Tension…

I published this on another blog I write for…

In the record John wrote about Jesus, there is a section (Ch. 17) where Jesus prays for his apostolic followers and the disciples to come.  He asks God to watch over them and care for them, asking for an offering of joy, strength, and that the truth would change and shape them.  In the midst of Jesus request, he his ever mindful of the fact that his followers are no longer operating and captive by the host society, just as he himself isn’t.  (Remarkable that Jesus makes this distinction, considering shortly after this his closest followers bail on him because of the association with Jesus and his political character against the state.)  This prayer of Jesus has motivated all sorts of theologies and incarnational life, some of great separatist ideologies where a stance is taken that because we are not of the world we must avoid or remove ourselves from the dominate culture.  An in-depth study is not possible here.  However, I find it interesting that Jesus also makes the statement that we are sent into the world as he is.  How we can be sent to the world and yet attempt to remove ourselves from our culture and society don’t line up very well in my head; there are perhaps those who have done it faithfully and imaginatively that I am not aware of.

Our sending into the world is appropriate as well, seeing as our presidential election season has great ramifications to the world.  As people who follow Jesus, aka evangelicals, we have been come to be known for the moral majority issues: abortion, marriage structure, etc.  These issues tend to be insular and rooted within domestic policy in the world of politics.  But what of the world?  What of our economic policies?  Our military expenditures vs. foreign/domestic aid?  (See this post by Eric for some quick numbers.)  The push in immigration “reform” to separate families and erect walls between them?

Our politics have a great deal of impact on the world.  Whither the church?  How do we engage in our society, our world if you will, and yet be of a different society?  There are calls for abstention in voting, and some for participation.  There are distinctions made about our allegiance, that pledging oneself to the nation is a misplaced faith in the politik of the US.  Allegiance is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as

  1. Loyalty or the obligation of loyalty, as to a nation, sovereign, or cause. See Synonyms at fidelity.
  2. The obligations of a vassal to a lord.

The entomology of allegiance is from the French in 1399, where a liege-man to his Lord.  (In fact, some of the theology of Christ is been shaped greatly in politik of the feudal system; prior to this era Jesus as Lord had been largely undeveloped.) That fidelity is synonymous with allegiance or loyalty is poignant as well. Who are we faithful to?

This is the tension that I feel, and seem to garner from folks struggling with this.  What is our faithful response to our societal political structure and activity?  How does our activity effect our global neighbor?  Are we not to vote because the candidates platforms are not reflective of our deep convictions, or is there something else that motivates or hinders our participation?  Is it bigger than the right candidate?  What of US democracy, is that at issue?  How do we as citizens of a different society remain faithful to their primary communal identity and participate in the host culture of the US in the here and now?  I believe my responsibility in who I vote for (or if I don’t vote!) continues through their term and decisions; I cannot wash my hands of my culpability after they take office.  What does this mean then for what I do?  Shane Claiborne offers an alternative (Jesus for President; Irresistible Revolution); are there others?  What of the Christian imagination can we tap into?

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~ by Brian Shope on October 11, 2008.

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