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July 28, 2010


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Logan Runnalls

Have no fear Eric. I was not offended. I was simply concerned that you might be getting tired by your frustration and that in turn would make it difficult to graciously love your brothers and sisters.

I do not envy your position. No matter where it is, you are going to be confronted with the conflation of politics and salvation far more often than I am here in small town Saskatchewan. I hope and pray that in the midst of the political fervour around you, you will continue to see and hear our Prince of Peace.

Eric H Janzen

Logan, I agree that my last line was perhaps a bit overly passionate (that can happen sometimes :)). I think behind that statement lies my frustration with Christians who use their faith as a blunt weapon to promote a particular political power over another. It is difficult in the current political scene in both Canada and the US to see how any party is more deserving of Church support than another. I know that God calls some to enter the political arena, and I do not envy them that most difficult task. As I have said elsewhere the Church's role under any political power is to be the prophetic voice in society reminding the political powers that they hold power by God's permission and that they are responsible to him to govern society according to righteousness (ie caring for the poor and the oppressed, preaching the transformative power of the Gospel etc...). The Church is the voice of the Kingdom of Heaven in society regardless of what political power is in place. I think that Christians need to be asking more questions about what their role in society is to look like, what activities they are to be engaged in (ie social justice issues). I get frustrated watching the Church being split over campaigning for one candidate against another while not examining these issues. I apologize if my rather strong language was offensive to you...that certainly wasn't my intent and I admit I got a little carried away there.



here is an interesting thought from Woodrow T. Wilson...
“There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized peace.”


"Christian obsession with political power drives me crazy!"

Me too!
How it trickles down into my own small world and how I respond looks a little like this:
During political seasons, I avoid large prayer meetings :)
Too often the room and prayers are filled with hate and a lot of fear. Conversations tend to be about how/when the world will end, or who should or shouldn't be President, the Gay agenda etc…

I care about things, but this does not stop me from holding onto myself lest I let out a giggle during a very serious and sober talk...
The fact that people are interested in politics and end-times...'stuff' doesn't trouble me. What troubles me is the tremendous pressure to conform and commit to a way of thinking that gives little air-time to the voice of Jesus. It seems to be all about US- the Bride- who WE are and are NOT in this earth, and what is OURS.

In my heart I know it's all His and I am thankful to be here, breathing, knowing I am loved by an all-powerful being who comes to me as a friend.
The lustiness of power and politics is so unlike Him, I don't recognize the voice.

It doesn't feel, sound or taste anything like Jesus.

I can usually stay out of it, but... if the mantras of hate, division and fear begin to slither their way into dinner conversations with friends, then it's my turn to preach...(mwahaha!!) somewhere between the turnips and apple pie.

With friends, I don't need to 'win’, but I love them enough to communicate the only opposing voice they may have heard all year.

Anywho... I think Christian obsession with political power is nothing more than fear clothed in what ends up looking like narcissism.
Maybe if we weren't so afraid...

Logan Runnalls

Really good stuff here Mr. Janzen. I always respect the passion you demonstrate for the glory of Jesus Christ. I pray our heavenly Father will continue to bless you with peace, humility and joy.

I want to agree with most everything you say. I would even agree with you the words “Nowhere does Jesus call his Church to take political hold of any nation and enforce a Christian State” though you probably mean something beyond what I would. I understand you to be adding to the negative observation that Jesus therefore does not want us to receive or use political power. But this seems to be a misunderstanding of what the work of Jesus was and how He fulfilled it.

Jesus was not a philosopher king who came with an exhaustive set of a priori principles that could decode every choice and dilemma before us. Rather he came to show us the Light and the appropriate stance to take within the Light. He came to show us the way of humility. This humility is not held against power and politics, it is indeed the means to true power and the best form of relating to others.

Your last sentence was shocking and somewhat disturbing to me. Barely beneath the surface is the assumption that you have caught the real meaning of the Scripture and those who differ in their interpretation are beyond grace. This speaks to a conservative spirit that desires to arrest the gospel--that has captured a part of the gospel and confuses it for the whole for now and all time.

I guess I am more comfortable adding to the Scriptures than taking away from them. (Is that...is that too inflammatory?) I am more comfortable reading the gospel as a seed which must grow to be alive than as a gem that must be cut away at to find the perfect form. The desire to hold up the life of Jesus or perhaps just his sayings on the mountain as the only way the gospel takes form forgets that Jesus came to a accomplish a particular task not every task.

In deep fear and respect,
Your brother in Christ, Logan

Brian Zahnd

Here's 999 words on what I think about this:

Election season is upon us again…let the madness begin! And in the current climate of polarized partisanship where everything is now politicized there will be plenty of madness, anger, vitriol and a general lack of civility. Sadly, millions of confessed followers of Christ will be swept up in the madness as they give vent to their anger, fully convinced that God is on their side. Their justification is “we’ve got to take America back for God.” Presumably this is to be done by the dubious means of acrimonious politics. But I’m going to ask us to take a step back and think a little more biblically.

Does the church have a mandate to change the world through political means? Isn’t our first task to actually be God’s alternative society? I’m afraid we’ve made a grave mistake concerning our mission. We’re not so much tasked with “changing the world” as with being a faithful expression of the kingdom of God through following Jesus and living the Sermon on the Mount. But this mistake of confusing our mission of being faithful as God’s alternative society with trying to change the world through political means is nothing new—it’s the mistake the church has been making for seventeen centuries. Prior to the Roman emperor Constantine, the early church was content to simply be the church—to be a city set upon a hill living the alternative lifestyle that is the Jesus way. But after Constantine and the adoption of Christianity as the imperial religion the church embarked upon a project of running the world as a sidekick to Caesar. This project has not turned out well.

