1. C.L. Dyck says:

    Marc said:

    “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. “

    Kerry says:  “He seems to have taken the backdrop of human history, found the terrible spots that might be in some way be attributed to the Christian church, or Christians, and used them as justification — I guess — as to why individual Christians shouldn’t vote.”

    Marc said:

    “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…”

    Kerry says: “I agree that the primary work of the universal Church is to win others to Christ. I furthermore agree that the primary calling of individual Christians, is to bring others into a closer relationship with God…”

    Marc said:

    “A vote has secondary causal power, but it will not override the sovereign will of God in choice of leadership and authority…In the case of Christians, what voting most accomplishes is division, discord, strife, and distraction within the body of Christ.”

    Kerry says: “In fact, Jesus had many political associations, and whether they were Christ-followers or not, he never beat them up for being involved in governance.” 

    Et cetera. Bold font mine.

    As long as you guys continue to blur the Scriptural role of the individual and the Scriptural role of the earthly corporate church,  you’re arguing about why apples and oranges don’t look the same.

    I happen to agree with both of you in large degree. I vote because I believe if one doesn’t participate, one should shut up complaining about the state of the nation. Because I don’t live in a swing riding, it’s a symbolic gesture. Nonetheless, I don’t find it conscionable to write a constituent’s letter to a candidate I neither voted for nor against.

    IOW, the Christian who doesn’t vote, should not complain when gay marriage is instituted. However, Marc is not critiquing gay marriage or any other civic issue. He’s critiquing the institutional focus of the [earthly] church as an organized body.

    Within that contextual frame, his arguments also fail to address Kerry’s statements about individual conscience and practice, which are commendable and accurate. So far all we have on that front is that Marc doesn’t vote, and he once wrote a character whose job becomes more important to him than his faith (the job is, incidentally, political).

    Finally, Kerry says:

    “What amazes me most, though, is that someone who wrote a brilliant novel about the Nazis (König’s Fire) somehow missed the one event in modern history where Christian inaction led to absolute tragedy. I’m speaking, of course, of the Holocaust.”

    Which Christianity would that be? The Catholic church? The Anglicans? Eastern Orthodox? Individual believers in individual circumstances? I suppose they could have mobilized the various Christian denominations of Texas, and things would have been quickly settled. 😉

    Konig’s Fire certainly follows in the vein of Kerry’s argument, with an individual Christian caught in the worst predicament of conscience and personal survival imaginable: Being conscripted to run a death oven.

    Since today’s essay deals with the individual involvement of Christians, rather than the work of the church, I’d suggest Marc’s book should be Kerry’s Exhibit A. Seems like an agreement of principles to me, unless one makes an over-generalized, tangential leap regarding the distinction between an apple and an orange.

    Now that Kerry and I are done plugging Marc’s book for him, I look forward to the next round. 🙂 Perhaps we’ll see a more developed church/individual consideration from yon Schooley than previously, as a result of Kerry’s prodding.

  2. Kerry says:

    Thanks, Cat. I agree, there is a difference between Church organizations becoming political campaign stops (for instance) and individual Christians becoming, say, county commissioner. Marc seemed to be arguing that any political involvement by any number of Christians is inappropriate, punctuationed by his personal liberation (?) in not voting.

    I don’t think church bodies should be actively involved in politics, because their goal is to reach people. I do think churchs would do well to teach not only Biblical principles, but how those apply to real world decisions and practices. For instance, I think a church has failed if doesn’t reveal why abortion (or gay marriage or whatever other social issue) doesn’t match with what the Bible teaches. 

    But I also think that individual Christians have alot of freedom in their political involvement. They should keep Christ first and center–like we should try to do in every endeavor–but we shouldn’t be banning or chastising people for things that Scripture clearly doesn’t forbid.   

  3. C.L. Dyck says:

    Kerry, what are your thoughts on a libertarian approach to moral legislative issues?

    I agree that a church has failed if it doesn’t measure practices such as abortion against biblical principle and precept. But I can’t help thinking of the degradation of the Greco-Roman world, which was roughly equivalent to our current society. In our legislative systems, “real-world decisions” can equate to implied or explicit direction from the church on who to vote for, if taken that far. (Well, not here–it’s illegal in Canada.)

