Partisanship, not politics, is the real problem for the Church and Christians.
The Church expressing interest in what the State does, i.e. in politics, and offering perspective on moral values to guide political activities is essential. When this goes missing, States like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union show up.
Christians as individual can and should engage in politics. Think of the examples in Scripture like Joseph, Daniel, and Esther. They made a considerable impact in their day because the exercised their faith in the political arena. In contemporary parlance, they made a difference.
So, too, today. All countries need Christian engagement in their politics and those who suppress it are the worse for it. In free countries, Christians can engage in politics directly and openly. They can work as citizens to influence political policies or they can become politicians themselves.
So yes, politics matter. It’s just not the end-all-be-all of life and what matters most in life cannot be addressed via politics.
Partisanship is a particular kind of political engagement. It’s the “strong and sometimes blind adherence to a particular party, faction, cause, or person.” Partisanship in American terms generally means a preference for, commitment to, or even emotional allegiance to being a Democrat or Republican, or perhaps one of a few assorted Third Parties.
Partisanship is not in itself morally threatening, particularly if it is not “blind” but simply a preference for or commitment to an approach to government or a set of principles in a political party platform.
Where partisanship becomes a problem, for the Christian and for the Church, is when it supersedes the faith or worldview. In other words, the filter through which each question or development or circumstance is evaluated is not one’s Christian perspective but one’s party allegiances and perceived advantage. When this happens, party positions or politics become ascendant, thus beyond critique or criticism.
The danger should be obvious. If you are working with your partisan view and I am working with mine, we can debate but there is nothing outside our own party perspectives to which we can appeal for evaluation. We can only argue, never achieve consensus, and debate is then not about truth but power and advantage.
The American Church is today divided, of course theologically in a variety of historical denominational ways, but of equal importance and impact now is a division rooted in partisanship. There are Red churches and Blue churches. There are, if we switch to ideology, Left churches and Right churches. What’s minimized, maybe lost, is the struggle to develop a Christian worldview and apply it in this age to all issues and developments--including partisanship.
The Christian Church is encouraged to unity, but partisanship divides. It is today not just a tool but a threat.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
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