Christian Perspectives on Politics

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Rick Berry has written an article called “In Search of Christian Political Theology: Dominionism, Kuyperianism, and Christian Realism,” and it is a nice overview of three major perspectives. I’ve been influenced to some degree by all three approaches.

The Anabaptist tradition has also shaped my thinking. John D. Roth says it well: “Anabaptist Christians embrace their political responsibilities – not primarily as citizens, or as representatives of political parties, or as a lobby group shouting to be heard, but as ambassadors of the Prince of Peace who came as a servant, welcomed children and foreigners into his circle, and taught us to love our enemies.”

This perspective can and has led to separatism. That’s why I’m cautious toward the Anabaptist tradition. But I find it compelling because it takes the kingdom of God seriously. Anabaptists are also wary of worldly centers of power. Roth writes:

The most powerful seduction of political engagement, particularly in democracies, is the illusion that true power is in Washington or Ottawa or Asunción or Tehran. Yet Christians believe that history is carried forward by the church, not the state. How would you see the world differently if your primary source of global news came from church leaders around the world or from Christian relief and service workers in other countries rather than from Fox, CNN, or the echo chambers of social media?

That’s a powerful question.

Anyway, people ask me from time to time how Christians think about politics. My answer: “Lots of ways.” Familiarity with various perspectives helps us remain humble, clarifies the perspective best defining our viewpoint, and enables to better understand what we expect from the church and the surrounding political culture. Knowing the perspectives helps us better understand what we champion, why, and how as a Christian, what our goals are, and where the dangers lie.

I’ll return to Rick Berry. He writes:

Our political ideologies are the product of people who simultaneously reflect and distort God’s glory—and no creation is greater than the people who created it. Our goal in the public square therefore should not be merely to champion our political tribes, because that would mean working to empower their sin as much as it would mean empowering their glory. Instead, we should seek to witness to our political tribes, even critiquing our own groups when necessary, and we often must do that by contrasting ourselves against them.

Stated differently, even if we do develop a sound and well grounded approach to politics as Christians, we should never turn our particular viewpoint into an idol, and we must never lose our prophetic voice.

Discern, then Respond

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