I want a non-partisan nation, one in which antagonist parties and their platforms no longer exist. In place of partisan politics, I would like to see unity, peace, constructive conflict, and humble alignment, the kind that many successful corporations and organizations model.
I’m not advocating anarchy. No, I believe in government. It is, according to the Bible, an institution established by God for the general good of humanity in a fallen world.
My longing for a non-partisan nation isn’t a desire for no government, but for a certain kind. I envision it as one that displays (though dimly) the final and eternal Kingdom yet to come (which is also, paradoxically, already here). The nation I think we can be is one that reflects the Kingdom of God. But for that to happen, those in the Kingdom should do a better job modeling what good government looks like.
Caveats: 1) No nation in the world today (e.g., U.S.A) should be equated with the Kingdom of God. 2) There should be a clear “separation of church and state,” in order to protect both from abuse. 3) The purpose and purview of government is temporal, while that of God’s Kingdom is eternal. 4) Just as no nation should be equated with God’s Kingdom or its values, so should no political party. 5) I believe the (universal) Church, or all those who belong to Christ, is the expression of God’s Kingdom in the world.
How should then should the Church, which is the expression of God’s Kingdom, model good government?” Here is how I begin to answer:
1. Agree to Face All of the Issues. There are many issues Christians have a responsibility to deal with in the world, issues which no single political party fully and fairly faces. Christians have often wrongly claimed one party is the “Christian” party. This too closely aligns God’s eternal Kingdom with temporal politics. Often, Christians with convictions outside the so-called “Christian party” are ostracized. Thus, the problem church members must overcome is equating themselves with a particular political party in a way that limits, ostracizes, and even demonizes other church members who long to see righteousness done in the world in a way that goes beyond that party’s platform. The church must come together and agree that God’s sense of justice is bigger than that of Republicans, Democrats, or any other party. (After that comes the equally hard task of prioritizing, which I don’t have time to address, but see my book recommendation below.)
2. Repent of Hard-Heartedness and Blindness. Believers, especially those in positions of authority and power, need to confess that we have not lived up to our high and noble calling to love everyone in our lives and in society at large, especially the weak, marginalized, and vulnerable. We have demeaned, used, and even abused such people. Often we do not even realize we are doing it, because our hearts are hard and our eyes blind. For that we should repent. As we do so, we need not assume or expect a change of mind is all that is needed: sanctification is a task so great that only great humility, brokenness, and the power of the Spirit can do it. It is a difficult, long road for most of us. Yet, we can and should become cognizant of wherever each of us is on that road, and be realistic about how far we need to go to move forward. And, wherever we are currently, we should endeavor to be more vigilant and aware and to address the dangers and temptations before us.
3. Learn from Good Organizations (Even the Secular Ones). I’ve been reading Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (and I highly recommend it!). Over and over again I’ve thought, “If only churches would apply this kind of wisdom, what a powerful force of change more of them would be in the world!” If leadership teams in businesses and other organizations can get their act together, address conflict humbly, learn to communicate clearly with each other and their employees, and align on their mission and goals so that they succeed and accomplish outstanding feats, why can’t local churches do the same? Of course, the answer is they can and should. We can start by reading Lencioni.
I’m thankfully not original on these points and gladly join my voice with many others much better at saying and living them than myself.
This has already gotten too long, so here I abruptly end.
[I write these thoughts knowing I will likely provoke a strong, serious, and intelligent response from some of my friends, especially other writers at Philomythois–I’m thinking of you, Michael! So, bring it on please.]