(In Speculative Politics 1, author Kerry Nietz shared his views on politics in reality, storytelling, and novelists’ profiles. In Speculative Politics 2, author Marc Schooley agreed with politics in fiction, yet not as much in reality — at least not for Christians. Here Nietz offers his rebuttal. Part 4 by Schooley arrives Sunday, Oct. 28, four days before Election Day in the U.S.)
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.”
John Stuart Mill, in an address at the University of St. Andrews in 1867
Let me start my rebuttal with a caveat: 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 through his Son Jesus Christ, and to do so through the power of His Holy Spirit. There is no more effective way to change the world, then by spreading the Gospel. And that includes through the stories we write!
That said, I’m unsettled by some of what Marc has written. 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. In America!
I’m sorry; I just can’t find the logic in that.
In fact, there were enough generalities, and tangential conclusion jumping in his post, that I’m unsure where the best place to start is. So, I guess I’ll start with scripture first.
A Biblical rebuttal
Regarding Romans 13:1-4, yes, the Bible states that authorities are established by God, and that God will use them to our good. It is a stretch to use those verses to advocate being disengaged from the process entirely, though.
Because the first rule of Bible study is to measure every scripture, particularly the difficult ones, in the context of the whole of scripture.
For instance, Jesus said, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Taking that verse at face value, one might assume that a Christian could forgo all pursuit of anything, entirely. That he might forgo work, forgo preparing meals, forgo shopping or sewing … in fact, he might as well pick a spot on the ground somewhere and wait for God to drop food and apparel from the sky. No worries, no responsibilities. Have faith! God is taking care of it!
In the context of the whole of scripture, though, we know that such behavior is unwise. The Christian ground-sitter has to rectify his life with Paul’s later admonition, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
So how does this apply to Marc’s point about Christians and politics?
Well, his argument isn’t that different from the one used to support the idea that a Christian shouldn’t serve in the military. The easiest way to dispel that argument is to look at the life of Christ on Earth. The Gospels tell us that Christ met men in the military (centurions, captains, etc.) on more than one occasion. Yet we have no evidence that any of those soldiers left their professions, nor did Jesus ever command them to do so. In fact, He commended one soldier for having more faith than all of Israel (Matthew 8: 5-10).
So, did Jesus ever meet any politicians?
Of course he did. He met the worst kind of government officials, in fact — the dreaded tax collector. First, we have the record of Zaccheus, who after meeting Christ, vowed to change his life. Zaccheus’s attitudes, his behaviors, all radically transformed.
The one thing he didn’t change? His job.
We have the parable of the publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee arrogantly praying while the publican prayed soberly in the corner (Luke 18:9-14).
Which did Jesus lift up as an example? The publican!
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. He never once encouraged them to change their level of involvement. Never cited political service as anything other than honorable and necessary.
Given all that, the presumption that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics, following Biblical precepts, is incorrect.
A Logical rebuttal
It is foolish to think you can escape politics. The effects of governance are everywhere. Whether it is how pothole-free your local road is, or the price you pay at the gas pump, you cannot avoid the effects of governance. Fail to pay attention, fail to contribute, and before you know it your employing agency is no longer exploring space — it is doing outreach to the Muslim community. (That change might validate the premise of my books, but it certainly isn’t going to help science-fiction writers in general. 🙂 )
Marc advises that every moment spent in politics by a Christian is a moment lost to spreading the Gospel. That may be, but taken to its logical conclusion it would tend to suggest that any moment not actively spent spreading the Gospel is a moment wasted. If that were true, then no ancillary activities for a Christian should be allowed. Not working in a secular job, not recreating with friends. No moment outside Gospel-spreading activity. Ever.
But perhaps Marc is merely suggesting that politics — this one sphere of human endeavor among millions — is something Christians should stay out of.
Under what grounds?
Not from Biblical admonition, certainly. So what makes politics, even the simple act of voting, less admirable than flying a kite or walking a dog?
Our God is bigger than that. He dwells inside of us through his Spirit, so we can safely take Him, and glorify Him—even witness for Him—in whatever sphere of human activity we engage ourselves in. And we should be proud to do so!
A Historical rebuttal
“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
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.
As the quote by Bonhoeffer suggests, during the meteoric rise of Nazis to power, the Church and Christians did stay out of politics, to world’s detriment. That lack of involvement not only led to the death of six million Jews, but millions more were lost in attempting to stop Hitler’s Germany.
So my question for Marc is this: Is there ever a point where Christian involvement in politics becomes necessary? Is it when I see the government taking some personal freedoms away? Or is it only when the gestapo comes to take my neighbors away …
Or do I wait for them to take my family away?
You see, there’s the rub. Political activism isn’t just about me. It shouldn’t ever be about me. It is about others. (Remember Paul protesting his treatment as a Roman citizen? What was the point in all that? A loss of his rights? Absolutely not. It was the loss of everyone’s rights, and the forfeiture of civic law.)
It is a good thing the founders of this country didn’t share Marc’s sentiments. It is good the America of Hitler’s time didn’t as well.
I fear Marc is playing the part of the Amish (or possibly the Hobbits of the Shire). Attempting to live in a world of their own that is wholly made possible by the world they’ve excluded themselves from. Other people (Christians and non-Christians alike) have spent time crafting the laws that govern the land; others have researched and solved problems that they (Amish or Hobbit) take advantage of. Other people have sent their sons and daughters to die in protecting their freedom.
Service to God comes in many forms.
And sometimes, like it or not, that involves politics.