Seizing the Root
Is the church of Jesus Christ radical enough? I mean “radical” in the sense of seizing the Christian “root” (Latin radix) of things?
I think not.
If there has been a transformation taking place, it has been the work which the culture has had on transforming the church, not the other way around. The redemptive effect which the modern church – and here I am speaking of the modern “evangelical,” Bible-believing church – has had on the culture has been practically nil. The contemporary church is a diversion, a parody of what the true church can and should be. I say this despite the obvious “success” of the church growth industry and all of our program-laden congregations. If numbers were the sole criterion of transformation, we would be glowing successes; but numbers can be (and frequently are) no more than ephemeral, worldly units of measurement, passing away with the schema of this age.
Unlike our current batch of Bush pom-pom wavers, Jesus did not organize or assert any human cunning or power upon the social dynamic. He just started the church. Its symbol, the cross – the symbol par excellence of the Romans’ enormous political authority – was now, by the grandest of paradoxes, transformed into the symbol of His redemption.
The point is simple. Politics will not bring the kingdom of God closer. Politics should lead men to despair and, ultimately, to the cross. The Christian responsibility is always more than politics, and rarely less. But even in the midst of our engaging the culture for Christ our plea is always for men to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God – whether they be presidents or princes or ploughboys.
I cannot think of anything more vital for the American church than for it to return to its prophetic role in relation to culture. The kingdom will not come because Christians have joined the Constitution Party, as much as this writer thinks that is to be commended. The New Zion is not the United States of America. Believers must be “in” but not “of” the political order, “using the world as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). It may be too late to return to a constitutional form of government; it may also be too late to return to the old paths of biblical wisdom. But the church need not despair. One person at a time, one couple at a time; one family, then one church, then one community at a time, God can yet revive us.
It matters little who is in the White House if Jesus Christ is not the Lord in my house. Let Him be welcome there, at the root of our society, and I dare say He will be present in the society at large.
October 4, 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.