It never fails. Every time I write anything about taxes I get long, rambling e-mails from tax trolls who scour the Internet looking for articles about taxes so they can contact the writers and impress them with their knowledge of…
If you missed Jeff Wright’s recent guest post, go read it now. Jeff has written a must-read essay on the spiritual effects of political engagement. He engages the danger in thoughtlessly using the word “we” in political conversations and identifies the often damaging “us versus them” mentality in the world of politics. He naturally connects what it means to be Christian and libertarian.
I want to follow-up his essay with a few of my own thoughts regarding spiritual formation. In recent years I have been influenced by Christian contemplatives who have connected with God on a formative level through the spiritual disciplines (e.g. prayer, fasting, meditation). One of the recurring themes within contemplative Christianity is what Richard Rohr calls growing into non-dual thinking. That is, treating life’s complexities in more than binary ways. Asking the question, “Is this good or bad?” is only helpful in the early stages of spiritual formation. The question itself is trapped in legalism. Non-dual thinking means evaluating a solution to a problem by considering how our psyche, our soul, our hearts are affected by such a solution. One way to put it is, “What is this doing to me/us?” To be sure, the good/bad question is not useless, but it is ill-equipped to respond lastingly to deeply rooted problems. Deeper reflection is required for lifelong spiritual formation, both for individuals and for societies.
This guest post is by Jeff Wright.
Political engagement shapes us. It forms us. Politics affect, not just our thoughts, but the inclinations of our heart. Political engagement is a type of spiritual formation.
I mean “politics” in the common sense as when someone says, “I hate politics.” “I enjoy watching my political shows on Sunday mornings.” “My grandfather and I always talk politics when we get together.” Politics, generally speaking, is that which deals with government, public policy, and things that affect the community as a whole.
Since most of us are not elected officials, politics is a spectator sport. It’s something we hear about in the news, listen to talk-show hosts discuss, or pay attention to when it’s time to vote for a president every four years. Political engagement is typically a passive affair. We pay attention to the more important issues of the day, form some sort of opinion on the matter, and hope that our side prevails.
Last Friday evening, the Christians for Liberty Austin Chapter met to watch Wait Till It’s Free, a documentary produced by Colin Gunn of Indoctrination and Captivated. Running with the catch-phrase from P.J. O’Rourke, “If you think health care is unaffordable now, wait till it’s free,” Colin exceptionally presents the terrifying landscape of government-regulated health care. Of course, the focus is upon the United States, but Canada and the United Kingdom are mentioned as well. Well-known experts are interviewed, as well as lesser-known doctors and organizations including multiple Christian-run clinics and non-profits.
Hopefully without ruining the film for you, here is a list of some of the critical points that might catch your interest…
Christians throughout the centuries have always communicated the good news of the Kingdom of God in the vernacular of their surrounding culture. They have engaged those around them by making use of their culture’s shared experiences so that the gospel is heard in a way they will understand. To be effective means to infiltrate and influence society so that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Those who communicate the gospel effectively are agents of change in the world. One of the challenges for Christians is to avoid letting a culture’s influence dilute the message of the Kingdom of God so as to become ineffective or irrelevant.
The constantly evolving nature of cultures and the inescapable reality of a global pluralist society have become major challenges to the Church in the West, and to Protestantism in particular. The past century has witnessed an unprecedented rate in the change of cultural motifs and the increasing accessibility to these diverse cultures from the foreigner. In centuries past only the wealthy could explore the far regions of the world. Today even the poor can spend a few hours on the Internet to glimpse a foreign cultural experience.
To meet the challenges of a changing global community, a new generation of Christians are diverging from the standard political, social, and theological views they inherited. Although this movement involves the global Christian Church, my experience has been largely within the evangelical community, a relatively recent phenomenon within Christianity’s twenty-century lifespan. Cultural shifts are always a mixed bag, but it is prudent to notice the promise such shifts provide as well as the challenges.