My Timely But Non-Traditional Political Post, Or Jesus Ain’t a Structure

Name me someone who actually enjoys this time of year when your mailbox is filled with fliers from every candidate about how abhorrently evil their opponent is.

See? Like Abraham, you can’t even find one.

This political season a group of pastors decided to risk their non-profit IRS status by openly endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. I admit that up until a few years ago I didn’t know this was illegal because the pastor of my childhood did it both subtly and sometimes very overtly. Though I’m far from a conservative Republican Baptist, I think I almost admire the pastors for wanting to talk about politics with their congregation.

I have a hard time buying that we should be told who is God’s pick or that the conservative/Republican agenda is the holy one, but I can appreciate they want to discuss political issues and are even willing to take a risk for it. (Though you could of course question if they are being wise stewards of the the tithe money by jeopardizing their non-profit status).

But, as always, there is another side to all this. Tomorrow as you head to your local church to vote (well at least when I lived on the East Coast that’s where the majority of polls were, funny enough) and swell up with hope that the system will finally correct all the problems of our world,  just remember that institutions don’t, and won’t, save us. There once was a structure in place where people’s sin were atoned for via sacrifices and temples and religious festivals, but it was replaced instead by a man.

The American Christian church has fallen in love with gigantic structures and programs designed to change the world. In order to manage the millions of people following Jesus as well as the millions of dollars they hand off in tithes, the church has turned to putting systems in place to achieve its goals with industrial like efficiency. I’ll even admit that it seemed like a good enough idea, as people are unpredictable, easily distracted and often not worthy of trust. However Jesus set up not an institution but a body who moves and brings about change via love.

Jesus enacted a church that operated by people making disciples of people, slowly, individually and personally… not curriculum and programs churning out disciples. And though this may not seem to have anything to do with politics, I think Jesus understood something about the human nature – that we respond to real, visceral people, not towering structures.

Don’t rely or trust institutions to do the dirty grunt work. And as much as Christians would love for it to the political system ultimately won’t resolve our problems, and Christians will still have lots of loving the poor to do. Sorry guys, we don’t get to avoid that one.

A lesson I’ve gleamed from my involvement in evangelical Christianity is that God’s movement is best left raw and organic and fueled by love, and that programs and institutions, hard as they try, don’t affect the heart. And this is because Jesus’ movement is passed on heart to heart, not head to head or through the rigidity of institutional structure.


Your turn: what good can the institutions, both political and religious, do? What do they fail to do? Do you agree the church has fallen for McDonald’s like efficiency through programs or structure?

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5 Responses to My Timely But Non-Traditional Political Post, Or Jesus Ain’t a Structure

  1. David says:

    What good can the institutions, both political and religious, do?
    God’s way would be for the church to be the only government we have. That is how it was in Israel, and the goal is still for Christians to rule and reign – and in the end, they will. Anything less than a theocracy is the result of sin and disobedience.

    So the answer, is that if the political and religious systems were one; with actual born again believers, that would be God’s highest ideal. I realize that doesn’t bode well for other religions – but hey, they don’t have a living God.

    Of course the godlessness of Communism, and the humanism of socialism are at the other end of the spectrum.

    What do they fail to do?
    Empty religion fails to revel the character, presence and heart of God. Dead religion is the same as politics, or other philosophies – it’s the best that man can do without God.

    Unless Christians hear from God and be obedient to His commands (spoken ones), it is just a religious failure.

    Do you agree the church has fallen for McDonald’s like efficiency through programs or structure?
    To some degree – but that would be like saying no one is following God. I am not so sure that is the case.

    You are pretty much beating the love and poor drums and not much else. In order for us to be effective Christians, ones that spread that good news, we need t be born again, filled with the Holy Spirit and put all our opinions aside for the sake of the gospel.

    We are an organism made of up of many parts. Jesus said that poor you will always have with you. He did not say that was the only focus. And not every one got saved through relationship. Peter could not have possibly known the (all) 3,000 on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Phillip did not know the Ethiopian (Acts 8).

    And when it comes to politics, the church should participate. The problem is they do it like the politicians. They chose names and parties which is wrong. What they need to do is make a biblical case for each issue.

    Where does the Bible stand on abortion? On the environment? On Capital punishment? On the poor etc – it is pretty much all in there. That way we can make informed decision. But Americans are too lazy. Did you know that 73% of Iraqis risked their lives to vote, and at best, we’ll get about a 30% turn out tomorrow if we are lucky!

    • I try not to come across as too “poor people heavy,” as it is the trend these days among some Christian circles, and I only mentioned it in passing in this post. In my post a little while back about the new least of these I tried to convey that the poor simply point out for us all the various people God (and therefore Christians) haven’t forgotten about.

      I agree the church shouldn’t approach politics like politicians, I love how you phrased that!

      And I have to admit I never thought about how God’s dream would be religion and government together, but I guess I’m just leery of power (the church, like all people, haven’t handled it well traditionally). Though when I think about it I don’t know how else God would want it.

  2. Pingback: Pawning Off The Dirty Work of Justice, Or The Machines of Ministry Won’t Save Us | Charlie's Church of Christ

  3. A. says:

    Per religious institutions: I think systems (Christian included) will always be broken and rickety to some degree as long as humans are involved. God seems to reach people all sorts of ways in even the most unlikely places. That is not to say we shouldn’t seek to purify our systems or even replace them with better options; but it is to say that nothing will be perfect. God wanted direct relationship and leadership with His people and people wanted kings. He let them, though the kingdoms turned out to be what He warned them they would be-imperfect forms of leadership.

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