This is how I have come to think about politics in the way that I do. There are several different ways to talk about it, and there’s always more to say, but this is the heart of it.
The political teacher I regard above all others is Jesus. I don’t mean this in a flippant or simplistic sense. He is a political figure in that he is the Lord of the cosmos, the King who reigns over his kingdom and the Lord of the church. These are political titles.
The kingdom of God—the church—over which he rules is the political entity created to enact Jesus’ political teachings. There’s really only one topic when it comes to talking about Jesus, and that’s politics.
And his political vision is based on the socio-political and economic vision laid out in the Scriptures of Israel. It involved a total way of life under the kingship of the one true creator God.
Now, there’s a reason I give attention to Jesus and his political vision most supremely. He is the one we will face when he comes in judgment as the Son of Man. And he is the one whose verdict will assign us either to salvation or damnation.
He has my attention.
And he has been clear about the political criteria by which he will make his judgments. One version of this is in Matthew 25:31-46.
- Did you feed the hungry?
- Did you give something to drink to the thirsty?
- Did you invite in the foreigner?
- Did you clothe the naked?
- Did you look after the sick?
- Did you visit the incarcerated?
Now, I was a political science major and so we read Aristotle and Plato, Hayek and Friedman, Smith and Keynes.
I was taught a vision of politics and economics that led to a way of regarding Jesus’ words. When we talked about serving the poor and the needy, we said that it was important that they develop “personal responsibility.” We said that “they’re just looking for a handout.” We said that they were lazy and did not want to work and we had Bible verses to back this up. When we spoke of sharing our stuff, we warned about the dangers of “socialism.” We had all read The Road to Serfdom.
These ways of talking were all compelling to me.
But since I graduated from college I have studied the Bible and the main object of my study is the Apostle Paul. I have learned that the most important day for Paul is the day of Christ—the day when Christ Jesus will judge the living and the dead.
Paul’s theo-political vision starts there and moves backwards. It shaped how he lived his life and the pattern of social behavior that he taught his churches. And this way of thinking has shaped how I have come to think about everything.
And so I have wondered: when I am asked by the Son of Man why I did not serve the poor, why I did not clothe the naked, why I did not welcome foreigners, why I did not visit the incarcerated, will he be compelled by my talk about the dangers of “socialism?” Will he understand that it was important that the poor develop “personal responsibility?” Will he be convinced that the needy were just “looking for a handout?” What will he think of my arguments derived from The Road to Serfdom?
I participate in discussions of politics and economics and have come to see that many Christians have starting points for thinking about such things that involve a certain conception of capital, power, national interests, borders and the importance of a strong military.
So few Christians have as their starting point the day when all these things will be utterly irrelevant.
I have tried to think about politics, economics and social behaviors in such a way that I will be well prepared to face the Son of Man. I am haunted by the reality that I dwell among a people whose way of life will not fare well at this future event.
I understand capital, power, national interests, borders and the military. But the way that I think about these realities is determined by my attention to the political teachings of the only person who one day will matter.