I read Joel’s review of The Politics of Witness by Allan Bevere (I have not read the book) in the light of his strident attacks on so-called “dominionism”. I was glad to see Joel’s agreement that Christian involvement in right-wing politics should be judged by the same standards as Christian involvement in left-wing politics. The post opened up for me the question about whether Christians should be involved in politics at all, of whatever colour. In the words of the alleged “dominionist” Peter Wagner:
The rules of the democratic game open the doors for Christians … to move into positions of leadership influential enough to shape the whole nation from top to bottom.
But is it evil “dominionism” for Christians to move into these positions of political influence? Here is the comment I made on Joel’s post, which he has yet to respond to despite having posted at least eight times since that post:
I guess there is an issue here which I still need to resolve with you. Does Bevere help us to resolve it?
Is it right and good for Christians to get involved in politics? If it is right, in what way? Is it wrong, for example, for a Christian to stand as President, because by doing so he or she is “bent on taking over the American Government in the name of God”? Or what about standing as Congressman or Senator? Or is it only wrong if he or she does so as the representative of some kind of Christian organisation? What, then, if the group is not explicitly Christian but its policies and nearly all its members are Christian? What if that group is the one of the two main parties, and the candidate has won that party’s support for more or less Christian policies?
Or if all Christian involvement in politics is wrong, what is the logic and what are the consequences of Christians, even if in the majority, handing over all the business of governing to non-Christians?
Do you have answers to these questions? Does Bevere? After all, they strike at the root of our rather fundamental disagreement about “dominionism”.
Joel doesn’t seem to have any answers, at least yet. Does anyone else reading this?
My own position is clear: it is right and proper for us Christians to be involved in politics at all levels, provided that we use honest and democratic means to do so. Indeed this is what I have done myself, at a low level. If any Christians do gain power, they will naturally want to use that power to promote policies generally in line with their faith, but they should not use it to oppress others or to enforce Christian practice or morality. I do not believe that any church as an institution should be involved in politics or endorse any candidate. I would consider Christian political parties legitimate, but at least currently here in the UK I would not choose to promote one.
The alternative to Christian involvement in politics would be, it seems to me, to hand over our nations as gifts to the powers of evil – either to liberal secularists or to fundamentalists of other religions. Is that what Joel and his fellow anti-dominionists want?
So it is interesting to see that Joel has also provided evidence which could suggest, at least to conspiracy theorists, that the Dominionismism conspiracy is an Islamic plot to undermine Christianity and present the USA to those powers of evil. He quotes from an article Exposing religious fundamentalism in the US published by Al Jazeera, best known as apologists for Osama Bin Laden and friends, which claims that
The US media has been downplaying a radical Christian theology that is increasingly influential in the Republican Party.
In fact what happened is that some in the US media, such as Lisa Miller of the Washington Post, realised that other media reports had been grossly overblown and inaccurate, and offered much more balanced analysis of the issues. But this new analysis did not suit the Islamist agenda, and so not surprisingly Al Jazeera weighed in with its own detailed but tendentious article. At least they did manage to lay to rest the lie that Peter Wagner is anti-democratic with this quote from him:
If a majority feels that heterosexual marriage is the best choice for a happy and prosperous society, those in the minority should agree to conform – not because they live in a theocracy, but because they live in a democracy. The most basic principle of democracy is that the majority, not the minority, rules and sets the ultimate norms for society.
Indeed, although the Al Jazeera article is right to balance this with a mention of minority rights which even a majority should not take away.
Now I accept that some Christians in politics have put forward extreme policies which I find highly distasteful. That is their right in a free and democratic society – although when it comes to recent horrors such as the call to let uninsured patients die I don’t see how such policies can be reconciled with any form of Christian faith. But the existence of such abuses on the right, and perhaps also on the left, is no argument for Christians to keep out of politics. Instead what is needed is for large numbers of sensible Christians with moderate policies to get involved, to defeat by democratic means both the extremist Christians and the secularists, and to acquire the influence needed to mend the world’s broken political systems and governments.