That is an excellent question. This has been asked a lot. Is God political? No. He is apolitical. His agenda trumps any political agenda that we may have. Does He speak to issues that are addressed in the political realm? Yes, and that is why Christ followers must have a voice in the political realm. Jim Walls share in chapter 3 of God’s Politics:
God is personal, but never private. And the Bible reveals a very public God. But in an age of private Spiritualities, the voice of a public God can scarcely be heard. Private religion avoids the public consequences of faith. In particular, affluent countries and churches breed private disciples, perhaps because the application of faith to public life could become quickly challenging and troubling, (pg. 31).
It is so true. God is personal – he desires to have a relationship with us. You can’t get much more personal than that. Wallis is right in that He isn’t private. It drives me nuts when I hear about people saying their faith is private. That isn’t biblical faith. We are to be public with our faith – it is to permeate every aspect of our life. It is to influence our decisions and behavior. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) commits us to a public expression of faith.
To see the politics of God, Wallis says we need to “look into our biblical and other holy texts, (pg. 32).” Just a quick digression – I wonder what other texts Wallis as an evangelical considers holy? Hmmm, interesting. He says that we are to start by looking at the Old Testament prophets first. In Isaiah – Malachi, God addresses topics such as land, labor, capital, wages, debt, taxes, equity, fairness, courts, prisons, immigrants, other races and peoples, economic divisions, social justice, war and peace. All these topics Wallis says is the stuff of politics, (pg. 32).
The prophets, according to Wallis (and most scholars would be agreement) spoke to the nations, but spoke specifically to “rulers, kings, judges, employers, landlords, owners of property and wealth, and even religious leaders, (pg. 32). He spoke for “the dispossessed, widows and orphans (read: poor single moms), the hungry, the homeless, the helpless, the least, last and lost,” (pg. 32). This isn’t class warfare, but rather God speaking for the common good. Wallis states that the politics of God is different than ours, it transcends Republican and Democrats, liberal and conservatives, Left and Right. I agree with Rev. Wallis here. Wallis goes on to share the importance of the personal nature of God.
Without a personal God, there is no personal dimension to belief. There is no relationship to God, no redemption, salvation, grace or forgiveness. There is no spiritual transformation without a personal God, and no power that can really change our lives beyond self-improvement…. Much of liberal religion has lost the experience of a personal God and that is the primary reason why liberal Christianity is not growing, (pg. 34).
How true – transformation only occurs with a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Christ changes hearts. The Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out. Mainline churches who don’t embraces this usually do decline, however the churches that are part of mainline denominations that do preach having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and Him alone are growing. I see that in the Des Moines Metro area. So amen to what Rev. Wallis says regarding this.
He also says that modern American evangelicalism’s greatest heresy was restricting God to private space. He shares about his personal experience of growing up in a Plymouth Brethren church in Michigan where his dad was a lay leader. He talks about how the church ignored the problem of racism, and basically said that is not part of their private faith. I am sure that went on. I know that went on. I can not argue with his personal experience. The trouble I have with saying it is modern American evangelicalism’s greatest heresy is that it projects his personal experience on all evangelicals. Evangelicals were also part of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, not just Catholics and mainline denominations. The statement that he makes to me seems better reserved for fundamentalists who by very nature separated themselves from the world. Evangelicals by and large engage culture. However where modern evangelicalism has faltered is by focusing just on evangelism and not focusing on social justice. We should be focused on evangelism and social justice – the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Wallis goes on to say.
Exclusively private faith denigrates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice. In the end private faith becomes a merely cultural religion providing the assurance of righteousness for “people just like us,” (pg. 35)
I’m not sure again that this is a completely fair statement for all evangelicals. I do agree that we can not neglect public social justice over personal holiness. It isn’t either or – it is both and. Ultimately what he says is needed is the renovation of our souls and the soul of our politics. I can’t disagree with that.
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