The problem with our “change the world” rhetoric is that it is too often a grasp for power and a quest for dominance which is antithetical to the way Jesus calls his disciples to live. Jesus specifically told us that we are not to emulate the way of Caesar in grasping for power and dominance, but we are to instead choose the counterintuitive way of humility, service and sacrificial love. (see Mark 10:35–45) We should never forget that Jesus ushered in his kingdom by refusing to oppose Caesar on Caesar’s terms. Thus Jesus submitted to the injustice of a state-sponsored execution by telling Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting.” The kingdom of God comes, not by the sword of political power, but by the cross of self-sacrificing love. We cannot fight for the kingdom of Christ in the same manner that the nations of the world fight; for the moment we do, we are no longer the kingdom of Christ but the kingdom of the world. A politicized mind can only imagine power as political domination, but a Spirit renewed mind imagines the more excellent way of love.

Admittedly we live in a world where much is wrong. But what is most wrong with the world is not our politics or Congress or who lives in the White House. What is most wrong with the world is the nature of the human heart. Greed, lust and pride in the human heart is the epicenter of all that is wrong with our society. As followers of Jesus we are not called to campaign for a political solution, but to demonstrate an authentic Christian alternative. This is how we are salt and light. We are to model what it means to be Christlike in a Caesar-like world.

But instead of imitating Christ with his cross, we want to imitate Caesar with his sword. This approach always leads the church away from being a witness to the gospel. That the primary public witness of the American church for the past thirty years has been a political witness is an absolute tragedy. The amount of hope some Christians place in politics is nothing short of astonishing! Jesus commissioned twelve apostles, not twelve politicians. Jesus didn’t call his disciples to campaign for a new Caesar, but to proclaim a new birth and demonstrate a new kingdom. Do we really think if we just get enough elephants or donkeys (or whatever mascot we cheer for) in Washington we will achieve righteousness? This is not the Jesus way. This is not the apostolic way. We’re not called to follow an elephant or a donkey, we’re called to follow a Lamb! (And that doesn’t mean we should form a Lamb political party!) This means we should first model the way of the Lamb and then make disciples of both elephants and donkeys in the way of the Lamb—the way of extending radical forgiveness and considering others in self-sacrificing love.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has correctly observed, “the church doesn’t have a social strategy, the church is a social strategy.” Instead of trying to force change upon the wider society through means of legislation, we are to exemplify the alternative of the kingdom of God by actually living it! We make a terrible mistake when we tell the wider society something like this: “We have the truth, so let us run society by setting the rules.” No! Instead we should simply be the alternative we seek to produce. We should be a righteous and just society.

Christians have a complicated relationship with the state because we are a people who carry dual citizenship. We are citizens of both the kingdom of Christ and the particular geopolitical nation we happen to live in. But our first allegiance is to the kingdom of Christ. So whereas we are free to participate in the civic and political process of our respective nations, we must do so as those who exhibit a primary allegiance to the Jesus way of relating to others—even enemies—with kindness, love and respect. As Christians our first obligation is not to seek to transform the state by using Caesar’s means of dominance, but to simply be a faithful church and thus a living example of God’s alternative society.

Eric H Janzen

The answer to the political power question must always begin with the core of the Gospel, the core of Jesus' teachings: Love God with everything you have and Love your neighbour as yourself. Can Christian disciples remain true to the authentic Gospel while pursuing political power? That is a vital question that any serious Believer needs to ask, because historically holding political power involves adhering to a value System that is far from the Gospel of Jesus. Why don't we hear more Christians asking that question and talking about the compromises made with the World in order to hold political power? Jesus called us to 'follow him'...and go and share the Gospel around the world in every place we find ourselves, to bring the message of the Kingdom of Heaven...that is the Great Commission...Nowhere does Jesus call his Church to take political hold of any nation and enforce a Christian State. Jesus always shows a concern for all humanity, that all would be ransomed and none perish...his vision was far beyond political power in an isolated geographic location on the globe. Why have Christians forgotten the call to bring the light of Christ into the darkest lives, to bring the love of God to the spiritually dead and to join with Jesus as he leads captives free and transforms lives by his grace and power? These are the questions that need asking. Political power is a joke compared to the power of the Kingdom of Heaven, which cares nothing for man-made borders. Jesus sees all humanity through the eyes of Love and a desire to see all people become citizens of his Kingdom. That is what Christians should be about...that is the call to disciples. If there are those that want to act beyond what Scripture instructs then they should have the decency to leave the designation 'Christian' out of their activities.

Logan Runnalls

This sentiment about the "christian obsession with power" is disturbing even as it is understandable. It feels like its own obsession on something other than Christ.

I wish I would here more about "the meek will inherit the earth" in response to the religious right.


Logan Runnalls

I would like to comment on this excert as if there was no context it was originally placed within.

The NT was written to a Church that was a minority—that did not have political power. Must we take exhortations that were written to “strangers and aliens” as to be exhaustive on the subject to the Christian’s relation to power? How do Christ’s disciples faithfully read these instructions when they are in the majority or do have political voice?

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