Friday, October 19, 2007

A call to politics?

James writes "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you . . . Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you . . . You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence . . . You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you." (Jas 5:1-6).

Now, I haven't witheld anyone's wages and I certainly haven't murdered anyone . . . at least not with my own two hands. But I'm afraid I may be implicated in these things through my citizenship in the USA.

This isn't meant to be an anti-America jeremiad. But, the only way that I can see that I may have murdered or oppressed is through the efforts of my government, for which I have some responsibility since I can vote and participate in the political process, and since I reap the rewards of being a citizen.

For the last couple of years, I've said, somewhat cynically, 'politics doesn't have any of the answers.' But it may be that I'm responsible for attending to the polis because of the effects it has on others.


J said...

I don't know. I wonder if the fact that Paul was a Roman has any bearing on the issue?

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

"I'm afraid I may be implicated in these things through my citizenship in the USA."

This is the start of an interminable but pointless dialog with the devil.

Reasonable political activism, that is, activism that is in accord with what you perceive as the call of Jesus Christ to you, is the correct response to the moral imperative.

Think globally, act locally, is also a good strategy. My direct vote in a national election may not be able to effect a moral victory on any single issue. But my vote or my actions in my neighborhood can sometimes contribute to its betterment, from a moral viewpoint.

No, don't abandon the polis. You can rest assured that you will be punished for its failures even when you have not directly participated in them, just as you are rewarded for its successes. But there is only One that you will have to answer to, and as long as you keep talking to Him every day, and do what He tells you, there will be no ultimate surprises.

Ben said...

If we are called to love our neighbor, and the actions of government make a difference (for good or for evil...and perhaps the best we can do is avoid the latter, I don't know) how can we NOT be involved in politics?

I became a political type for the same reason I joined you on those weekly visits to the nursing home, Kenny - because I wanted to help. Because I felt it was God's call on my life to help.

And Romanos, I really have no idea what you mean by a dialogue with the devil. Are you saying that, because our vote is mixed in with the votes of millions of others, that we bear no responsibility for the actions of our government? Perhaps it makes more sense, in terms of effectiveness, to act locally....but that does not absolve us of the responsibility to think and act in an informed and thoughtful and prayerful manner on national issues.....if only in choosing who we vote for (and maybe a lot more).

By the way....because I'm coming late to the topic a few blog posts back, I'll switch to an unrelated topic now.....Kenny, I see a lot of myself in the person who bends over backwards to avoid offense. And you're right to suspect my motives....a lot of it is fear of offending, even though the Cross is itself an offense. I often let down my God for fear of losing my relationships with humans. But I also think Dave is right. There IS a perception, fostered - as Jeff says - by the media and certain leaders - that evangelicals are out to condemn and judge. It is worth reacting against. BUT we must always examine our motives. Something I'm not always good at....except for in introspective blog posts.

-Dave said...

If I had to guess, I think Romanos's "dialog with the devil" is along this vein:

We are commanded to love God, and to love our neighbor. But there are a lot of distractions in this world. To the degree that we get bent out of shape on issues that are beyond our ability to change them, and that distracts us from our duty to love our brothers, who we can see, that worry could be seen as a devilish distraction from our clear duty - to love our neighbor.

This is not to say that we are unaware, or should not act. Paul, after all, used his Roman citizenship to appeal to Ceasar so that he could carry the gospel to Rome, infiltrating Ceasar's household with the kingdom of God.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

By "interminable dialog with the devil" I mean approximately what Dave guessed I mean. There are some kinds of questions that we want to ask which are really not the right question, and "the devil" will use this kind of question to get us to waste a lot of time and energy fretting and speculating.

We are all members of the human race, and the fact that we live among them and interact with them on many levels and in many kinds of endeavors, and also the fact that most of us cannot do without this interrelatedness, does not make us any more guilty or less guilty than the worst sinners in the race. Bottom line, though, is we're all guilty of sin, through participation, acquiescence, abdication, provocation, you name it. Being guilty, then, for immoral acts done within a human construct (such as government or church) that we either voluntarily or involuntarily support, is just a subset of our greater participation in the sins of humanity.

I fear by all these words, I have only muddied the waters, so go back and read what Dave wrote. It's simpler and better.

Just as I don't think that the Blood of Christ covering our sins gives us the "freedom" to do just whatever we want, moral or not, so I don't think that the sin of the world releases us from responsibility to do what good we can. We're not going to save the world by our works, but neither are we justified by them. And I will continue to do the work I see my Father doing, even in a world that opposes this any way it can.