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by Paul MarshallWith both major parties trying to project themselves as the party of faith, this article comes at a good time.
"Evangelicals apparently have so much political clout that they are poised to install a theocracy, according to some commentators. Such critics don't notice there is little distinctively evangelical about the evangelical approach to politics. The evangelical emphases—on conversion, the Cross, the Bible, and activism—do not themselves amount to a full, independent theological system. Nor do they take us far in understanding politics, which requires at least some grasp of history, government, law, justice, freedom, rights, mercy, violence, and war. Thoughtful evangelicals trying to understand politics often draw on the wider resources of Calvinist, Anabaptist, Anglican, Lutheran, or Catholic teaching. ..."
Beau Weston, who wrote a blog entry back in late April on how the Presbyterian budget might be balanced, noted that "The church needs prophets, as does society as a whole. That is why God keeps sending them. The place of prophets is outside the house of power, speaking truth."
Those on either end of the political spectrum who style themselves as prophets need to remember that it is a rare instance where the Bible speaks approvingly of "official" prophets. If you are part of the power structure, then your ability to speak the word of the Lord is compromised by your own self interest.
Marshall elaborates on this by drawing on an example from the "evangelical left" (my characterization):
"...A more pervasive—and perhaps pernicious—pattern makes a prophet the key political actor. This view's advocates implicitly claim the prophet's mantle for themselves. In his widely noted God's Politics, Jim Wallis writes, "The place to begin to understand the politics of God is with the Prophets." Wallis does not bother to justify this unusual contention. The Bible itself does not begin with the Prophets, but with Genesis, as does most Christian reflection on politics throughout history. Nor does Wallis relate the Prophets to the Torah. They challenged rulers on the basis of God's law, not on their own feelings of injustice. ..."
The anabaptist tradition is one in which the metaphorical realms of Caesar and Christ are held to be separate, and further, that the realm of Caesar implicitly relies on coercion to maintain itself. He notes the irony that many who are outspoken against the military and police are more than willing to see the govenment (with its coercive power) establish and enforce such things as redistribution of wealth, welfare reform, and other social programs. The Anabaptists, on the other hand, have been more than willing to not only speak to powerful people as outsiders, but to roll up their sleeves and do the work themselves that other Christians are more than willing to outsource to the government.
I recommend this article for reading and reflection.
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