    Can the body of Christ be a successful advocate on social morality without reference to an en masse voting block?

  4. I’ve thought that for a couple of weeks about the role of the Church versus the role of the Christian individual. 🙂

    It did seem, though, that Marc had applied his analysis of the Church collective’s over-entanglement in politics to his personal voting. I’m not sure how that individual choice flowed from the analysis of the collective Church and its (perceived or actual) political over-entanglement. One could make a more-conclusive argument, it seems, that because of this nation’s balance of powers, it depends on an informed and voting electorate, and strongly implies this — meaning a Christian must participate and vote in order to obey the governing authorities (and be a governing authority!) per Rom. 13.

    More thoughts coming on this, in reply to part 2, or as part 3 continues the discussion.

  5. MS says:

    Hey ESB,

    I wondered what took you so long, but, if I have to respond to you as well, I may need an extra article or two. 🙂     

    • I’m not done.


      I also thought, well, as editor, I shouldn’t be saying a lot. Really, so many readers are saying what I would have said anyway, and much more effectively.

      If I have more to say, I think I’ll put it out there in the form of questions …

      All I can think of now is what C. L. Dyck articulated: this issue is really about the calling(s) of the Church collective compared to (or contrasted with) the callings of individual believers in the Church. The Church preaches and aids in those callings. It doesn’t supplant other callings in favor of one singular, capital-C calling.

      I also believe many Christians — don’t-voters and Americanists — need a complete reboot, not merely a shabby remake, of Gospel-influenced political engagement.

  6. D.M. Dutcher says:

    I don’t know. It honestly depends on what the specific duty is. 

    I tend to agree with Marc, who is in line somewhat with what is called Christian Anarchism. David Lindsay wrote that the secular government is a response of sin, and while Christians should obey it, they aren’t to build it up or become entangled in it. Because even at its best, it’s at enmity with Christian values and is a necessary evil. I think we see one consequence of overentangling in the focus on certain life issues like abortion or euthanasia. I’m not advocating that inaction is right at all, but for many Christians, it seems we are more concerned with these than actually evangelizing or living a faith. Like we spend most of the energy in the political arena trying to enforce a christianity-lite top down by edict.

    The problem though is that we really do need responsible government to prevent great evils.  We can’t be like the gypsies (People of the Leaf?) in The Wheel of Time books, thinking that we can dull axes if they cut enough of us down. It’s a tension that prevents easy answers or total explanations, and you are both right. It may be in times of safety over-emphasis on politics is dangerous, and in times of hazard we cannot shirk duty. I guess this is one of the many paradoxes of Christianity. 

    • Bainespal says:

      We can’t be like the gypsies (People of the Leaf?) in The Wheel of Time books, thinking that we can dull axes if they cut enough of us down.

      Those would be the Tinkers, formally the Tuatha’an, followers of the Way of the Leaf.

  7. Kerry says:

    Interesting thoughts, D.M.. There probably is a thermostat versus thermometer aspect to it. I think in all things Christians should strive to be thermostats–cooling things when they get too hot, and warming things when they get too cold. That takes being both sensitive to the Spirit of God and informed. And we should never be thermometers–just reporting and reacting.

    Cathlyn, I think there’s alot of good in liberatarian ideas. I might need a bit more clarification for what you mean here specifically, though. I don’t think it should ever be the case that someone who is opposed to abortion should be in the position to pay for them, for instance. And I don’t think the goverment should be in the business of supporting organizations that do.

    • C.L. Dyck says:

      Well, through Health Canada, we very much are in the position of paying for abortions as taxpayers. It’s also illegal for a church (though not a Christian, obviously) to be involved in any way in political advocacy. And it’s hate speech for a pastor to speak out on homosexuality.

      Which puts the Canadian church in the position of considering how the first-century church went about fulfilling its mandate, in some ways. We do have a thriving charitable presence, because the gov’t finds our social volunteerism useful. It can’t afford to do everything that volunteer organizations do. We aren’t illegal, our property’s not being seized, and in general things are good.

