“No reproach is more common, no argument better suited to the temper of these times, than those which are founded on the supposed inferiority or incapacity of the Church in political matters.”- John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton
Confluence happens where bodies of water meet and combine. Sometimes confluence happens at the mouth of a river where freshwater drains into a saltwater sea, and you get a melding of two disparate environments into one. Saltwater makes up more than 97% of all the water on planet Earth. It is the permanent state, whereas freshwater is the temporal state. Through evaporation and filtration, the water exists temporarily in a form that makes it compatible with life on land, but eventually, it returns to the sea. Such is the case with politics and religion. Religion is the permanent state. Like saltwater, it is the state of the eternal, which is the soul. In the Bible, saltiness is tantamount to righteousness. Politics, like freshwater, deals in contemporary affairs of the flesh. One must be careful to strike a personal balance so that each is tended to by priority.
My fascination for the last decade has been predominantly in politics over religion, so I seem to have missed some watershed church moments. I spent most of my childhood and early adulthood in the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest protestant denomination in the world. I have been somewhat transient in relocating for work every few years since. Having been absent from the Church in a full-time role, I was taken aback by the recent adoption of humanist and post-modern campaigns within the Church. In the year 2000, the SBC adopted some controversial positions by the world’s standards concerning their endorsement of traditional family and church roles. The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message created a schism in the Convention over the Church’s reassertion of long-held Biblical beliefs in these areas. Facing declining membership, by 2019, the SBC was adopting post-modern Critical Theory and fighting external debates on women in pastoral positions.
Having been absent from these debates, I have struggled to understand how the Church has capitulated to un-Biblical worldviews. Yet, I know how this happened. Sometime around the turn of the millennia, a new church emerged. The new church was the U2/Hillsong version focused first and foremost on creating a space where guests felt approved of as they are. Historically, the position of the Church was to come as you are and leave as God changed. The mistake that we made was rejecting Biblical truth and conforming doctrine to the same creature comforts enjoyed outside of the Church in the name of retention. In 2021, it was announced that Church membership dropped below fifty percent of the US population for the first time since World War II. Does this suggest that the Church is thirsty for truth, not temporary comfort?
Two principal complaints of mine on matters of politics and religion have been the ceding of moral ground on the part of the Christian Church until they eventually adopted the mores of the secular society and the abdication of the Church’s responsibility to “salt the Earth,” i.e., to impart flavor to the culture. This is not to say that Christians ought to be in the business of promoting political candidates, so much as Christians are responsible for imparting the spiritual to society. It is one thing for the Church to permit the sovereignty of the human soul and the individual decisions that may follow, but it is a whole other thing for the Church to adopt the ethos of the secular society. For instance, homosexual unions were once a matter of consenting adults free to choose a path in life. Now, much of the Church has adopted the world’s view so that the world’s position is not only permissible within the Church, but many churches have adopted the secular definition of marriage, a once sacred religious rite.
As water eventually returns to the sea, so my fascination with politics has led back to religion. The state of the world points to a desperate societal need for truth. We are struggling to know who we are, not just in the spiritual realm but also in objective reality. There is a delicate balance to be taken to ensure that politics don’t become your religion, but I struggle with the concept of compartmentalizing them so that they don’t exist in the same lifetime. This Christianity-in-a-vacuum seems to coincide with the rise of humanist philosophy and the resulting decline of the Church. Evangelical Protestants largely accept the inerrancy of scripture, which is to say that it is divinely inspired and relevant for today and that God created it for a time such as this. If this is true and we believe the Bible to be accurate, then we are left with no other options than to allow scripture to live outside of the binding and to impart salt to the culture. That includes our politics.
Photo source: https://unsplash.com/photos/fgm3VWev8UY
“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” — C.S. Lewis