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God's Politics

Becky Garrison Now that election 2006 is over and the voters have shown that values do indeed matter, we still have some repair work to do here in our churches. While Diana Butler Bass keenly documents the existence of purple churches, where differing political ideologies can co-exist in one sanctuary, we still have too many red and blue houses of worship. These houses of worship appear to be social centers where like minded individuals go to have their political convictions affirmed and their protest strategies fine tuned rather than communities of faithful believers, who seek to live out the teachings of Christ by embracing the political stranger in their midst.

In The Lost Message of Jesus, authors Steve Chalke and Alan Mann ask these challenging questions: “To what extent does the Church model the spiritually and socially inclusive message of Jesus? Are we liberators of excluded people or simply another dimension of their oppression? We may not exclude tax-collectors or hemorrhaging women, but what about schizophrenics, divorcees, single people, one-parent families, drug users, transsexuals or those struggling with their faith?” To this list I would add Christians we see as our political adversaries.

Admittedly this is not an easy task. Already the Religious Right is sharpening up their swords as they prepare for the battle to regain the soul of America. Recently, Rev. Louis Sheldon the founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition claimed, “We know that in America, the people are with us. They’re just confused.” The question I pose is how we as a Christian community should respond to comments like these that are made by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Do our words reflect the unifying message of Christ or do we further the divide?

As Jim Wallis observes in his book The Call to Conversion, “the greatest need of our time is for koinonia, the call simply to be the church, to love one another, and to offer our lives for the sake of the world.” What would Christian communities be like if we all bought into this agape deal? If we really believed that Jesus loved us unconditionally, then we’d be empowered to respond in kind.

When we put partisan politics above seeking the kingdom of God, we get what we deserve. Mike Yaconelli reflected, “The impotence of today’s Church, the weakness of Christ’s followers, and the irrelevance of most parachurch organizations is directly related to the lack of being in the presence of an awesome, holy God, who continually demands allegiance only to him—not to our organizations, to our churches or our theology.” (“The Safety of Fear,” Mike Yaconelli Selected Writings)

Sojourners’ slogan has it right: “God is not a Republican or a Democrat” but rather Lord of all. And as Christians, it is our duty to let God’s light shine through us instead of trying to advance our own personal and at times petty sociopolitical agendas. As we head into election year 2008, let us remember that we represent not the Democratic nor the Republican party but rather the body of Christ.

Becky Garrison is Senior Contributing Editor of The Wittenburg Door and author of Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church.

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