Friday, December 19, 2008

The Relativisation of the Political

I find it terribly difficult to get ‘worked up’ over politics in the traditional, or better contemporary, usage of the word. I do not care greatly for this party or that, for candidate A or B, for policy X or Z. This is not because of some spiritual a-politicalness, but rather for a very radicalised conception of what ‘politics’ will look like for the follower of Jesus.

For the follower of Jesus, God’s reign in the world is primarily, fundamentally, and finally, being worked out in and through the church as the universal polis of Jesus-followers. That totally and utterly relativises the importance of earthly politics. If God is constituting a new community of eternal beings in the church, then it becomes absurd to pour the major part of one’s time, energy, emotional commitment, and efforts into the political works and structures of this age, which is now declared to be perishing and temporary.

The constant struggle is to show, point out, explain, that this relativisation is not the nullification of the worldly-political sphere. That Jesus’ Kingdom is not ‘spiritual rather than political’. It is, rather, the nature of the politics that has changed, not that politics itself has been nullified. If that isn’t grasped, then you end up with two alternatives which I think badly mischaracterise the political nature of the gospel. Either you absolutise ‘the spiritual’, and end up with Christians who care nothing for the world, and only for the church, and whose only engagement is to evangelise in a rather crude sense. Or you dichotomise, and say that ‘the political sphere’ runs differently to ‘the christian sphere’, and so end up with the kind of Lutheran political position, that a Christian can perform acts in virtue of his secular office that would be immoral as a Christian outside that same office.

Once again, my words have failed to express my thoughts as articulately as I would have liked. Nonetheless, let me try and conclude: the coming of the reign of Christ offers a real political alternative, that relativises the political realities of the world, and calls Christians to a real, consistent engagement that is neither separatist, conformist, compromising, nor dichotomising.

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