Foundations of Christian Civic Engagement at New Life Dresher

There are a number of ways you can start putting the ideas we discussed this weekend into practice, or ways you can dive deeper into ideas that may have been new for you. One of the best places to start is to subscribe to our newsletter and podcast, and check out our blog.

As we mentioned in the class, these outlets have been on a functional hiatus while Rick recovered from serious health challenges in the second half of last year, but we will begin publishing again in the next couple of weeks, and your questions from the Q & A session will help form the basis for some of our articles and episodes!

Recommended Reading

There are a number of commendable books that you may be interested in to dive deeper into some of the topics we discussed this weekend:

Light to the World: Making Politics Safe for Christian Community

This five-session Bible study is a great place for individuals or small groups to start working out how to behave Christianly in a divisive election year. Readers/participants go through the story of creation, fall, incarnation, redemption and consummation, tracing each theme from the Old Testament into the New Testament and working out how God’s promises empower us to live differently in divisive times.

Surprised By Community: Republicans and Democrats In the Same Pew

Rev. Drew’s book on finding political peace in our church communities is one of the best places to start if you’d like to carry this conversation forward in your own life or with your small group.

Political Visions and Illusions (Second Edition)

David Koyzis does a commendable job of examining contemporary political ideologies and articulating where each reflects and distorts elements of Christian ethics and morality.

Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture

Lesslie Newbigin’s 1980’s primer on how to critique our own culture from within through the perspective of the gospel is an essential read for anyone wanting to learn how to witness to people we may already identify with closely.

ISSUES FACING CHRISTIANS TODAY (Fourth Edition)

The venerable John Stott offers wise and practical advice on Christian engagement with critical contemporary issues.

American NationS: A History of the EleVen Rival Regional Cultures of North America

Historian and journalist Colin Woodard divides North America into eleven separate sub-cultures, outlining the history, character and development of each of these “nations,” and re-frames major developments in US history through this lens. While his bias/preference for some nations over others is very clear, his underlying ideas are useful if you want to go deeper into the different expectations of government held by different regions.

The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews

At one point during the afternoon, we mentioned the story of Karl Plagge, a Nazi officer who did his best to preserve and protect Jewish families and believed that “no German was innocent” in the face of the atrocities his party committed. For those of you who are interested in his story, this book is assembled from research conducted by the descendants of Jews who lived under Plagge’s protection.

Contact Rick and Charlie

Learn More about Christian Civics

Our ministry was founded by two political opponents who shared a passionate commitment to serving the church. If you’d like to hear more from our ministry, you can learn more about our vision and our work by checking out our blog and our podcast!

Outline

Want to refresh yourself on the main points? The main outline from Saturday’s class, including scriptural citations, is below!

Defining Terms

Politics

  • Public Square
  • Government and Policy
  • Power Dynamics
  • Partisan Competition

Liberal/Conservative

  • Partisan
  • Cultural
  • Theological
  • Philosophical

Relationships To Government

Biblical

  • Monarch
  • Appointed Official 
  • Subject

Modern US

  • Citizen
  • Elected Official
  • Civil Service

Modeling the good news means living out the story of…

  • …glorious creation.
  • …tragic fall.
  • …sacrificial incarnation.
  • …radical redemption.
  • …confident consummation.

A few ways this plays out:

  • Incarnation
    • Prioritize the local, the neighbor and the direct.
  •  Select Partnerships Differently
    • Partnerships are necessary.
    • Partnerships can send dangerous messages.
    • The world selects partnerships based purely on mercenary goals. Christians have to be more selective.
  • Process Hatred Differently
    • Honor
    • Repent
    • Identify
    • Heal

Prayer

The kind of prayer we need to prepare our hearts and our communities for effective witness in a polarized age is…
  • …private.
  • …plural.
  • …corporate.
  • …formative.

The Easy way to pray: Copy Paul

  • Romans 1:8–10
  • 1 Corinthians 1:4–9
  • Ephesians 1:15–20
  • Philippians 1:3–6
  • Philippians 1:9–11
  • Colossians 1:3–14
  • In each of these prayers, Paul repeats five themes. He prays…
    • …for their faith.
    • …for/about the desire to support them in prayer.
    • …for grace and holiness to abound in them.
    • …that they would be filled with Jesus’ presence and power.
    • …for their lives to bring glory to Christ.
 

Love in and from the church

Love is the reason we disagree about politics:
  • We care.
  • We are Christ’s body.

The church is not the source of witness; it is the locus of witness. … The presence of a new reality, the presence in the shared life of the church of the Spirit who is the arrabon (the down-payment) of the kingdom, has become possible because of what Jesus has done, because of his incarnation, his ministry as the obedient child of his Father, his suffering and death, his resurrection, AND his ascension into heaven and his session at the right hand of God. … [This new reality’s] visible embodiment will be a community that lives by this story…

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

Avenues of Disagreement

  • Differing Priorities
  • Differing Experiences
  • Differing Glorious/Fallen Emphasis
  • Differing Strategies
  • Cultural Anthropomorphism
  • Differing “Middle Layers”

Finding Political Peace

Jesus wants us to manage our anger in the church:
 

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you [plural] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two.

Ephesians 2

I … ask … that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

John 17

Never forget that the only social institution that will survive the fires at the end of history is the church—America will cease to be, along with the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the NRA, and the ACLU. And the church will survive, not on the margins of society, but at its center. We will be the society. Our task now is to prove that this is so not simply by the fact of our engagement with the world but by the quality of it, and, above all, by the quality of our life together. We must demonstrate the winsome power of Christ to break down the walls that divide us—including the political walls. God help us. Much is at stake.

Surprised by Community, page 130

Idolatries that challenge political peace

  • Nationalism
  • Tribalism
  • Statism
  • Triumphalism
  • Privacy
  • Cynicism
  • Nihilism

Fostering Political Diversity

Two vital distinctions:

  • Between theocracy and influence
  • Between principle and strategy

The wrong way to pray

Do not pray for others to be re-made into your image.

We follow Jesus not simply by promoting what he says but by embracing his way of doing things—his modus operandi. … He let go of his glory, rights, privileges, and freedoms as the eternal Son in order to join us fully in our human condition and to serve us there. But he did so without taking on our values. … Jesus’ manner of engaging the world gives us a mandate for involvement. But it also reins in the foolish triumphalism that makes us impatient with our neighbors and with one another. To choose Jesus’ M.O. is to choose faithfulness and service over outcomes, leaving the latter in God’s hands. We can expect to be resisted, we can even expect to suffer—for to love the world as Jesus did means, at heart, taking up a cross—not winning an argument or an election. Nevertheless our efforts have value and lasting effect: insofar as we are obedient, wise, and loving in our public lives, God notes our efforts, rejoices over them, and values them as tokens of what is to be when his Son returns to make all things right. What is more, in some mysterious way, he causes them to last, promising that our “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Surprised By Community, pp. 127–129

The medium way to pray

Praise common principle.

The Hard way to pray

Confess and correct.

  • Offer confession.
  • Solicit correction.