“Christian Politics?”: Week Three


Yesterday I taught the third of four 90-minute classes on Christian politics at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.  Read my summary of Week One here and Week Two here.

Last week I ended class by asking: What might evangelical politics look like if we replaced fear with hope, power with humility, and nostalgia with history?  This week we began to formulate an answer to this question.

We began by examining what the Bible says about “fear” and “hope.”  I concluded that fear is a natural emotion, but as Christians we must not allow fear to fester or try to build a political philosophy around it.  Instead, we must be people of hope.   I argued:

  1. A politics of hope is different than a politics of progress or optimism
  2. A politics of hope must be built on a Christian understanding of history.
  3. A politics of hope is limited in what it can accomplish due to human sin.  We see through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13:12).
  4. A politics hope is paradoxical: It requires waiting on God and acting (for truth, love, and justice) in history.

We then examined the difference between a politics of power and a politics of humility.  A politics of humility requires:

  1. An acknowledgement that Christian politics will always be limited in what it can accomplish due to sin (see point 3 above).
  2. An acknowledgement that Christ’s death on the cross was a political act in the sense that it ushered in a new kingdom–the Kingdom of God–that is not of this world.
  3. Some kind of pluralism based on the dignity of all human beings.  A belief in human dignity should result in listening, debate, conversation, and dialogue.
  4. An acknowledgement that we may suffer.  Political suffering, like all human suffering, can draw us closer to God and makes us more sensitive to his call on our political lives.

Finally, we examined the difference between a politics driven by nostalgia and a politics informed by history.

  1. Nostalgia is often linked to fear.  It provides an island of safety in times of trouble.
  2. Nostalgia leads us to look backward, not forward in hope.  History allows us to move forward with an understanding of where we have been.
  3. Nostalgia is an inherently selfish way of looking at the past.  It focuses entirely on our own experiences of the past and not on the experience of others who may not have experienced the past in the same way.
  4. History allows us to better understand the neighbors we are called to serve in politics.
  5. History teaches us that the belief that America was founded as a Christian nation is at best a complicated and problematic assertion and at worst a form of idolatry.

We did a lot more, but this was the general outline.

My class drew heavily from these books:

Glenn Tinder, The Political Meaning of Christianity

Ron Sider, The Scandal of Evangelical Politics

John Fea, Why Study History?

Next week we will explore James Davison Hunter’s idea of “Faithful Presence.”

5 thoughts on ““Christian Politics?”: Week Three

  1. Were these sessions recorded? I would love to hear both your thoughts as well as the questions and feedback from your audience. Future podcast content, perhaps?


    • C.L: Unfortunately, they were not recorded. Thanks for your interest. I am hoping a few churches might invite me to do it again so that I can refine each lesson. Then maybe we can take it on the road or the podcast.


  2. If you want your students to have a balanced view, and I assume you do, you should urge them to read Thomas G. West’s new book The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom.


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