The Kingdom of God and the Politics of Christianity

I was raised by godly Christian parents who taught me from an early age to differentiate between Christianity and culture. They told me it was dangerous, even immoral, to mix the Gospel with political partisanship or patriotic nationalism. They warned me against confusing Christianity with capitalism or even democracy. That taught me that human systems are hopelessly marred by the failings of humanity, that every history has beauty but also lots of darkness and decay. They reminded me that when people talk of a once great nation, they forget or choose to ignore the once great darkness. For every fond reminiscence of our nation’s founding, there are also stories of wickedness. The wickedness of slavery, the wickedness of native Americans displaced and mistreated, the wickedness of faith used to justify oppression, segregation, and brutal blood shed. We celebrated the stories of faith and courage, but we were taught these great stories existed along with broken stories and shameful stories.

My parents taught me that God is a God of grace, that I have been saved because of God’s grace, that my right standing is a gift from God, not a result of my efforts. I was taught that I am loved because God is love, that out of God’s love I find meaning, purpose, and transformation. Since God is love and grace, I am called to extend that same love and grace to others. Consequently, I believe every person stands as a grace gift from God. This is true of people and it is true of nations. I was taught America has benefited from the grace of God, therefore we must be humble and honest about both our successes and failings.

In recent years, I’ve heard many Christian leaders lament the decay of our culture. They speak of a once great nation falling into decay. Sadly, many of these leaders have succumbed to the temptation of partisanship. They have embraced the logic that one party is righteous and one is wicked; one is God’s way and one is Satan’s path. Not only have they embraced this logic, but they have actively campaigned their faith into the political process. Whether explicit or implicit, they make their case known for God’s political party and God’s political man. They warn that dire consequences will follow if the electorate does not vote for their righteous man, righteous initiative, or righteous party. The argument is almost always the same; we were once great, now we are fallen; vote for the righteous one and we will return to our righteous beginnings. If not, it will all crumble.

When I look at this election, I am reminded of what I learned as a child from my Christian parents. I am reminded of my father’s warning: “Doug, some of the most dangerous people you’ll ever meet are Christians who think they’re right!” My dad was a school teacher and he’d told me how Christians often mistreated teachers. With their sense of rightness they would storm into the classroom demanding their way at the cost of peace or even the job of the teacher. My dad told me to always be humble, quick to forgive, slow to anger, and full of grace. “Doug, people should relax or feel good when you walk into the room.” Mom would say, “We don’t judge people based on their failings. No one wants to be judged based on their failings. So love people the way you want to be loved.” My parents reminded me daily that I am the product of God’s love and grace, therefore I am called to be a vessel and ambassador of the love and grace I have received.

I work in many different circles; some liberal, some conservative, some indifferent. I will post this blog on websites that are both friendly and hostile to Christianity. Depending upon the site and the political persuasion of the readers, I will be praised or rebuked, complimented or criticized. Regardless, I need each of you to understand this truth. My God is not the God of partisan politics, Facebook rants, and slanderous email forwards. My God does not take pleasure in tearing the other side apart. There are only two categories in my faith: those who have received the grace of God and those who are still rejecting that grace. It is not my job to defeat the enemies of God, it is my job to bring them the same love and grace that set me free. I don’t desire to be right, I desire to reconcile people to a God that will set them free.

I know that the Gospel offends many. Many believe that they do not need a savior, nor forgiveness, nor freedom, nor a righteousness that is not of their own doing. I’m alright with our disagreement on the efficacy of the Gospel. Even so, I am not right with any proclamation of the Gospel that turns the words and deeds of my Savior into the lowest form of political pandering. With this in mind, I graciously ask my Christian friends to move towards the gospel, make the gospel the priority of your energy, time, and money. Please stop wasting Kingdom resources on things that rust, corrode, and fade away.

To my non-Christian friends, I need to make something clear. My Christ is very different than the Christ I see daily presented in our popular culture. My Christ has a different Spirit and a different purpose. To be honest, I seldom hear or see my Christ in the morally charged political discussions of our age. For me, the divide is not Republican versus Democrat, but the kingdoms of man versus the Kingdom of God. The human condition is a spiritual problem which will not be solved by the wagging of tongues and the rattling of sabers.

I believe the Kingdom of God is not just a better platform, but a better Spirit. In the coming years I will work for this better Spirit in our dialogue and doing. I will try my best to facilitate community that is rooted in the love, grace, and goodness of God. Most likely, this will exclude me from political authority. Even so, I will gladly trade political influence for a chance to welcome a more permanent, glorious Kingdom rooted in the love and favor of God.

