The September edition of The Body Politic newsletter hits inboxes tomorrow morning, so in a shameless attempt to encourage you sign up, we’re running the August edition today.
Reflecting on an Essential Biblical Challenge
Are you more committed to your political party than you are to Jesus?
The “correct” answer to that question, the answer that’s expected of you if you’re a professing Christian, is obvious. But for a lot of us, it’s also probably not actually true.
We can profess almost anything, but the beliefs and values that actually drive us usually show up in the way we live our lives. So, take a moment to think about your social circles, your church, your life in general, and ask yourself, How many of your spiritual friendships challenge your political convictions? Do any of the Christians you are closest with, enjoy the most or choose to spend your free time with probably vote differently from you?
Jesus’ ministry brought together people who had very different ideas about how to structure society and conduct their daily lives: Pharisees and Sadducees. Jews and Greeks. Zealots and Centurions. Moralists and libertines.
These people weren’t just diverse, they were often irreconcilably opposed to one another. Somehow, though, Jesus expected them to be knit together into a coherent spiritual community. (John 17:20–21)
Living out that expectation is hard. Even healthy, faithful churches that are alive with the power of the Holy Spirit tend to be politically homogeneous. But forming spiritual friendships with people who see the world very differently from the way we do is one of the surest signs that our faith is authentic. It’s how we know that we are celebrating God’s good gift for all people, rather than practicing some kind of civil religion that only knits together people who are already like us.
Each week for the next few weeks, set aside time to reflect on your friendships in the church and pray about them.
If the friends who are closest to you mostly match your politics:
- Praise God for bringing together people from all walks of life and making us into a new creation in Christ.
- Ask God to prepare you for edifying and challenging friendship with other Christians who don’t hold the same politics as you.
- Ask God for the opportunity to make friends with brothers and sisters in Christ whose politics are not compatible with yours.
If your spiritual friendships are already politically diverse:
- Thank God for giving you the opportunity to be united in Christ in ways that the world around us may not always understand.
- Ask God how you and your friends can help one another to see Christ more clearly.
- Ask God to make his coming kingdom seen and felt in the world in some way through the spiritual friendships he has given you.
The Body Politic’s editors share some of what they’ve been reading lately. Amazon links to the books mentioned support The Body Politic.
Hipster Christiantiy: When Church and Cool Collide by Brett McCrackn
I picked up this book following an email chain conversation amongst friends where we sought to find out who was the most hipster. I was pleasantly surprised by McCracken’s treatment of the church’s collision with “cool.” As McCracken explores the church’s preoccupation with being cool to stay relevant, I am reminded of the church’s preoccupation with winning the culture war(s) in order to stay relevant politically. (D. Leiva)
“Huckabee and the Heresy of Americanism” by Derek Rishmawy in Christ and Pop Culture
This article is particularly poignant as the presidential campaign season kicked off in August. In the piece, Rishmawy points out the idolatry of seeing the United States as a country with a “special relationship” that makes it “so different from the rest of the world,” as GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee puts it. In that form of idolatry, Rishmawy also warns readers that the Gospel loses its shape—a warning to keep at the forefront of our minds as we consider presidential candidates. (D. Leiva)
A Wilderness of Mirrors: Trusting Again in a Cynical World by Mark Meynell
Mark Meynell sketches the deep cynicism that he sees gripping the contemporary world and shares the ways in which the gospel equips us to respond. I was caught off guard by how personal the book is, particularly when Meynell addresses his own chronic depression and run-ins with corrupt developing-world governments.
(Mark Meynell recently sat down for a three-part interview with The Body Politic. Part one is online now. Part two will run later this week.) (Rick Barry)
“It’s Not Your Opinion, You’re Just Wrong” by Jeff Rouner in the Houston Press
“Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts” by Justin T. McBrayer in the New York Times
These articles, which have been circulating on my Facebook feed throughout the summer, make accidental companion pieces to one another. The first uses incendiary examples framed deceptively or reductively, but provides a clear demonstration of the ways many people in the U.S. understand the roles of fact and opinion. The second article explores why the mindsets demonstrated by the first article are problematic. Unfortunately, neither article allows a significant role for agreed-upon cultural norms—what we might call “values.” (Rick Barry)
The Other Side of 1984: Questions for the Churches by Lesslie Newbigin
In this short book, Lesslie Newbigin (Foolishness to the Greeks, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society) describes the disillusionment that was setting in across the developed world in the mid-80s. He argues that the west was running up against the end of what purpose and meaning science and the Enlightenment could offer. His stark read on the crisis western culture was facing 30 years ago helped make sense of the undercurrents of utopianism and nihilism that fuel political debate in the U.S. today. (Rick Barry)