Monday, July 19, 2010

Why My Vote Is Still Up For Grabs: I/V

"We argue that the political task of the church is to be the church rather than to transform the world. One reason why it is not enough to say that our that our first task is to make the world better is that we Christians have no other means of accurately understanding the world and rightly interpreting the world except by way of the church . Big words like 'peace' and 'justice', slogans the church adopts under the presumption that, even if people do not know what 'Jesus Christ is Lord' means, they will know what peace and justice means, are words awaiting content. The church really does not know what these words mean apart from from the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, Pilate permitted the killing of Jesus in order to secure peace and justice (Roman style) in Judea. It is Jesus' story that gives content to our faith, judges any institutional embodiment of our faith, and teaches us to be suspicious of any political slogan that does not need God to make itself credible." - Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens, p. 38.

UPDATE: Ok, despite Hauerwas and Willimon overstating their critique of empire, as Byron as pointed out in the comments, I still find this quote helpful. I find it helpful as it reminds me that the church's hope for change should not and and need not be dependent on who is in goverment.

The risk is, as Chris alluded to, that the church will simply withdraw from the world altogether. But what I hope will become clearer in further posts is that isn't the case. A person who is being transformed by Christ will be a person who longs and prays for the world too to be transformed. And a person who is being transformed by Christ will be a person who know's where that transformation comes from: not Labor, Liberal or The Greens; but the Lord Jesus Christ.

8 comments:

byron smith said...

Hauerwas overstates his case. Jesus reveals what peace and justice mean, but he doesn't appear on a blank canvas to inscribe these meanings. They are already understood. He judges these half-semi-mis-understandings. Caesar, for all his bombast and violence, still knew that peace and justice were better than war and injustice. Evil is parasitic on the good (revealed in Jesus), which means that evil can never be pure. It is always compromised by goodness. No matter how hard he tries, Caesar can never be evil enough. Or rather, Caesar's evil is very often inadvertent rather than willful, the result of mistaken judgements about how to pursue peace and justice as much as mistaken understandings of what peace and justice mean.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Do you mean he overstates his case in his absolute rejection of Christendom?

byron smith said...

That is also true, but I meant that he overstates his case about the christological basis of our knowledge of justice and peace. Our understanding is indeed christological, but this doesn't rule out the possibility of common grace and or invalidate the limited secular pursuit of justice and peace by Caesar. So perhaps it is actually his critique of Empire that is overstated. He is not sufficiently Augustinian in allowing the semi-coherence of the "natural" virtues.

byron smith said...

Sorry, both my responses are probably a little elliptical. My apologies. I'd write a longer explanation, but don't have time right now.

Chris Swann said...

To add to what Byron's saying, I'm also wondering if Hauerwas and Willimon are on the money when they declare that 'the political task of the church is to be the church rather than to transform the world'.

While I'm full of sympathhy for this on one level, without further nuance it does sound a little like a recipe for 'opting out' of politics/the world.

But surely the call to mission tilts against this. Mission is a world-transforming activity as well as being the thing that creates the church. As such, doesn't it call us to 'opt in' in some significant way?

Matthew Moffitt said...

Does my update clarify things?

byron smith said...

Yes, thanks.

Chris Swann said...

Yes and Amen!