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19 Responses to The Kingdom of God and the Politics of Christianity

  1. chicagoja October 29, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    Excellent post. Human systems are hopelessly marred by the failings of humanity…that includes religion too of course.

  2. Wendell potter October 29, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    I will work to get you a broader audience.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • fairlyspiritual October 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Wendell, thank you for all your support. I greatly respect your work and calling.

  3. Susan Meline October 29, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    Wow I am so impressed with how you view your spiritual walk and separate it from politics. I want to hear more. May I friend you? I am a friend of Luke’s. He can vouch for me. Actually, he is one of my son’s best friends, but I think he’d call me a friend, too.

    • fairlyspiritual October 29, 2012 at 3:57 am #

      Thank you Susan…a good way to get my thoughts or to correspond is to like my radio show on facebook “Live from Seattle with Doug Bursch” or to follow this blog, or to email me at evergreenlife@mac.com

    • legionwriter October 29, 2012 at 6:36 am #

      Susan, you became my friend the day I saw you whirling that ?P sign around at one of mine and Ryan’s concerts. 😉

  4. Dan Behrens October 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Excellent piece.

  5. Dan Behrens (@danieljbehrens) October 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Excellent piece.

    • fairlyspiritual October 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      Thanks Dan! Yesterday was a good day…got to preach to a wonderful congregation and share my heart on my blog. What a wonderful time to be alive!

  6. Gwen October 29, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I enjoyed reading this piece and am now very curious. Are you voting for Obama or Romney? As an Obama supporter, your words rang true to me.

    • fairlyspiritual October 29, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

      Thanks for the read Gwen. I appreciate the comment as well. My response: Curiousity is a good thing. I still need some mystery in my open book life. As I have both dearly loved Republican and Christian friends, I prefer to leave my voting record off the record. However, I’m sure my biases probably give me away. Peace!

  7. Hillary October 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I agree with most of what you said. I am 24 years old and a republican, only because I feel that it is voting for the lesser evil, abortion being my main argument. I know for people of my age, even among christians, it isn’t “hip” to vote for the conservative side. That being said, if a Christian were to vote democratic based on whatever reasons they may have, how can you biblically justify it or respond to it, as they are, in the end, whether they like to hear it or not, supporting abortion? Abortion, to me, is a non negotiable biblical sin, and we as Christians should protect a God given life if we are able to. I can’t see how any Christian can argue otherwise, as I can’t see how a God of grace and love would support the countless murders of babies. Honestly, what is “hip” about voting for a baby to be killed. I have a hard time understanding that a Christian could vote democratic, based on that subject. I don’t judge, but I do believe that god will judge, and judge rightly. As a Christian, I will do my part by voting for Romney, even though I don’t agree with everything he has to bring, because I believe he is the lesser evil.

    • fairlyspiritual October 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      Hillary thank you for sharing your perspective. I think there are many complex and legitimate reasons to vote Republican or Democrat. I know some genuine thinkers and theologians that disagree on how best to influence society. I would encourage you to listen to people and to share your opinions as well. My political opinions are not rooted in “hipness” and I want to be careful not to marginalize someone’s opinion because it differs from mine. I personally believe abortion is a wedge issue that is often used for political expedience. I have strong convictions about abortion and our church values life by promoting adoption, foster care, and caring for the poor in our society. I believe sin is sin and not measured by degree. In my personal opinion their is much morally broken in both the Republican and Democrat party. I do not believe the Spiritual condition of our society will be changed through a system that is rooted in partisanship and deceptive practices. Regardless, I don’t want to turn this post into who to vote for….Instead, I appreciate your response and wish you all the best. Please keep speaking and listening.

  8. margaretfeinberg October 29, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    “Doug, some of the most dangerous people you’ll ever meet are Christians who think they’re right!”–what your dad said is a good reminder to hold ideas with open hands. Great thoughts!

    • fairlyspiritual October 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks, it’s a good reminder. I don’t want to be the flip side of an angry coin.

  9. enumclaw October 29, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    Good Job, I love your view.

  10. margaretfeinberg October 31, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    “I will gladly trade political influence for a chance to welcome a more permanent, glorious Kingdom rooted in the love and favor of God.” — I’m with you there!

    • fairlyspiritual October 31, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

      Thanks for you kind words. By the way, you were my favorite speaker at Foursquare Convention, would love to have you on my radio show sometime to talk about your writing or whatever.

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