Confessions of a Limping Theologian
As I prepare to cast my absentee ballot in this year’s general election, I remain convinced that the task of the church in America today is to recover its faithfulness to Christ.
In this sense, Christianity is a radical thing – it is always seeking to relate everything in life to its biblical and apostolic roots. Although in the past three years the Lord has led me to respond to the present challenge by becoming more involved in the political scene, I do not believe that this has led me away from the central affirmations of Reformed theology, nor from what I regard as the essence of this tradition, namely the Lordship of Christ over every aspect of life and culture.
From the purely statistical point of view, one might say that the evangelical church in America is a politically correct church with some politically incorrect members, rather than the other way around, as commonly perceived. Moreover, the largest segment of evangelicalism – the so-called seeker-sensitive churches – are an intentional accommodation to the culture, a point that has been made by numerous commentators, including Chuck Baldwin, Dave Brownlow, Doug Phillips, Jim Rudd, Lewis Goldberg, and others.
I was and remain grateful for the detailed and helpful comments these men have made on the current crisis. I must not only admit the validity of their criticisms but also point out my gratitude for having shown them to me. We might have different long-term “approaches” to the underlying problem, but we would all agree that God requires more than passivity in the current struggle. He requires radical obedience (i.e., discipleship; see Matt. 28:19). What He requires is, indeed, more demanding than most of us seem ready to adopt.
I am just as susceptible to succumb to the mindless alternative of status quo Christianity as the next man. Apathy is a cumulative process, not just an isolated deed or event. But if I have tried to assert one point over and over again, it is that the church cannot expect of the state what it cannot realize in its own life. We do well to remember, especially in light of some recent statements made by President Bush, John Galdwin’s warning (“Politics, Providence and the Kingdom,” Churchman, vol. 91 [January, 1977] p. 48):
[T]he Kingdom theme can be a dangerous place from which to begin in thinking through a Christian view on the exercise of power in the present age. It has a tendency towards political idealism and utopianism.
I must keep reminding myself that the United States is not the kingdom; indeed, neither is the church. It is tragic that Christianity among American evangelicals is often misused to escape the realities of this situation. Our religiosity hides our inadequacies, justifies our social irresponsibility, and gives our apathy and indifference a sanctimonious aura. It is rarely even acknowledged. And now, to cap it all off, evangelicals have gladly identified themselves with the New Right. Such disturbing realties are often pushed down into the unconscious. As a result, it seems that few American evangelicals realize just how widespread our nation’s intransigency is.
It is against this dark background that I cast my vote in my ninth presidential election. I am convinced that the church has to be liberated from its ideological and self-interest if America is to recover from her slide down the slippery slope we find ourselves on. Surely we live in a day when the world is on fire. If we truly give our lives into the Lord’s hands, perhaps He would be pleased to use us in the battle that rages throughout the world today and in our country. May the Lord lead us to take that place and make us such men and women for His sake.
October 6, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.