourselves out of our mess and back to being a religion. I will hope to read the document and publish a review once it is signed and published.

Thanks For Reading,

Eli

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