Monday, 29 September 2008

Jesus the Politician

Continuing our exploration of "God's Politics" by Jim Wallis, the first chapter is entitled "Take Back the Faith."

It's a short chapter, with a very simple message - the Christian faith is not a left- or right-wing faith, it's one that encompasses and challenges both sides of the argument. He starts with a simple statement - no-one can steal your faith from you. That's a personal matter between you and the Big Man upstairs. What has happened, rather, is that somehow one side of the political divide in America has listened "to the one that shouts the loudest" while the other has taken that as a sign they should not challenge there, but look for softer targets to hit on the other side.

Which means, regretfully, that they avoid the real issue - which is that as a Christian, we are not bound to what one person or another person says, but to look at what God says and match ourselves against that, with the security of knowing if we get it wrong and confess that, we can start again.

This quote sums up, for me, why things have gone wrong with religion in politics, both American and otherwise:-

I am always amazed by the debate over poverty, with one side citing the need for changes in social behaviour and the other for better social programs, as if the two are mutually exclusive. Obviously, both personal and social responsibility are necessary for overcoming poverty.

Let me put it another way. It's all very well telling people they need to work, but without the long term support and training, and the resource behind that, people won't be able to take the steps they need to get back to work. Equally, you can pour as much money as you want into social programs, but unless you convince others to help take that to the next step it's wasted money.

He then turns to "the Political Problem with Jesus", which can be very simply put - he doesn't do politics, he does people. Look in the Gospels at the way he treated the political power of his day - with respect, but without fear in pointing out where they were wrong. If he was around today, you wouldn't find him in the houses of power at Washington - you'd find him down at the soup kitchens and homeless shelters, meeting their needs.

In my previous post, a comment was made that the problem with Katrina was less government incompetence and more that people ignored the warnings and didn't get out. That was undoubtedly true for a lot of people there, but (and it's a big but) there were also people who were unable to get out without help with transport, and they were let down. Also, after the hurricane hit, the response by the government for the immediate needs just was not there.

So today, and I challenge myself to do this as well, think about how you can get past the politics and recognise the need.

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