Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some Socio-Political Wisdom

I was pretty depressed when I got my last issue of Christian History & Biography (the link is to what the magazine has become now that they've moved to a totally electronic format). I've been getting this magazine since I graduated from college and a few years after the start of my subscription I ordered all of the back issues too—it was that good. It came out quarterly, which is a good pace for me. And, since I have some minor psychological issues that require that I read a magazine from cover to cover, the fact that I actually wanted to read CH&B from cover to cover made it the best magazine out there, as far as I was concerned. Farewell, my good friend.

Now it's gone and, for the remainder of my subscription period, the controlling company of CH&B, which is Christianity Today, decided to send me that magazine instead. Now, I'm not against Christianity Today in any way; they're widely read, widely respected and they put out some really good articles. I'm just sayin' that it's not going to fill the void left by the absence of CH&B. The reality that I will not renew the subscription when it runs out is the natural consequence to my lack of passion for it. Sorry guys.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not gonna read the issues that I've received since CH&B bit the dust. I can't just let them go to waste, can I? One of the major problems, however, is that CT comes out monthly, which means that I'm about 8 issues behind. (That explains why I'm commenting on something that's as many months old.) The upside, however, is that I'm getting some good insights into modern issues and events rather than commentary on events that are hundreds, if not thousands of years old. An prime example is a recent article by John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Professor of Theology & Culture at Regent College (and check out his blog here). While written to prepare readers for the November '08 elections, Stackhouse stays general enough to provide long-lasting principles to help us think straight politically and socially. I don't agree with everything he says in the article, and that's fine. We live in too diverse a society with too many choices and issues facing us to find complete agreement with someone, even with fellow believers. But what he says here is something that I think should help us all as we face both present and future social and political realities as committed followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

"Jesus once described the world as a field full of both grain and weeds (Matt. 13:37-43). So what should we expect in this weedy world?

We should expect sin. We should expect some politicians to accept graft, and some executives to sell out their companies and shareholders and customers for personal gain. We should expect drunk driving and drug pushing and cartels and sexual assault and stock manipulation and terrorism and a hundred other evils.

Beyond outright sin, we should expect waste. It should not shock us that governments and armies and corporations and schools waste money. It should not shock us that institutions waste people's time and waste people's talents and waste the earth's resources. Indeed, beyond sin and waste, we should expect stupidity and absurdity, vanity and promiscuity. And we should also expect a certain amount of confusion in which it is not always clear what is weed and what is grain ...

All of these negative expectations, however, arise not out of despair, which enervates and immobilizes, but out of both clear-eyed empirical analysis and our own theology, which illuminate and motivate. For our theology, which contains a robust doctrine of sin, includes also robust doctrines of both providence and redemption. God set up institutions to bless us, despite their corruption, and he continues to work through them. God also rules history and aids those who press for greater shalom in those institutions. God is not discouraged by the evil evident in ourselves and our world. He is sad about it, angry at it, and grieved by it, but not discouraged. He works away at it, knowing that his labor is certain to produce fruit. And he has called us to do the same as human beings and as Christians."

"A Variety of Evangelical Politics,"
Christianity Today, November 2008, p. 55.