Eleven different ways of experiencing Christianity—Part 9
There are many ways of seeing yourself as a Christian. You can add another way as your faith grows; you can have more than one at a time and move through them over time.
I am going to look at this through Advent this year. None of them is wrong when taken in context with the others; all of them are wrong on their own. The list is not exhaustive.
A way of organising people
There is a saying, never talk about religion or politics. Or never mix religion and politics. Shame nobody told Jesus that, the Gospel message is full of political statements about protecting the rights of the poor, the widowed, the orphans and foreigners in your land at least as high as those of the rich and the natives of the country. Some have concluded that Christianity if it was a political movement would be left-wing. Others make the opposite claim, that the calls on personal morals make Christianity a right-wing religion.
The US version of the Gospel Coalition website said that there was a strong correlation between conservative Christian and conservative politics and progressive Christians and progressive politics.
It defines conservative Christians as those who perceive the Bible as the inerrant Word of God and see Jesus as the only path to salvation, and progressive Christians as those who do not see the Word of God as inerrant and Jesus as one of several ways to God.
I do not think that is right. Standing up for the rights of minorities is in the Bible, and so is treating the foreigner the same as the native. By this, I am risking being told that I do not take the Bible seriously, but all I am doing is taking the social rules in the Bible as seriously as I take the rules about personal morality. Being against abortion on demand but calling asylum seekers illegal (there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker) is not moral. You can’t have one half of the Bible without the other, how we treat foreigners, the poor, and the powerless are as important to God as personal ethics. That one is favoured by the political right and the other by the left does not give us the right to separate them in the way the Bible does not.
There’s a false dichotomy here too. There are not just two groups of Christians, if you think that Christians who do not take the Bible as inerrant do not engage with the Bible or take it seriously you are very much mistaken.
It does not hold in the UK. It is not unusual in the UK to find people who are theologically conservative but politically liberal or even left-wing. The main difference seems to be in how they see Christianity’s role in politics. As I see it, the two main dangers are for Christians to take power and enforce Godly laws and see faith as a private matter. The first is a problem because it can lead to a dictatorship like it did in the Middle Ages, and the second is because it forces a separation between the inward, spiritual life of a Christian and our outward words and actions.
It’s all about Jesus
Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, that’s where the name comes from. Unfortunately centring on Jesus is not always the case in political Christianity—many who call themselves Evangelicals in the USA do not attend church and Evangelical has been used as a term for those with far right political leanings. A far cry from the definition of Evangelicals as people who believe in conversion, biblicism, the priority of the cross and activism. (I know others outside Evangelicalism also hold to one or more of these four points but there is a particular way in which they meld together that sets Evangelicals apart, though there are those who have felt they have had to leave Evangelicalism not because they do not believe the Bible should be behind their theology but that they do not agree with prominent Evangelical leaders on the interpretation on key issues, prominantly LGBT+ issues).
That is the issue: politics can take the focus away from Jesus. Jesus said some political things but he never lost focus of his mission, which was not to seize power or stay quiet on issues of faith but to give up on power and become nothing to win the fight against sin and death.