The superb Inhabitatio Dei reminds us that although we woke up today with a new President of the USA, we still live in Empire. And Christians need to continue to strive to re-imagine a life that is counter cultural and redemptive and gracious in the context of a social structure that is profoundly flawed.
My boss and I talk a lot. I mean, you can’t shut us up once we get going but it’s even worse when we’re on our own. We discuss and debate and argue about just what it means to be a follower of Jesus and no matter what way we spin it and regardless of the different emphases each of us have, we keep getting drawn back to what I choose to call Catholicity. Go ask him what he calls it.
But what that means is that we are struggling, as passionate reformed evangelical Christians, with the fact that our Reformed, evangelical and even Presbyterian identities border on the idolatrous. Do I follow Apollos? Or Paul? Calvin? Or John Stott? If we are Christians then we are Christians and if we are Christians then we are in the same boat as everyone else- ever. Augustine and Oliver Cromwell, George W. Bush and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. All of us discovered we need not be alienated by God and all of us were reconciled to God… by God.
So it was with dismay that I read the renowned Jim Wallis on American Empire. Speaking of Bush’s conversion to Christianity (which involved joining his wife’s church, the Methodists), Walls has this to say:
he real theological question about George W. Bush was whether he would make a pilgrimage from being essentially a self-help Methodist to a social reform Methodist.
Excuse me? Mr. Wallis, it’s the Galatians calling. How is social reform Methodist better than self-help Methodist? I am no fan of Dubya but I know he’d call time on this conversation by pointing out that he is a Christian, not a Methodist. But beyond that, Christians are not called to be “social reform” Christians anymore than they are called to be “Gospel proclamation” Christians or “environmentally responsible” Christians. All these things are part and parcel to what faith is. Living it out means fighting for social reform, verbally sharing the terms of the Gospel and making sure you turn your freaking lights off when you leave the room.
By highlighting “social reform” over other things (and cheaply connecting it to “self help” without basis), Wallis is in as preposterous a position as if I declared myself “one of those childhood literacy Presbyterians”. We are saved by faith and kept right by… writing letters to our local representatives?
I totally agree with Wallis in his closing comments that the early Christians were not loyal to Rome but to the Kingdom of God. Which Kingdom are we loyal to? As I drink my single malt whiskey and digest the meal I just ate at a fancy restaurant, I probably don’t look much like Oscar Romero right now. But we’re damn hell ass fools if we let our stance of subversion towards the principalities and the powers of the world be co-opted into support for the opposition party. They get to power, as they have done in America. And guess what? They end up making the same mistakes. Blair’s Labour did it. Gormley’s Greens are doing it. And Obama’s Democrats will do the same. Not because they are evil. Bush wasn’t either. But power has that awful habit of corrupting the corruptible. So until we can elect Jesus for President, let’s not let our holy discontent become politicking for the other boys.
Your Correspondent, Asked people to call him Johnny Rotten. They’ve been calling him Freddie Fresh