(Author Marc Schooley explains why he believes the Church has over-entangled itself in politics. Yet he agrees much with his fellow Marcher Lord Press author Kerry Nietz’s perspective about how stories and authors touch on politics.)
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, not nations of all disciples…
Many Christians live in America, but America is not a Christian nation. I know this theologically: Old Testament Israel was the only theocracy instituted by God, and Christ declared that his kingdom was not of this world. Nevertheless, all one need do is glance in the direction of the historical evidence to know this.
A Christian nation — assuming there could be one, for argument — does not found itself upon continental-scale genocide of indigenous peoples, indulge itself in slavery, expand its territory through conquest, fling its armies to the four corners of the earth, abort fifty million unborn, stockpile enough nuclear weapons to kill everyone on the planet, spend trillions more than it can pay, consume twenty-five percent of the world’s resources while half the world starves, or wantonly desecrate the environment.
More could be added, but consider our culture. Can we really be said to be a Christian nation based on what we produce for movies, music, TV, and comedy? Is the philosophy we produce Christian? Our universities?
(Don’t yell at me … I realize that America has good things about it as well. For instance, Texas.)
It is the Christian church that has largely promulgated Christian Nation Mythology. I have spent a good portion of my word count thus far criticizing it, because it is this myth that has enticed vast portions of the church to entangle itself in politics under the false premise that thereby the church may legislate America into virtue. Immeasurable resources have been donated by Christians to this cause: immense stores of time, talent, and treasure.
Take a look around … it has not worked. Nor shall it, for the church does not belong in the political realm. Instead, the church should return to its mission: the worship of God, the proclamation of the gospel, the teaching and preaching of the Word, the training of disciples, administration of sacraments, and care for the poor, widowed, orphaned, the alien, and all those in need.
Moreover, it seems to me that the apostle Paul clearly teaches that all authorities have been established by God:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
A vote has secondary causal power, but it will not override the sovereign will of God in choice of leadership and authority.
Of course, this makes sense … just think of the schizophrenia involved with half the church praying for Obama’s election and the other half praying for Romney. In the case of Christians, what voting most accomplishes is division, discord, strife, and distraction within the body of Christ. We have better things do to, especially in light of Paul’s insistence that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20).
But, the argument goes, the church’s abdication of politics will lead to a debased society. I argue, instead, that we’re already there, and the church’s entanglement in politics is a significant cause, as its forfeits its moral voice.
Secondly, there’s a warning: if the church loses political power, it will be persecuted. However, Paul in Romans 13 goes on to say that we ought have no fear of the authorities that God has instituted:
For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.
Romans 13: 3-4
It’s a matter of faith; the church should leave the politics to God — after all, He knows better, right? — and return to its mission. Is it just possible that one reason we are in the fix we’re in is this very reason? That the church is entangled in politics, rather than its true mission? That appears to be what Paul says: Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
I’m not your Holy Spirit, and I won’t presume to determine your conscience for you. Nevertheless, it seems to me Scripture is clear on this issue, and on a personal note, I have not voted this century, and have never felt better spiritually or accomplished more with my faith. I encourage the reader to try it out … no better time than now, with the looming election.
Politics in speculative stories?
I agree with Kerry. Politics are an element of any fiction world-creation. Are there possible worlds that do not contain politics? Yes, but very few are likely to make a good story. Try pitching a premise where everyone’s perfect, or there are no people. Michener can get away with chapters about rocks and the land before people, but I wouldn’t recommend the aspiring author to try it right off. 🙂 Anarchist stories come the closest, perhaps, but even there politics arise in a rash, barbaric, or sort of proto-political sense. (For what it’s worth, I’m currently studying anarcho-syndicalist communes. 🙂 )
So, yes, I concur with Kerry in keeping the author’s personal politics out of the story, as a general rule. I say general rule, because some of my favorite novels are undeniably one big authorial political intrusion. For instance, I dearly love Animal Farm. But, as Kerry indicates, nothing kills story faster than authorial intrusion of political views … unless the reader agrees with it! Ayn Rand and Alan Drury (not saying these are favorites of mine) seemed to do well, as does Stephen King, among others.
