Friday, February 06, 2009

Creative Exile

Please read Charles Colson's essay on political exile under the reign of the far-left, abortion-friendly, homosexual special rights O and his cohorts.

7 comments:

Dave said...

I respect Chuck Colson as a Christian leader and teacher yet I believe his theology is plagued with this fatal flaw: he inadvertently exalts political activism over doctrinal integrity. I'm referring to his unbiblical ecumenism with Roman Catholicism.

It is wonderful that Evangelicals desire to be politically involved and to make a difference. However, such good intentions should steer clear of watering down our stand for doctrinal truth. Otherwise, we may "budy up" with false religious systems such as Mormonism or Judaism to protect family values. Theology is not only prior to but primary in importance over political expediency.

Jeremy said...

There is a tension in Colson's essay that I feel deeply in my own attempt at living faithfull to Christ. That tension is "just being the church" on the one hand, and "seeking the welfare of the state" on the other.

Note: get ready for a book-length comment.

This tension seems particularly strong in the US. Look at Israel during the Babylonian exile. They were called by God to settle down--an indication that they would be there for a long time--and to seek the welfare of their new home. But what would it mean for the Jews to seek the welfare of Babylon? I'm not an expert on Anceint Near Eastern political philosophy during the 6th century BC, but I seriously doubt that the Jews had any kind of significant political influence (apart from Daniel and his three friends). Minimally, I think we can say that seeking the welfare of the sate means to keep out of trouble, be a productive citizen, and do what one can to make the state a better place. If this minimal statement is correct, then how the command was applied by the Jews in Babylon will necessarily look very different from how we in the US apply it.

We have no emperor. Ultimately, we have political power because we, the individual citizens, are our own political sovereign. The typical political jargon says that we live in a representational republic; we elect representatives to govern on our behalf. But think about what this means. If we truly expect elected officials to represent us, then that expectation entails that they ought to govern as we would govern. Elected officials are proxies for the individual citizen. My senator has a certain amount of political influence because I hired him to do a job I had neither the time nor energy to do myself. He has the sum of his political influence because the citizens of New York agreed to do likewise, and under the rules agreed to in the Constitution, he gets to legislate on my--our--behalf (unfortunately, the only elected senator from NY is Schumer, for whom I did *not* vote, but I've also agreed to play by the rules of free and open elections).

Given both our free market and proxi government ("proxy" in the same sense that Hamas is a proxy for Iran--the US government is a proxy for the individual), the cultural ills of our society stem directly from the citizenry. The market shifts toward the demand of the consumers. Therefore, if the market is selling garbage, it's because that's what the people want, or think they want. If the government is leading the nation down the toilet, through the sewer, to the gates of hell, then that's what the people voted in. (Of course, people don't always realize what they're getting when they vote for a seemingly attractive candidate. All that follows from that is that we can be deceived, and that we should take voting seriously. Many people take which car they're going to purchase more seriously than to whom they're willing to hand over nuclear weapons.)

The upshot is that each of us are the monarchs of this land. We are individually responsible for governing in a way that promotes liberty and human flourishing. Thus, the Christian citizen is responsible as well. That responsibility entails that those who will act responsibly must participate in government to promote liberty and human flourishing. Seeking the welfare of the state for us is so much more than the minimal requirement the exiled Jews were to fulfill. We are to rule. And ruling is not passively spectating as others usurp your authority as sovereign.

But here's the rub. I am sovereign, but so is every other American citizen, all 300 million of us. Many of us attempt to govern at cross purposes, waging micro-wars to establish our own empire; call it "pax ego." It's a wonder we haven't been reduced to rampant canabolism. Often, where political agreement emerges, the product is a system antithetical to being faithful to Christ. Since Christianity calls us to submit to the lordship of Christ and to flee from sin, there is the real need to abandon the foul culture that stems from the wretched hands of little lords in rebellion against God and each other. And it seems that abandonment means fleeing to the fortress of sectarianism while we leave the nation to its own devices. We must "just be the church."

Thus, the tension is between responsibly upholding our individual duty to govern as king while consciously identifying with a group whose only allegiance is to the King? As it turns out, for Americans, Christ is literally the King of kings. And it is just this idea that resloves the tension.

We are vassals, puppet kings allowed to rule. We too are proxies. All of us are proxies, each individual citizen is ruling only at the discretion of Christ. Ideally, we would be faithful proxies, ruling to forward His kingdom, acting for the welfare of His state--our state. Unfortunately, treason is being effected by the Enemy, and unredeemed humanity is complicit. They have retained their modicum of political power as proxies while using that power to subvert the true King. Their are traitors among us.

