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May5ThuHow should Christians respond to partisan politics? When is it appropriate to engage with political issues? May 5, 2011 by Captain Mark Braye
Plato, the Ancient Greek philosopher, is credited with saying: “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” These words are blunt; harsh even. They do, however, describe the frustration of many people, including myself, feel about earthly politics.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
We've watched the election campaigns from our Canadian political parties unfold and May 2 has come and gone. With everything said and done, and with the ballots counted, we in Canada have a Conservative majority governing from Ottawa.
I never followed the Canadian political scene until last summer. I was hooked by the controversy surrounding the G8/G20 summits held in Ontario. I started to watch more political news television programs and to read more newspaper stories regarding politics and the issues.
I became fully engaged; too engaged, actually. I immersed myself in earthly politics in general and Canadian politics in particular.
Now, The Salvation Army and its officers (clergy) are apolitical; which is defined as “not interested or involved in politics” (Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English). This definition is helpful when read one way and harmful the other. We should be absolutely apolitical when it comes to partisan politics. We should be very political when it comes to the issues and seeking justice for our communities and neighbours.
I'm reminded of the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Gandhi; men of varying traditions who engaged the political scenes of their contexts for the cause of justice for others. If they were truly apolitical, their stories and the lives of others would have been very different. They were apolitical when it came to partisan politics. They were very political when it came to the issues.
As Christians, we need to be the same. We need to engage in the issues and work and serve for the benefit of others.
The Apostle James wrote: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV).
I was lucky enough to have family and friends who reminded me not to worry about earthly politics too much and focus more on Kingdom values. This is wonderful advice for all of us.
American recording artist Derek Webb sums up the reality for us Christians in the chorus of his song A King & A Kingdom:
My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man.
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood.
It's to a King and a Kingdom.
We need to look after people in their distress and speak up for those who have no voice. We need to make sure we are not corrupted by the world or partisan politics. We need to focus less on earthly politics and focus more on Kingdom values.
Captain Mark Braye and his wife, Nancy, are the officers/pastors of The Salvation Army Tri-Town Community Church in Temiskaming Shores, Ont. They have two children, Hannah and Micah. The four of them love to play and watch Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and The Wiggles.