Saturday, November 29, 2014

Co-opting Christ

Or is it “The Democratic Party is my god”?
They’re lining up to make use of the Lord Jesus Christ, it appears.

Carey Lodge at Christian Today writes about how both ends of the UK political spectrum seem determined to make the eternal God the poster boy for their social agendas.

As a Christian, if there’s anything more off-putting than the sort of cynicism that makes merchandise of or leverages political advantage from the Saviour, I’m having trouble thinking of it right now.

In This Corner …

One the one hand, Ian Geary of Christians on the Left says:
“Those inspired by Jesus live out the example of his justice, mercy and compassion by serving in their local food bank, getting the unemployed into work and bringing together estranged communities in the spirit of the common good.

They also support voting in elections, standing for public office and a range of positive Christian engagement in politics driven by an insatiable desire to heal a broken world.”
And In This Corner …

On the other hand, while insisting his party’s policies are not racist, Paul Golding, a professing Christian and leader of Britain First — a political party that Lodge, among others, refers to as “extreme right-wing” — thinks God is no multiculturalist:
“All through the Bible from beginning to end, it doesn’t talk about the brotherhood of man, it talks about nations and people. Quite frankly, if God wanted the world to be one, he would have made it one, but he made it into different nations.”
Now of course, Golding has a legitimate concern in this:
“Our entire moral, cultural and religious fabric is falling away, and making us a much weaker and more degenerate country.”
That’s a statement with which it’s increasingly difficult to argue, though I’m not entirely sure the most compelling way to move the undecided to your side of the ticket is to claim to represent the political position that God himself would endorse.

Caught Between Scylla and Charybdis

So there are two evils from which to choose: If I accept the worldview of English politicians, I am left with the delightful prospect of displaying my Christ-likeness either: (i) by obsessing about poverty and becoming a political activist; or (ii) by obsessing about the number of foreigners in my country and becoming a political activist.

Lovely choice, that.

It is intriguing to find that either end of the political spectrum in our post-post-modern world still feels it has anything to gain from bringing up God at all, or assumes that the potential voters they hope to persuade are more numerous than those they stand to alienate. One would think, in a country in which the “entire religious fabric” had genuinely “fallen away”, that citing God and Christianity approvingly would be as politically useful as endorsing the Ebola virus. And yet Paul Golding seems convinced there’s still a religious demographic out there that he has yet to tap into. And Ian Geary seems just as eager to use the historical Jesus to advance his social justice agenda, a tactic that seems truly counterintuitive (unless you have already noticed that progressivist arguments are generally insincere; something so well understood by Lefties themselves that Geary may well anticipate little or no pushback from his own troops despite identifying with someone most of his base believes to be, at best, a flight of fancy).

The Chameleon Christ

But of more interest to me is this characterization of Jesus Christ by both extremes of the spectrum as a fellow political activist, whether he is co-opted as a whites-only nationalist or a social justice warrior. Is the Jesus of the Bible really so politically malleable as to be simultaneously Extreme Right and Hard Left?

Not as I read the New Testament.

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

The Jesus of popular culture may be a different story, but for the Jesus of scripture, earthly politics were foreign territory. Where the Left pretends to fetishize the poor in the interest of advancing their agenda of omnipotent government and forced redistributionism, the Lord simply stated the obvious: In a wicked world, the elimination of poverty is a lost cause. “The poor,” he said, “you will always have with you”. This is not holy defeatism but simply an acknowledgement that creation is fallen. No matter whom you elect and what their platform may be, the solution to poverty awaits the return of the Lord Jesus to rule this messed-up planet. Socialists, monarchists and capitalists alike will forever exploit them. It’s who we are.

So as far as the Christian is concerned, by all means let us endeavour to address the individual needs that present themselves to us in our daily lives just as the Lord did. But fix the world through public policy? Good luck with that.

As to the second matter: Multiculturalism, if not already problematic, is certainly poised to become the significant divisive issue of the new century. Still, I have to take issue with Paul Golding’s characterization of God as a nationalist. As displayed in the person of the Lord Jesus, God seems to me to be resolutely apolitical. Confronted with the question of whether Jews should submit to Roman taxation, the Lord himself replied “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”, simultaneously promoting obedience to an oppressor nation and the primacy of the Father’s agenda. I can’t rightly label him either a multiculturalist or a nationalist based on his words or actions. Above all, I certainly can’t call him white.

To my mind, it is incumbent on the governments of individual nations to decide how to handle both multiculturalism and poverty, hopefully with a view to the fact that they will be judged by God at the end of it all. But to claim the words of the Lord Jesus as your authority for any particular political action or agenda is highly presumptuous, to say the least.

Where Do We Stand?

I am reminded of Joshua, leader of Israel, just before he presided over the fall of Jericho. He looked up and saw a man with a drawn sword. Like Ian Geary and Paul Golding, he naturally asked the question “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”

Or possibly, “According to my standard of who’s good and who’s bad, where do you stand, stranger?”

The answer of the man is intriguing, because it demonstrates a profound disinterest in Joshua’s efforts to enmesh him in the geopolitics of the day. He doesn’t answer the question at all. He simply responds, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come”.

Joshua wisely fell on his face. Where the Lord Jesus is concerned, we ought to do likewise.

1 comment :

  1. Interesting tidbit here. On (USA) Thanksgiving day I (reluctantly, my wife watches it) watched MSNBC for several hours in the morning because they covered the Macy's NYC Thanksgiving Day parade. What I seemed to notice was that the reporters and announcers did occasionally stress the theme of "let us all give thanks today." It was curious though that they always referred to giving thanks to Abe Lincoln and George Washington and never mentioned the seemingly forbidden "God" word in the context of Thanks, or any context. My guess is, that for this ueberleft network the memo came down, if you like your job, you won't alienate our base.