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Jesus Creed

How does the Christian discuss — in the public forum — what she or he believes about a given moral issue — say abortion or homosexuality or war or economic distribution — with someone who does not share similar Christian beliefs? How do such folks participate in the political process together? There are a variety of options on the table:

First, one can reduce the Christian beliefs to a more universal, or secular, or rational set of factors. Thus, one can work together on the basis of some sense of justice or peace or goodness. In some cases, this leads to a secular apologetic for a Christian belief.
Second, one can argue there’s little hope of genuine discussion and play the game of power — fight for more votes or more laws or more authority. Thus, one can seek to get the SCOTUS to overturn Rowe v. Wade or get the State not to support gay/lesbian marriage.
Third, one can argue that the two realms are so at odds the Church should withdraw from participation in the State, seek to embody and live out as the Church should live, and be a witness to the State. Thus, instead of fighting for laws that conform to the Christian stance, the Church embodies the morality of Christ and witnesses to a better way of life. The classic Anabaptist view.

But Luke Bretherton, in his books Hospitality as Holiness and in Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilites of Faithful Witness
, argues for what appears to me to be a genuinely different solution. His argument is this: the path of reduction to secular apologetics minimizes the very thing most important to the Christian, and he finds neither the Anabaptist nor the power approach appealing. Instead, he begins with these observations:
1. The Church is an eschatological reality: a bringing into the Now of God’s Kingdom Future.
2. The relation of the Church to the State, or to its neighbors, becomes not an either/or but a continuum: Christians are both of this age and of another age.
3. Hence, the practice that best contributes to genuine discussion of moral issues is the practice of hospitality.
Bretherton’s a theologian, so get ready for his definition: “Hospitality is the social practice that structures relations between Christians and non-Christians in such a way that it recapitulates the ascension and Pentecost moments of the Christ event” (143).
What does this look like? Care for the sick and dying, hospitality to immigrants, educational initiatives and peace-making endeavours (197).
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