Can a True Christian Take Part in Politics? (3-8-15)

On March 8 Wesley's Rick Elgendy was back in Adult Ed to continue the the "principalities and powers" discussion from the previous Sunday. This time, he focused on ways of managing political participation. "The Christian vocation is not to conquer," he reminded Dumbartonians. "The opposite reaction is to refuse to engage in politics."

In his talk, "Christian Political Participation," Elgendy says that what we choose to say and do politically flows from how we see ourselves. To illustrate this concept, he outlined four historical viewpoints:

1. Remedial--In this approach attributed to St. Augustine, we  can't talk about government without talking about ourselves as "fallen" creatures. We lust for domination. We have an aggressive impulse to refashion the world in our image. God gives us authority to use coercion to preserve human life. Without coercion, we'd be at each other's throats. We have nothing to fear if we're doing good;
 
2. Natural Law--According to Thomas Aquinas and others, natural law is written on our hearts. We are called to be the creatures we already are. Law exists as rational expression--it is not imposed arbirtarily. Authority exists to teach us about ourselves. You don't have to be Christian to understand it.  Even in a perfect world, we need to know on which side of the road to drive;  
 
3.Public Witness--This concept has been associated with the Anabaptists. It calls the term "Christendom" into question. The  Church is not the conscience of the State. It's a voluntary organization. The Church is called to be different. It does not seize the levers of power; 
 
4. Liturgical Participation: This strategy calls for personal discipline and commitment to the common good. We are called to engage with our world as part of our spiritual practice. We "participate," not "conform," and we act in ways that express our vulnerability and acknowledge others' claim on us.  The word "liturgy" comes from "work of the people."For Elgendy, liturgical participation  is a theology of public life. "It exists to promote the well-being of the world and to form us in faith, hope, and love", " he said.  What shape does liturgical participation take? "Repentance."

--By Ginny Finch