His Kingdom is Not of This World

Ok, I am sure this will be an unpopular opinion, as many of mine tend to be, but I do feel the need to stand up and speak my heart.

When did politics and Christianity get so incredibly intertwined?

I’ve been wondering that for some time, but the question was brought to mind again as I was reading something Sunday in our church’s newsletter that was, essentially, equating seeking to legislate Christian values, thereby making them law for everyone, regardless of their faith or creed, with being “salt and light” in this word.

While I totally agree with the notion that we need to be “salt and light”, as outlined in the Bible, I don’t remember reading anything that said we were called to actually seek to impose Biblical values on society as a whole through political means. I remember reading that we are called to share the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to give an answer with “gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15). I remember reading in I Corinthians 5:12-13, where Paul encourages them to deal with matters of sin within the church, but told them to leave the dealing with sin in those outside the church to God. It was also Paul, in Romans, who made it quite clear that the Law is not what saves us, and, in fact, cannot save.

The biggest bone of contention these days seems to be the whole Gay marriage thing – or, as it’s most commonly put “Defending Marriage” because gay marriage devalues our marriages. Now, I totally agree with the notion that homosexual unions run counter to Biblical values, but I’ve been trying to understand how my marriage is exactly under attack if two men or two women have the legal right to permanently cement their commitment to one another, in a legal union, so that they may enjoy the same rights and privileges offered to other couples. The Bible also speaks out against Believers and Non-Believers entering into marriage together, but you don’t see anyone seeking to outlaw those unions or talk about how they devalue Christian marriages.

And really, when you get right down to it, how does man’s law TRULY affect the “value” of my marriage? Isn’t my marriage based on my commitment to my husband and to God? What does what another couple does affect the value of my marriage? My marriage’s value has absolutely nothing to do with what someone else chooses to do, or whether or not they are following God’s Laws. There are a lot of things a LOT of heterosexual, lawfully married people do that is blatantly against Biblical teaching and God’s plan for marriage, and while it’s sad, and a testament to our fallen culture, it does not change my commitment to my spouse, nor the “value” of our marriage.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that active homosexuality is wrong, according to the Bible, but so are a LOT of things that we don’t (nor necessarily should we) seek to outlaw. I don’t have to agree with something spiritually to think that people should have the freedom, particularly in a country where we claim to have freedom, especially of religion, to pursue it – as long as they are not somehow infringing on anyone else’s fundamental rights – such as life and liberty.

I’m not pro-Homosexuality, nor am I pro-“Gay Marriage.” I’m against discrimination against people because they don’t follow our beliefs and shoving my belief down people’s throats in the name of Evangelism.

I’m very pro-Faith, pro-“Biblical Values” and pro-Evangelism, and living it out for people to see, but very much against the idea of faith based legislation. I think the place for faith, Biblical Values and Evangelism is in our churches, church organizations and in our daily lives and personal interactions with those around us.

My heart hurts, and I am, in fact, angered, every time I see political information pushed in our churches and on flyers placed on vehicles in church parking lots calling Christians to political action for Biblical values. I cringe when I see tables in the narthex purporting to be there to give information on “the issues” and where candidates stand, but in reality, they focus solely on one or two issues, and the information has a decided slant to one side of the political fence. I whole-heartedly disagree with the call for Christians to take back the country. America is not a theocracy. It has never truly been, nor SHOULD it be, a “Christian Nation” any more than it should be Buddhist, Muslim or Zoroastrian nation.

I also think we have a huge double-standard, as Christians in general, when it comes to this notion. We’re all about “freedom of religion” as long as it’s our particular brand. We set up schools and other methods of aid in foreign nations, in order to help the people and further the Gospel, and we call it missions work and evangelism, but if another religious culture offers a free schooling program, they have “an agenda” and are seeking to invade and infiltrate that community, and it should be combated. Are we not seeking to do the same? We go door to door, sharing our faith, and it’s noble and being bold and standing up for our beliefs, but how would we view the local mosque sending out missionaries to share the good news of Allah, door to door?

I’m not in any way indicating that I think witnessing, or even missions work is wrong. I think we are commanded to “go into all the world” by Christ himself in Scripture. But I think those examples illustrate that, for many Christians, the only freedom of religion we are truly interested in is our own, and that if any other faith sought to push their own agendas the way we did in this country, we’d be up in arms and crying “separation of church and state!” “freedom of religion!” I just think we need to be careful of the line we tread between evangelism and discrimination and be aware of any double-standards we have. We must cherish and protect the freedoms we have, instead of abusing them – otherwise we run the risk of losing them.

I am extremely disheartened any time I hear it hinted, or downright said, that to be TRULY Christian one most vote one way or another, and hearing people on the “other side” of the political fence denigrated. Not only is this a distortion of the Gospel, but this rabid politicism serves only to cause unnecessary division in the body of Christ, which does not bring glory to God.

We need to stop and remind ourselves that His Kingdom is not of this World. Yes, one day, Christ will reign on earth, but that time is not now, and HE will establish His kingdom and reign – not flawed, fleshly human beings. We live in a fallen world, with fallen people and a fallen, flawed political system. We need to start caring, praying and sharing and stop relying on politicians, and a fallen political system, to Evangelize.

Christ should reign in our HEARTS, and instead of focusing on imposing God’s moral Laws (or rather certain one’s of our choosing) on non-believers, which amounts to just so much empty legislative legalism, we should be seeking to further God’s kingdom by reaching out, by fostering relationships, by sharing His Word, with gentleness and respect, by sharing His Truth in Love, by not setting up certain sins (ahem) as somehow greater than our own, thereby diminishing the power and grace offered in the Gospel.

God changes hearts, and THAT, is how he changes societies – not through man’s laws, and certainly not by being manipulated by a fallen earthly political system that is anything but godly, on any side of the political fence.

God is not a Democrat. God is not a Republican. God is not political and His Kingdom is NOT of this world.

If we are truly serious about the state of our country, the souls of men, then we need to pray that God changes the hearts of the men and women in our countries. We need to, as Christ did, reach out to those who are in need of Him, and more importantly mirror His Word and His Truth to them. Not with epithets. Not with hateful rhetoric. Not setting their sins up as worse than our own. Not with judgment, but with a message of love, grace, forgiveness and redemption. If we want to see society change, we need to reach out to the hearts of men, because that’s where God works to change men. Simply passing laws to enforce Biblical ideals only puts a Band-Aid on a gangrenous wound.

I don’t always agree with what Andrew Sullivan says, but I think he hit the nail squarely on the head in his piece entitled “Why I Disagree with Christianism” when he said,

What to do about it? The worst response, I think, would be to construct something called the religious left. Many of us who are Christians and not supportive of the religious right are not on the left either. In fact, we are opposed to any politicization of the Gospels by any party, Democratic or Republican, by partisan black churches or partisan white ones. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus insisted. What part of that do we not understand?

So let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.

That’s what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn’t. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It’s time the quiet majority of believers took it back.

I think it’s time that the temple be cleansed, both in our hearts and in our churches, and that we get back to the heart of what Christianity, Evangelism and the Gospel are really about, furthering a kingdom NOT of this world.

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