God's Politics

Jim WallisTuesday evening at the Twin Cities’ Bethel University, students, along with many others, gathered for a forum on how faith should relate to politics in our time. I was joined by Greg Boyd, a young pastor and theologian who leads the Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul and whose courageous new book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, has created controversy and landed him on the front page of The New York Times. We both agreed that fidelity to Jesus Christ comes before politics and found that we shared a deep appreciation of John Howard Yoder’s classic book, The Politics of Jesus.

Greg shared his cynicism about politics in general and his dislike of how some on the Religious Right have made politics a divisive issue in churches. He recently wrote an op-ed piece in the Minneapolis StarTribune titled “My church has been hijacked by politics.” But he doesn’t want to see the same thing on the Left either, and I agreed. Together we had a very good dialogue about both the opportunities and dangers of political engagement for Christians. The names we lifted up of those who had done it right included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You can listen to the event here.

But this was one of those nights when the speakers and messages were less important than the crowd who came to hear. Not only was every seat taken in Benson Great Hall, 200 more chairs had to be put up on the stage, and every place to sit or stand was filled by young evangelicals eager to discuss how they should engage the world. Numerous faculty members said they couldn’t remember a bigger event in Bethel’s history, and it was certainly a dramatic demonstration of how things are changing in the evangelical world – especially among the new generation. Almost every week now, I find the same thing happening at Christian colleges across the nation.

CNN was there to capture the event and afterward spoke to a roundtable of young evangelical students. The program is scheduled to run this evening on Anderson Cooper 360 at 10 p.m. ET. For me it was a day filled with hope and the possibility of a new faith-inspired generation that might truly shake up politics – just the way people of faith and conscience are supposed to.

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