In Christ: Neither Democrat Nor Republican

Since the original sin, division has been the plight of fallen humanity. For many cultures, race and ethnicity has been a boundary separating people. Fortunately, in America, the walls of racial and ethnic division are coming down. This isn’t to say they don’t exist at all any more but to say that racial and ethnic discrimination is regarded as morally wrong and something society must overcome. But… Even as the walls of racial and ethnic divisions are toppling, are Americans erecting new walls based on their political ideologies?

Unless You’re A…

Let’s look closer at who Americans are choosing to associate with and where they’re choosing to live. In his book The Big Sort, author Bill Bishop says,

As Americans have moved over the past three decades, they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs, and in the end, politics. Little, if any, of this political migration was by design, a conscious effort by people to live among like-voting neighbors (p. 5).

He goes on to say that, “In 1976, less than a quarter of Americans lived in places where the presidential election was a landslide. By 2004, nearly half of all voters lived in landslide counties” (p. 6). This doesn’t mean that politics is the only factor Americans are basing their decision on where to live but it does suggest that politics has become an important factor, perhaps a very important factor.

Two days ago I read an editorial piece titled Is America Dangerously Divided? discussing how Americans are separating based on political affiliations. In the article, which is based on this recent Pew Research survey, we are told that:

More than six-in-ten of consistent conservatives and about half of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. People on the right and the left also say it is important to them to live in a place where most people have similar political sentiments. And three-out-of-ten consistent conservatives say they would be unhappy if an immediate family member married a Democrat (compared with almost a quarter of across-the-board liberals who voice the same concern about the prospect of a Republican in-law).

Apparently then in a culture where tolerance is a preached, Americans have their limits and they’re spelled D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T, R-E-P-U-B-L-I-C-A-N, etc… So it seams that if I’m an _________ and you’re a _________ then we apparently can’t be neighbors, friends, not even family members.

One In Christ!

This is a great opportunity for the church in America except that many Christians identify themselves also as Democrats, Republicans, or some other political party. So maybe Christians – we who profess faith in Jesus Christ – need to think afresh about the gospel our faith is to be aligned with.

An ancient daybreak prayer of the Jewish male was, “I thank you God that I was not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.” It was this kind of culturally acceptable thinking with its social distinctions that the gospel of Jesus Christ sought to obliterate and this aim is the issue that permeates much of the New Testament. Consequently, the gospel of Jesus Christ is as much social as it is theological. That is, just as the gospel is a theology statement about the God’s work in the world, so it’s a social statement about his intention for the world (Tweet that!). Thus, in Jesus Christ, God is not just reconciling all people to himself but is also reconciling all people to each other as well so that all people becoming one community belonging to God (cf. Eph 2:14-16).

The Apostle Paul expresses one of the clearest statements of how the gospel of Jesus Christ upends the social-reality of the world saying in Galatians 3:27-28, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (NET). But given the increasing political division that is shaping American culture, might not the gospel also be there is neither Democrat, Republican nor any other political party, for Christians are one in Christ? 

Our Baptism Into Christ Professes…

This is neither to suggest that Christians are not entitled to side with a particular political view when they believe that such belief is right and for the good of society nor is it to suggest whether Christians should or should not vote. The concern is that in America many Christians, some more so than others, align themselves with one particular political party or another. This happens even as the gospel has often been absorbed into the various American political ideologies. So its seems that Christians would do much better to identify themselves from the point of their baptism rather than some political reality that belongs to the old dying world (or anything else belonging to this dying world).

So much needs to be said about what it means for Christians living into the reality that they are neither Democrat nor Republican but baptized into Christ. Yet for our purposes here, I’ll mention three quick implications. First, Christians don’t have any business in dividing from people because they are Democrat, Republican, or of some other political (socialist, libertarian, etc…). This includes deciding where we might live, whom we socialize with, and whom we marry (it’s a shame that any marriage could be affected by politics!). Second, Christians must also remember that the kingdom of God, to which we belong, and it’s values are neither red or blue, right or left, but wholly other. Our allegiance is to Jesus Christ whom we confess as Lord, as our baptism into Christ professes, and therefore our discernment and practice of what is right must emanate from this allegiance rather than from any affinity we have to a political party. Lastly, while this post has focused on the growing political divisions in America, Christians must remember that ethnic, gender, and social divisions are unacceptable. After all, the gospel is the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, that creates a community of people fueled by the Holy Spirit who loves all people just as God does. It’s this good news that Christians must be witness of!

Maybe one day Americans will slowly begin to see why the gospel of Jesus Christ really is the good news!

7 responses to “In Christ: Neither Democrat Nor Republican

  1. I heard a priest put it this way, virtues don’t have polar opposites. Fascism, liberalism, conservatism, etc aren’t virtues. Thus, religion should be above politics.

  2. Rex – I’m not sure I agree with author Bill Bishop’s premise, or the premise of a couple of the other guys you link with. Or, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much to me. I’m not impressed with the stats the editorial writer offers to bolster his argument, for sure (that you present above). I don’t think they do.

    I can’t sum up quickly all that I’m thinking right now about it, so started not to even comment. This would be a good issue to discuss sometime. Maybe within a small study group or such. As for what I’m thinking at the moment, I sure don’t know of any people we know who have even suggested they were moving because of the politics of their would be neighbors and such. That seems pretty far fetched to me. And, especially, in this economy, where so many people are looking for jobs.

    Also, in our own immediate families on both sides, we have a range of political persuasions (if you will), that mostly we all just don’t really discuss when gathered together. In fact, I think that by & large the reason we don’t is because it is much more important to us to be Christians and live in peace and understanding, etc, than what each individual family’s politics are.

    I have not deeply studied on these things, but what you present here today doesn’t persuade me that this is such a problem within churches, for sure, or even among most Americans. Maybe I’m in the minority, too, in that I don’t consider myself either Republican OR Democrat! Every “test” I’ve taken on political views have shown me to be what is called a “conservative libertarian,” not with a capitol “L,” as in the Libertarian Party, but as one who holds libertarian views. (Which is what Patrick [Mead] calls himself.)

    I think churches are more divided by age groups than probably anything else, which encompasses several differences within that division, such as gender treatment, etc.

    In fact, I’m seeing a number of churches around the nation calling out for unity among different denominations, which often includes differences in political views, i.e. racially and gender wise, as well.

    I’m just throwing these thoughts out here this morning off the top of my head – I would need to study up on some of this, but am not convinced so far these guys have the stats, figures and facts to support their premises.

    In Christ, Dee

    • Dee,

      Thank you for your reply. I don’t know how much of a problem this is in the Churches of Christ per se but I do know that in the broader stream of Christianity, there are some churches that have become so aligned with one political party or another that anyone who doesn’t share those views feels shunned. I also had a person once ask me how I could live in Maryland as a Christian because it is such a politically liberal state and then recently when we were considering the possibility of moving to Mississippi and shared that with someone in Starbucks, their response was “too conservative for me!” Of course, that says nothing about whether or not most Americans think the same. I think the links I provided should be read more of in the sense that this is probably becoming an issue rather than saying that it is a full-blown issue.

      Any ways, thanks again for your comment. My post is certainly not the final word.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  3. Pingback: Links To Go (June 18, 2014) | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

  4. Pingback: links: this went thru my mind | preachersmith

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