Notice how I have shifted the focus of the typical stories that lead to sectarianism. Typically, sectarianism is driven by either a retreat mentality or a minority mentality. The real fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century disengaged the culture at large because the participants in the movement perceived their own defeat in their inability to answer the up-and-coming scientific theories and the work of the higher critics. They fell back, and have been giving up territory ever since. The minority mentality comes in two variants: (1) the church is just a small band of immigrants passing through just to get to the sweet by and by, and (2) although the church is engaged in a real war, it has merely managed to gain a beachhead, and it's fighting just to survive.

The problem is that the retreat mentality and both forms of the minority mentality stem from false beliefs. We know how the story ends. Why should we retreat when the church has been assured victory? Why should we just pass through this ol' world and ignore both the raging battle all around us and its bloodied casualties? Why think that we're merely storming the beach instead of pushing enemy forces back from the strongholds?

I have shifted the story by claiming that Christ is Lord; we rule for, by, and through him. We have priority. The traitors are the sectarians attempting to establish a foreign and malevolent sovereign. We live and rule in his creation, participating in its redemption. This is what "just being the church" means. We exercise our civic duties by living and ruling in just that way. And when the traitors resist and perhaps temporarily gain a little ground, we recognize them as traitors and fight all that much harder to achieve their conversion or thwart them.

And to Colson: I understand what you're getting at, but you are wrong. We, Christians, are not the ones in exile, political or otherwise. We have been brought close and adopted by the prime political force in the cosmos. We are a royal nation called to exercise our authority in this land. We are merely witnessing the temporary loss of some territory. We will win that land back. It's those who have taken the land that are in true exile, separated from the King of proxies.

Steve Schuler said...

I recommend anyone reading this article to take the time to read through the comments. It may be surprising to some how little support and how much overt criticism are voiced by most of the people who left comments. That this article appears at the Christianity Today website might indicate that the support that has been given by Christians in the past to Hard Right Politicians and Neo-Con policies. Some have claimed that Christianity has been "hijacked" by the Neo-Con Republicans, if the comments associated with this article are any indicator those days are over.

Sarah Geis said...

Dave,

That is a hefty charge, and one I am inclined to think is a bit unfair in this case. In a group Colson founded called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," the purpose was to work and serve publicly as a unified body. Interestingly, Colson required that all signing parties agree to certain tenets of the Reformation including *sola fide*. Though his vocation involves politics, he certainly affirmed core doctrinal truth in that case. Moreover, his life and writings reflect a very Biblical worldview. From what I have read of his, he absolutely has remaining disagreements with Catholics, but nonetheless the reach of his particular ministry demands cooperation of this sort.

Steve Schuler said...

A Few Thoughts on the "Stimulus Package"

1. It massively increases the federal deficit.


While I don't have access to the figures now, it boggles my mind how our national debt has increased over the last 40 years. Obama is continuing to follow a tradition of governmental fiscal irresponsibility that has both parties sharing, more or less, equal responsibility. George Bush's 8 years as president resulted in a huge increase to the already substantial burden he inherited. I wish there was a "Right" party with regard to this perplexing problem that defies what I think indicates a complete lack of "common sense" in the administration of our government. While the rhetoric of the Republicans identifies the "tax and spend Democrats" as the culprits who create financially irresponsible policies it seems to me that Republicans share equal culpability in this apparent mess. I am very limited in my knowledge and understanding of economic theory, but I am reasonably certain that if I had acquired a debt burden proportional to the government's that I would qualify for bankruptcy. As always, I remain perplexed.

Doug Groothuis said...

I got mixed up and posted Steve's essay even though it responded to another post that disallowed comments. When I disallow it is because I anticipate too much controversy and acerbic comments.

Dave said...

Sarah,

Thank you for your comments in response to mine. I sincerely hope that you are correct, but I have my doubts about ECT. Please feel free to provide a link that substantiates your claim.

I remember a while back Mr. Groothuis reaffirming what Machen said about conservative and liberal Protestantism. They are two different religions in creed and deed. It is time that we Evangelicals (or once again?) recognize that Roman Catholicism at its core is basically a different a religion from ours in practical and theological terms. I say practical because Evangelicalism in its true form is a Prophetic (or Word based) religion while Catholicism is a Sacramental (ritual based) religion. I only mention this simple difference because it is often overlooked. More important however, is that any cursory study of Catholic theology will reveal that the RCC has quite a different understanding of salvation than Evangelicals do. So when Colson wants to incorporate Catholics into his efforts to promote the Gospel, which Gospel is he talking about?