Should Politics and Religion Mix?
Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, will object to Christians United! because it mixes religion with politics. One of the deepest held modern beliefs is that religion is a private matter while politics is a public matter and when you mix the two you create division and conflict. For a fuller explanation of this please see the section Enlightenment Compromise. This ideological division is so deeply held that it colors how we understand the very concepts of religion and politics. In our modern vocabulary, the word religion embodies this Enlightenment attitude so much that connotes private spirituality, personal piety and concerns for the afterlife. There is no hint of politics in the contemporary understanding of religion. Conversely, the word politics has no hint of anything religious. Politics is understood as a strictly secular arena that should be neutral toward any religious affiliation. If we hold strictly to these common definitions then religion and politics cannot be mixed by definition. It would be like mixing oil and water. If we insist on these Enlightenment definitions then we would have to say that Christians United! is neither religious or political in the strict sense. Yet, to the casual onlooker this would be a ridiculous statement as being Christian and being a political party would make it obvious that we are both “religious” and “political.” The real problem here is that the Enlightenment ideology has become so engrained in our thinking that it has warped how we as Christians understand politics. Rather than attempt to lessen the tension between religion and politics, we embrace it in the hope that this dissonance will lead others to question the Enlightenment ideology that creates this problem in the first place.
We are not foolish enough to think we can do this well or that we wont make plenty of mistakes. Our greatest shield is forgiveness. As we strive to follow Jesus and one of us fails, our brothers and sisters will forgive us, pick us up, and we will keep following Christ. No political movement, Christian or non-Christian, is without flaw. Most political movements spend half their time denying they have done anything wrong and hiding the truth of their faults. Without forgiveness there is only obfuscation. Forgiveness not only heals the real wounds of real injustice, it also allows for the possibility to be honest of our shortcomings. We e are a political and religious movement. We are an intellectual association and we desperately want to be a practical organization. Yet, to be practical we need to form local institutions that embody our hopes and beliefs.
We are now at a pivotal point in history. Christians have stumbled through history much as ancient Israel had down. Early Christians witnessed their Exodus with the Resurrection of our lord Jesus Christ. The early Church had its time of Judges in the midst of the Roman Empire and its time Kings starting with Constantine through the Middle Ages. Our time is the time of Exile. We once lived in Christian Kingdoms that acknowledge Christ as Sovereign and yet we no longer do. Now the “People are Sovereign,” I am my own master and yet we are really slaves of the “Princes and Powers of this World.”
Let there be no mistake. There are no golden ages in the history of Christianity just as is the case with ancient Israel. God’s people both now and then are highly flawed people. We have nothing to boast about in ourselves. At every point in history Christians, just their adopted forebears Ancient Israel, had serious flaws and blind spots. Our enemies rightly point our errors and hypocrisy throughout history. We have made major blunders in the past, we continue to err in our ways and we will make errors in the future. The “heroes” of the Jewish and Christian faith are not like the pagan heroes of ancient myths or contemporary superheroes. Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes, received the name Israel when he struggled all night with the God’s angel (a prefiguring of Jesus?). Jacob was an extremely flawed character lying and stealing his brother’s birthright and yet his single redeeming character brought out in his struggle with the angel was his clinging to God and seeking His blessing.