When it comes to legislation in America, everyone seems to have a side, a camp, something to say, and someone to support. I say, Nay. I say no. I say forget the system and its rules, though certainly I have certain desires for this country, I say, let the process be itself. Of course I want things to be more Christian because I think Christian politics when done rightly make sense, but baptizing one party or the other in Christian catchphrases will not make for a Christian society.
Further, making things Christian is not a matter of sneaking into the state and voting our way, but it’s a matter of primarily a robust church, where things are our way in our communities, where we make possible the shared life under the lordship of Jesus Christ that takes seriously his commandments, all of them, not just the ones popular with America, either liberal or conservative America.
Christianity cares to change the social order, despite the depoliticizing of the evangelical church in many areas. But, Christianity’s answer to change the social order has always been Church, not state. The state can follow the Church if it wishes, but the Church is where we will find the answers to changing injustice into justice. The Church is where we as Christians must find answers for what it means to live Christianly in exile, and where we find the restitution of God’s reign in the earth.
Given the situation, either Obama’s “Mr. Cool Pants” approach or the hot-headed “You Lie!” of the other camp, we should just resign from playing in this magical charade altogether. We can’t let our votes be swayed by the grinning idiots in Washington. However, this doesn’t mean non-involvement. It just means we must resign Christianly from the farce that has become America’s answer to public discourse. We must stand above the swaying rules and their interpretations, of course we want things a certain way, but more than wanting a certain way, we should show people we care for the common good.
Some people think Christianity’s most important goal is to make sure Republicans come out on top in the next set of elections. I don’t think that this is or should be the goal of Christians anywhere. Some people think that Christians should focus on illegalizing gay marriage and banning health care reform, and I couldn’t disagree more. Some people think we should be focusing on illegalizing abortion, or keeping immigrants out of this country if they entered illegally. I think these are the wrong focuses altogether.
Of course Christians should want abortion to be illegal, at least they should find it morally reprehensible and desire that the state not fund them, or make provisional funding for them available. Abortion is a barbaric practice, and there’s no getting around it. I think i we applied the same logic we use for abortion to other things we wouldn’t care about second-hand smoke, or half the things people insist on legislating.
But it’s not enough to make these things illegal, and illegalizing them does not solve their social influence on our culture. I don’t care about the legislation passed in this country, because ultimately it does not matter.
I’m not pushing for disinvolvement, despite some of my critics. I’m just saying that when push comes to shove it doesn’t matter as much whether we’re winning or losing. Because regardless of what the state is doing we have a responsibility that goes beyond legislation. Follow?
So our responsibility is one that says we’d like abortion to be illegal because it’s barbaric and wrong. But if it is not, we’re going to push to be responsible despite the state. This is the mission of the Church. Ultimately our political responsibility does not end in legislation, which is what i’ve been trying to say all along.
At the end of the day, the church’s politics are found in the discipleship she promotes as part of her public message to the world about her conduct. Liturgy is our evangelism, and our ethics, and at the end of it all. even if the state crumbles due to its own stupidity, the Church will carry on, by being that body which transcends legislation, even while involved in it.
My problem is that many conservatives equate legislation with a victory. “As long as those gays can’t get married america is more Christian.” I think that’s the type of thinking i’m after with my position, the position that equates congressional decision with christian virtue. I couldn’t disagree more.
America is as corrupt as any other nation, and our idealisms about her laws and stature before other nations only serve as a detriment to us as the Church. Of course we should be involved in public life, but regardless of the condition of that public life, we need to be the society which transcends today’s deliberations. We need to be that society in which our general society sees we’re not going to back down or play by their rules.
When I think of what it might look like for America to be a Christian Nation, I don’t think of everyone going to church or saying prayers or allowing jesus back in schools, I think of a society in which we genuinely care for the needs of the poor and the common good. Though the other things are desired too, I think that to “Christianize the Social Order” the first thing we have to do is not change the rules as much as change the way we think about those rules in the first place, and be a mini-culture where the development of character inter-personally supersedes the outcome of the legislation nationally.
Of course we believe that God’s rule of things establishes justice, but what we should encourage is not the legislation that makes compulsory Christian virtues as much as it allows them to flourish apart from the meddling of the state. The example of the Massachusetts orphanages run by Catholic Charities breaks my heart. In compelling the Church to provide certain benefits to homosexual couples, the state exceeded the limits of tolerance legislation and forced the Church to withdraw from the adoption process altogether. That’s my other target, the first one was the fundamentalist camp that equates legislation with Christian virtue, and the other is the camp that equates tolerance with impinging liberalism and its practices upon social and religious institutions.
There’s no such thing as a Christian nation, but there is such a thing as the Church, and we can do well to remember what that body looks like. Which means, transcending the social order and doing what we need to do as the Church regardless of legislation.