Friday, March 17, 2006

What is of True Importance?

If you are interested in reading through the article to which this post refers, click on the blue title above. It is definitely worth reading.

Jason Byassee, assistant editor of The Christian Century, wrote a guest column in the latest Christianity Today titled "The Almost Formerly Important". For those of you familiar with these two magazines you might instantly recognize the significance. CC is a bastion for the Christian liberal just as CT is a bastion, typically, for the Christian conservative. But not only that; we must remember that both CC and CT are competing magazines so it would seem like CT has given the enemy a loudspeaker. But not so. This act, which leans towards reconciliation, after on and off criticism of each other, is something that the politically conflicted Christian should be thankful for.

In the article itself Byassee gives a transparent congrats to evangelicals, "Congratulations, evangelicals: You're in charge." I mention the transparency because really his prose sets the congratulations up as "You're a puppet" rather than "You're in charge." Here is how Byassee does it: he mentions The Republican Party courting evangelicals: "The Republican Party has courted evangelicals long enough and well enough to have almost an insurmountable majority in Congress and, soon, in the supreme Court as well." Byassee tells us that it is the Republicans who have "courted" the evangelicals, therefore, leaving the evangelicals to be the puppet of a conservative ideology--whether they know it or not. Byassee's ironic subtlety bears witness to what is most likely the truth.

He goes on to describe his denomination's (Methodist) hey day of power, the impetus being the Prohibition. Byassee describes the goal of the Prohibition as to "spread Scriptural holiness across the land*." He then goes on to describe that their day is gone, all that is remaining are the monuments "built to [their] importance." Byassee's conclusion, in view of his denomination's past is that "church influence on politics is fickle." He then proceeds to warn evangelicals of erring in the same way: "do you really want to be allied with foul-mouthed know-it-alls on AM radio or with politicians who don't care a lick about Jesus?"

Byassee then slowly moves towards his conclusion, in the process pointing out that the religious left "is so far our of political power now that we're remembering the first task of the church is to be the church," then he says, in effect, we'll be waiting for you after your power has faded away.

In response to the article I'll say well done. It is about time we learn from the past, lay down our idols of political power and return to our Lord. Byassee uses an arresting quote from Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, perhaps hoping it will resonate with many CT readers, here it is: "Once you have made the world an end and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him tha n prayers and sacraments and charity." Byassee here reminds us, via Lewis, that the end must always be faith in our Lord. Anything else, to use a phrase usually reserved for fundamentalists, is blasphemous idolatry it is trampling on Jesus Christ for the progress of man.

As biblical Christians we must hold fast to all of the tenets of our faith, not those of political parties be it liberal or conservative. As the other Christian magazine, namely Sojourners', phrase goes: "God is not a Republican or a Democrat." If you feel that Iraq is a just war we, as Byassee remarks, must be the first to repent rather than celebrate. If you want to take action against abortion, it must be done in a Kingdom manner, and here we aren't talking about the kingdom of this world. Similarly we are called to stand up for the poor, something the ideological conservative pigeon hole has prevented many evangelicals from doing. The list goes on, but what is imperative is to remember that the Bible has critiques for every worldview that isn't...well biblical. When an interviewer attempted to corner N.T. Wright under the label of a 'political Priest' he said that he didn't think he was a 'political Priest' but rather that he was claiming his allegiance to the Prince of Peace; are social action should be likewise.

*I might mention, as an aside, that the "Prohibition" had more to do with wives terrified that their husbands might commit an 'unmentionable' at a local pub than it did with pure "Scriptural holiness".

1 comment:

mrteague said...

Lewis does it again...powerful, chilling quote. Another quote I like from a couple years ago was, "GOP does not spell GOD." I can't remember who said that.