At a recent Christian meeting, a pastor told me he was concerned that many young people in his church were becoming left wing. I asked him if he was equally concerned that some of his youth were becoming right wing. He said: “No.”
This raised an existential question for me about the politics of Jesus. Why do we Christians often polarise and retreat into differing political tribes?
But the politics of God takes us beyond Left and Right.
The prophet Malachi stated: “I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me, says the Lord Almighty.”
The Right always seem to pick up the adulterers and the sorcerers – the morality issues – and the Left pick up the justice issues. But the politics of God takes us beyond Left and Right.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said we must be the “salt” and light” that the world desperately needs.
The Right is like salt – small and necessary. Salt conserves and stabilises our values, just like conservatives at their best want to do. Those on the Left prefer Jesus’ imagery of light, exposing what’s in the darkness and fighting for instant change.
Billy Graham said in 1981: “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form.”
Salt and light are both qualities that Christians should possess.
Jesus said the kingdom of God is here now but not yet in its fullness. Some injustices will remain until He returns.
The Left is great on the “now” but its danger is that it challenges the great eschatology of the Christian faith. The view that the light has to happen right now — that it’s possible to create “heaven on earth” in this age — overreaches and lacks humility.
The Right is strong in the “not yet”. God’s in charge, so the urgency to act on issues of justice, like climate change, gun control and refugees tends to dissipate. That can wait until Jesus comes.
Billy Graham said in 1981: “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between religious fundamentalists and the political Right. The hard Right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”
At the recent US Presidential Prayer Breakfast, Donald Trump responded to another speaker’s remarks about loving our enemies with an attack on Mitt Romney, the only Republican to vote for his impeachment. He accused the Mormon politician of hiding behind his faith. Where was the outrage from evangelicals?
To me, it felt like the prayer breakfast was a celebration of the political “marriage” that Billy Graham feared.
Christian faith needs to avoid being captured by “left” or “right”. It must instead go deeper, seeking to preserve those things that need to be preserved while illuminating those things that need changing.