Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Now for Citizens of our Lord’s Kingdom?

As a Christian and a Hoosier, I take seriously my responsibilities as a citizen and resident of the State of Indiana. For years I have been a default conservative Republican. However, in recent years, I have come to question many of the traditional positions of the party. At the risk of oversimplifications, here is my take on the recent elections:

• Conservative Values. As an Evangelical believer, I submit to the authority of the Scriptures and historic Christian teachings. For me, they inform my position regarding homosexual behaviors and abortion. However, I cannot sympathize with many other so-called conservative positions for one simple reason. North America is not The Kingdom of God; it never has been nor is it today. While I love my country, there are many reasons that Christian should not favor a return to the past nor assume that the world will just get better on its own.

• Critical Issues. I believe that several critical issues were at stake in the recent elections, including the economy and jobs, health care, care of the environment, the inclusion of minorities, and the need for comprehensive immigration reform. (My sense is that the debates regarding homosexuality and abortion are not on the front burner, thus less was at stake in the recent round of elections.) As a citizen of God’s Kingdom, I struggle with the conservative positions on each of the critical issues.

• Equal Opportunity versus White Privilege. My view on many political issues is influenced by a growing awareness of White Privilege. Simply stated, current social realities reflect the scars of our country’s sad history of social and racial preferences. As a result, social inequalities still exist in many subtle ways through the structures handed down to us from our nation's history. On one hand, conservative ideologues imagine that today our country offers a “level playing field.” This “equal opportunity” view presupposes that anyone can rise above their circumstances and succeed. On the other hand, White Privilege reminds us that this is not necessarily true for many people that are still trapped in today’s social structures.

• Regional Differences. It is not a coincidence that Republican conservatives tend to be concentrated in the suburbs, small towns and suburban areas (of course, there are exceptions), while more moderate Republicans, Independents and Democrats are found in our Nation’s cities and along the coasts. Our cities and the coasts have much higher percentages of minorities and immigrants. It makes sense that those in more privileged regions would tend to favor the status quo and less governmental involvement, while the less privileged are hoping for more radical changes.

• Help from our Government or the Church. Some say that Christians should not expect our government to solve our nation’s social problems. This is only partially true. On one hand, God works through governments to accomplish His will on earth. For that reason, Christians ought to participate in the political process. On the other hand, God calls upon the Church to help bring His Kingdom to pass on earth as it is in heaven. So where the government falls short, Christians ought to step in the gap. Unfortunately, churches in America often have fallen far short, allowing the world to squeeze them into its mold.

My prayer and hope is that Christians will step into the gap, especially in light of the recent elections.

• Health care. I for one am willing to pay more so that others can have adequate health care. Even Christians who oppose an expansion of our government’s health care programs are urged to step into the gap for minorities in our cities, seniors in the donut hole, and those with preexisting conditions.

• The economy. All Christians are called to step in the gap for the unemployed among us, especially until our nation’s economy recovers. We ought to make sure that no one goes without food, housing, health care, and the basic needs of life.

• Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Christians ought to support comprehensive immigration reform. I'm convinced this is one of our country's most pressing moral issues. Millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ are marginalized because of our nation’s broken immigration system. (For more on this topic, see the sidebar to the right for the link to my blog entitled "Evangelicals and Illegal Immigrants.")

• Care of the Environment. God has entrusted us as stewards of His creation. This responsibility ought to inform our position on related issues, such as the current debates regarding cap and trade. On a personal level, our responsibility as Christians calls us to change our consumerism lifestyle.

So those are my current views, admittedly oversimplified at many points for the sake of brevity. As a result, there is lots of room for debate and modifications.

To summarize, it comes down to three simple questions:

One, do you agree that Christians are first and foremost citizens of God's Kingdom and thus our priorities will often be in tension with the priorities of this world?

Two, do you agree that “White Privilege” still exists and should inform our positions on many social issues?

Three, do you believe that Christians and churches will step in the gap for millions of our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and in need of a helping hand?

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