Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Engaging in politics

I was involved in a panel discussion after church on Sunday on politics. It was great to learn from others and to be forced to think more deeply about this. Here are a few principles I came away with.

1. All life is politics - from the details to the official world of Politics. Everything we do in life is political and involves the distribution of power and the administration of the social good. There are no purely individual actions in that everything we do has an impact upon others. We need to see all actions as political. The key issue is to be conscious of what we are doing and as involved as we can be.

2. This general observation is also confirmed by the way the Bible speaks on politics. There was no distinction in the ancient world between 'politics and religion'. And if you look closely, loads of the NT's vocabulary is deeply political. That is, Jesus has a kingdom that is re-ordering the world according to His purposes and challenging the present powers that be. It's not that Christians care about 'spiritual things' and not politics, but that they construe politics in a different way. They have a different identity. Imagine a political journalist in conversation with the Christian community in Acts 2.

"What are you - socialist?"
"Are you, then, an anarchist commune?"
"Well, are you basically rich benefactors giving to the poor?"
"Well, what are you then?"
"We're Christians."

It just doesn't fit any label.

3. The gospel subverts every party political label. We can not be beholden to one manifesto or agenda. Of course, those involved in the official world of Politics must choose who to be involved in and where to locate themselves. And we must also vote for someone (or at least choose not to vote). Yet we should also frequently find that, if we are being faithful to Christ, we will not unoften find ourselves alienated from the party we 'support' (we are aliens and strangers in this world).

4. There are 2 errors - to have too much faith in our ability to order the world or to withdraw from involvement. Our problem in the UK is most likely the second one. So, we must leanr how to be more involved in our world, to do good and to serve.