      But because of the past relationship of church and state–when each was the arm of the other during the colonial period–our ability to advocate on social morality in the public sphere has been seriously hamstrung, regardless of how we approach it.

      • Bainespal says:

        And it’s hate speech for a pastor to speak out on homosexuality.

        So, it’s true. The legend of the Canadian pastor who was arrested for reading a passage of the Bible condemning homosexuality has been circulated among American Evangelical groups. I guess the story is supposed to motivate American Christians to rally politically to save our way of life, before we become as dystopian as our northern neighbor.  (That’s the ignorant American view; I’m not saying that Canada necessarily is dystopian.)

        • C.L. Dyck says:

          That story is urban legend, to my knowledge. Our pastors simply know it could happen. The actual procedure is a complaint and fines, not arrest and jail time.

          What’s not urban legend is the Saskatchewan man who took out an ad in the local paper in response to Gay Pride Week, the text of which quoted the OT on homosexuality being an abomination. The man and the paper were penalized for hate speech.

          Also, the case in Ontario where a small independent print shop refused the business of a gay activist group, and the Christian owner was harshly fined for exercising the right to choose his clientele.

          Here in Manitoba, there was word that a lobby group intended to target one of the Christian camps, whose policy documents included the right to refuse to rent facilities for moral practices the camp operators couldn’t condone. (I.e. not available for a boozed-out rockfest either, but nobody was out to get them for that.) Don’t know if the camp case ever went forward.

          For an Islamicist example, search on Macleans Magazine and the Human Rights Commission. Also, Ezra Levant is a way-out-there loudmouth, but he got himself entangled in a HRC claim and used it to publicize the process involved.

          The Commissions are kangaroo courts with origins in UN human rights policy. They shouldn’t exist on Canadian soil, as we already have a judiciary and a legal system, yet voila. A gift to the citizenry from our international socialist friends.

          • Kerry says:

            Yes, one only need search the wikipedia article on Canada’s hate crime law to see the times the Islamic lobby has attempted to use it against a writer/artist/publication…

             * In December 2007, the Canadian Islamic Congress filed a complaint about hate speech against Maclean’s Magazine 

            * In 2006, the Muslim Council of Edmonton and the Supreme Islamic Council of Canada complained to the AHRCC when Ezra Levant published cartoons    

            *On 2 April 2002…Muslim and Palestinian organizations and their supporters complained about the editorial to the AHRCC   

            *In April 2008, a group in Nova Scotia, the Centre for Islamic Development, filed a complaint with the police and with the Human Rights Commission…


  8. D.M. Dutcher says:

     I don’t mean libertarianism, as that itself is just a different aspect of the same. I mean politics in itself isn’t really productive for Christians. At worst we end up creating a quasi-Christian space more focused on affirming our privilege and restricting  behavior, and at best we repair the understanding of natural law. But the best is very rare in practice, and politics tends to corrupt through compromise and the reality of getting things done.

    It’s possible to build up the kingdom of politics at the expense of the kingdom of God, and the two may not be entirely compatible. There’s a difference between knowing how to defend yourself out of prudence, and the idea of defense taking over your life, to the point where you have a bugout place, and an unhealthy collection of rifles. Even benign things can build up to be an idol.

  9. Kerry Nietz says:

    Ah, now I see. And probably the early church is the best example of how to behave. Like doubtless the Romans did lots of things with taxpayer money that Christians would find reprehensible–buying lions to feed them to, for instance. 🙁

    Probably the best thing to do is to continue to try to change the culture from within. Just like you’re doing. Think of it as a mission field. Missionaries wouldn’t presume to change the goverment when they went to a foreign land, they’d just do as much good as they can where they are, spread the word, and gradually improve the culture.

    My conscience would have a hard time with knowing my money is going to things I am so much opposed to, though. I know that is still the case here too. Certainly, the US spends money on ALOT of things i wouldn’t personally spend money on. But many of them aren’t moral issues. The two issues you mention certainly are, though.

