Christians and politics: a prolegomena to further study

Christians and politics: a prolegomena to further study

The question of Christian involvement in politics has come to the fore once again, following the significant role played by the evangelical Christian portion of the American electorate in the re-election of George Bush, as well as his own Christian convictions. In the UK religious thought forms an undercurrent of dissent, not only amongst evangelical Christians who now look to America and its 'moral majority' for guidance on thought and tactics, but also ethically conservative members of other faiths – Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism – who feel concern for the moral state of the nation they reside in. Political leaders have at times put their ‘Christian’ convictions to the fore, most notably Tony Blair, but also Margaret Thatcher for the conservatives, and David Alton for the Liberals. We remain a nominally Christian nation, so that when John Major announced a call to go ‘Back to Basics’ it was understood specifically in a Christian context, or at least culturally Christian, and rejected on that basis, the more than nominal liberalism rising to the fore. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the role of moral authoritarianism was recognised for what it was, political expediency, and later exposed to be such by accounts of the extra-marital affair of John Major himself, as well as the corruption of members of his own government. The public does not forgive hypocrisy easily, and never smells a rat quicker than when it is decomposing in the rose bed of political opportunism. Today, the UK conservatives still get the twitches when the subject of single mums, and homosexuals – abortion is not an issue over here, there is a consensus left and right – comes up. Even New Labour have been unable to resist the allure of moral authoritarianism in their drive to build their vision of Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land, David Blunkett proving to be one of the most authoritarian Home Secretaries in recent time; while the Lib Dems substitute their photographic negative in which all is allowed except the old values, which must be swept away for their liberal future to become reality. Broad brushwork I know, but this is only an introduction.
And so, the question arises, not only of Christian involvement in politics – for there continues to be Christians involved in politics locally and nationally in the main parties – but also of the strategy, the goals, and the theology of such involvement. While pragmatism will play a part at some point, it should not be the guiding principle. Christianity has a theology of political life – or several theologies – and our involvement in political life. Although the NT does not specifically address the nature of political action for the Christian, yet the Church has never been at a loss to define such a view.
My purpose is to examine several approaches, and to determine, at least for myself, the appropriate method on the basis of an analysis of scripture, theology, history, current practice, current circumstances.

Four models of involvement.
1. Theonomic (Christendom). Transformation of the state into a Christian state, under Christian law. Establishing the kingdom against the world. All other parties must conform to said law. Moral authoritarianism.Calvin's Geneva, Cromwell's England, New England in the 17th - 18th centuries. Christ is the Culture.
2. Secular (Liberal). Immersion of Christianity within the culture, taking of modern forms of expression, seeking the kingdom in the world’s processes. Liberal Protestantism. Christ in the Culture.
3. Sectarian (Anabaptist). Retreat from engagement with the state/culture/world apart from vocal/prophetic criticism. Dualist point of view; the remnant vs the deceived. Cf Faithfulness and Fortitude p 141. Often eschatological in outlook, more specifically chiliastic; the world is doomed so why bother. Christ against the Culture
4. Incarnational (Salt and Light). In the world but not of it, participatory action, dialogic action, not only speaking to the world, but working with it. Creational ethics the basis, Kingdom values the driving force. Liberation Theology. Christ with the Culture.

This table will not please everyone, most likely those of an sectarian persuasion. Nor is it rigourous in its analysis. For instance, in the UK The Christian Institute appeals to the constituency of the sectarian mentality, in its own involvement, although not to the extent of anyone being directly involved in politics. Also my feelings on the current manifestation of Theonomy in Protestant circles, American Reconstructionism, are not very favourable. Since I am not a Liberal Protestant, that leaves what I have denoted as the Incarntional approach.
Any comments would be appreciated: have I got the four types right? What type do you favour?