Some Thoughts on Christians and Political Power
I read this tweet from Greg Boyd earlier today: RT @greg_boyd “The temptation to mould society through political power is the very temptation that Jesus rejects” (Lk 4:7-9). A. Christoyannopoulos
I respect Greg Boyd and appreciate much of what he has to say in his thought-provoking book, Myth of a Christian Nation, even though I disagree with some of his conclusions. I don’t want to make too much of a single tweet but it did serve as a springboard to get me thinking about Christians and political power.
For the sake of discussion, let’s stipulate that the temptation to mold society through political power is indeed the very temptation that Jesus rejects. I, for one, do not necessarily want to mold society through political power per se. My aim is to submit to and join Christ in molding/changing/transforming society, i.e. people, through the ministry of God the Holy Spirit as a citizen of the kingdom of God.
However, I also desire to be engaged in the affairs of the nation through the political power available to me as an American citizen so that people might maximize their freedom to follow the dictates of their conscience and the church might be unhindered as much as possible in carrying out its mission. I would like to see Christians wield political power in order to constrain the government’s overreach and abuses, among other things, but any true “molding of society,” which must entail the changing of hearts and minds, I would reserve to the ministry of the church rather than the state.
I greatly appreciate Christian anarchy’s strong position on matters of allegiance and idolatry but do not go so far as someone like Jacques Ellul, whom I admire, who believes that “a person can exercise political power only if he worships the power of evil” since “all powers, all the power and glory of the kingdoms, all that has to do with politics and political authority, belongs to the devil.” Free speech and open discourse are, after all, politically powerful acts, are they not? Let the exercise of religion be unhindered so that the church may be about it’s work and let Christians utilize political power in order to preserve this freedom.
I actually find Christoyannopoulos’s comment, as I pluck it out of it’s Christian anarchist context for a moment, to be a rebuke of the statism of the religious left. It is the evangelical left in America who seek to advance the kingdom of God through government dictate. The “least of these” are to be served through the mechanisms of government. The religious left wants more programs and bigger budgets which can never be cut or curtailed because the government is doing the work of the kingdom. Turning Ellul’s assertion on its head, progressive evangelicals believe one is worshiping, not the power of evil, but God himself through the exercise of political power. Political authority does not belong to the devil but is the means by which the church fulfills its mission.
So that’s where Boyd’s tweet took my thoughts today. What do you think?