    Like, if we were in Hitler’s Germany, for instance, would we be okay with knowing our taxes were going to build ovens? Or would we just renounce our citizenship and leave? Or do like Banhoeffer did and join a revolution? 

    Tough questions. History certainly looks more favorably on Banhoeffer, though.    

    • C.L. Dyck says:

      I and my teens took part in an urban missions week this summer. It’s run by a recruiter for an international missions organization, and designed as a jumping-off point for those who might be willing to go overseas. Afterward, someone asked me, “Did you come away wanting to go on missions?”

      I said, “I came away wanting to come back home, and thoroughly energized with the prospect. This is my mission field.”

      For me, “our citizenship is in heaven” is directly tied to my life statement: “People are the only thing you can take with you to heaven.” I live in a climate where I think there’s more success through volunteerism–such as peer counselling at a Crisis Pregnancy Centre–than political lobbying. D.M. said,

      politics tends to corrupt through compromise and the reality of getting things done.

       I could speak volumes to that, especially with regard to how the (temporal/institutional) church brought about abortion in Canada. It’s too long a tale for this comments section, but it’s on my to-blog list as a result of these conversations.

      If my gov’t bought ovens for Muslims, for instance, and started rounding them up and making them disappear, I’d unquestionably join a revolution. It’s appointed unto man once to die, and then comes judgment. There is therefore now no condemnation for me…but not so for most of the souls walking past us every day. That’s the most urgent matter in every circumstance, whether prosperity or persecution.

    • Afterward, someone asked me, “Did you come away wanting to go on missions?”


      I said, “I came away wanting to come back home, and thoroughly energized with the prospect. This is my mission field.”


      For me, “our citizenship is in heaven” is directly tied to my life statement: “People are the only thing you can take with you to heaven.”

      On this I agree and disagree. This may be because of my previously documented hypersensitivity to beliefs that the afterlife will be not physical, but “spiritoid.” 😀

      A related slogan: The only things that will last forever are God, human souls, and God’s word. This overlooks the fact that all God’s creation (not all people, but His creation) will last forever, after it’s been redeemed.

      Sources: Romans 8, 2 Cor. 5, Rev. 21 about the New Heavens and New Earth.

      If animals will be on New Earth, then animals matter more here.

      If art/storytelling will be on the New Earth, art/storytelling matters more here.

      If cultures and kings will be on New Earth, cultures and “kings” matter more here.

      One can call the Church and Christians back to the centrality of the Gospel while not also downplaying the vital callings Christians have to live in light of redeemed Creation, whose effects echo back in time from the future to the real present day.

      • C.L. Dyck says:

        Well, hopefully without getting too far off-topic, to me the point of art, culture and governance is people. These are things for the good of humankind (ideally). I’d go so far as to say the purpose of the creation is focused on people, and animals come under that banner.

        With that in mind, the distinction between a redeemed-but-same creation and a substantially transformed one–which I think is not ruled out by Scripture–is not essential to embracing our purposefulness in human pursuits in this lifetime.

        I don’t believe that eternity will be a non-physical experience in some New-Agey higher-plane sense, because the resurrected Christ, the firstfruits of final redemption, was both physical and spiritual.

        But, I’m also skeptical of over-literalizing the translation of the creation, and the works of believers in this lifetime, from fallen realm to redeemed. Randy Alcorn really does literalize 1 Cor. 3:13-14 in Safely Home, which as a literary device, illuminates the idea of the believer’s rewards and God’s justice. But I’m not convinced it’s supportable as doctrine rather than parable. 

        It seems better to me, again to quote D.M., that we not

        build up the kingdom of politics at the expense of the kingdom of God, and the two may not be entirely compatible.

         Regardless of what remains and what is transformed by the shedding of sin and corruption, we’re no good at guessing that stuff. I couldn’t have predicted, as a new Christian, what God would utterly transform in my person and what He would refine as His original intention in my design. I thought I had some idea, but I was all wrong. I still keep being wrong about that.

        Not to gainsay your point about the “spiritoid” assumption–one that a non-Christian relative of mine once attempted to use as a justification for why Christianity is an ultimately futile belief–but simply to hedge out false notions of kingdom-building.

What do you think?