Frankly, I’m just not that deeply versed with Christian fiction to speak authoritatively on it, but I will die with the words A Star Curiously Singing is a fabulous book on my lips, and it’s plenty political. I’m not even sure I agree with its politics — maybe I do, maybe I don’t — but it makes me think. Along with a great story, that’s a winner.
Nonetheless, I suspect that the Left Behind series is highly politicized. Though I’ve not read it, what I do know about it suggests to me that it would be impossible to write without certain political views, envisioned as forthcoming political realities extant within our (and the world’s) system today. I fail to see how this is a problem. It is important to note that a highly controversial eschatology is required as well, and Left Behind eschatology seems inextricable from political views inherent to the series’ plot. Based on its sales and reception, I can only conclude that its authors made the correct choice to write it. 🙂
Refraining from inserting my personal political views — yes, as a human (yes, I’m human, I think), I have them — in my own novels is fairly easy, since I preach an apolitical stance for the church. As far as I’m aware, I’ve never, nor shall I intentionally, advocate any position along the political spectrum.1 What you will detect in my stories is the struggle by the kingdom of man to assert itself in defiance against the kingdom of God, roughly equivalent to the thought set forth by Augustine in De Civitate Dei, or that of the Garden of Eden, Tower of Babel, Romans 1, and all points between and after, which is yet another data point that argues for the church to divorce itself from like behavior.
Roughly, this translates to my fiction as follows. It can be seen in König’s Fire as Hayner — the villain — defiant in the face of the judgment of God: “This is the day of men. Hold fast meine Brüder!”… The kingdom of men had refused the final offer of harmony from nature. Or, poignantly, I hope, in Charles Graves’s struggle to make sense of his sudden conversion in The Dark Man.
Ironically, now that E. Stephen Burnett’s insightful and probing questions goad me, Charles’s father is a U.S. Senator, whose Ill-fated compromise of spirituality and politics has disastrous effects for his entire family. This theme undergirds The Night Riders (July 2013 from Marcher Lord Press), in which a cast of cowboy vigilantes attempt to right wrongs in the name of God through less than godly means. There just seems to be an unquenchable lust of humanity to either set ourselves up as God, or oppose evil in a manner other than God has instructed us. Rare are those who walk through the world as Christ: surrounded by evil, accosted by it, but only about his Father’s business.
Notably, Christ is the only one of us who has the ultimate power to do something about it, and apparently, he thought the will of the Father more important. Every ill that we face and assault politically was there at the time of Christ. After all, they wanted him to be a political messiah.
Politics in an author’s profile?
I hope I have Kerry’s heart on this. Respect. No shouting. No buffoon name-calling! I could not agree more; as always, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
I should be good to go on this one. As far as I can see, no one knows my political views publically, nor shall I make them known, except to suggest quietly that I suspect none of us has all the right answers, at least not in any of the standard political ideologies. To the best of my knowledge, I do not recall advocating for or against political positions, politically. Moral positions, as Kerry rightly insists, are another thing altogether.
However, with regard to the church, for better or for worse, I’m on record publically, exhorting the church to disentangle itself from politics.
Is this a bad or ill-conceived path for an author to walk? Perhaps. But I do it for love of the church and the gospel, despite the personal or authorial repercussions, if any. The cynic may here choose to call me a martyr, or fool, or misguided, or attention seeking … well, okay, so be it. But nearly every Christian author I know of takes stands such as these as they see fit. This is simply one of many—one that in my judgment is one of two or three issues that threatens the church more than any other foe, inside or outside its walls.
Feel free to educate me out of this madness. 🙂
Or, perhaps, join your voice with mine … I’m just getting started in this and I’d love to have your support.
At any rate, a hearty thanks to E. Stephen Burnett for this opportunity. I look forward to a healthy and Christ like discussion. Ain’t it just like us to mix religion and politics!
Soli Deo Gloria
- Please understand this is not equivalent to saying I will never criticize a moral issue. It is the church’s and our duty to clearly proclaim right and wrong. ↩