Commonplace Book #137

The church has a task which modern Western democracies have attempted to replicate in other ways.  We have tried to produce, without our systems, some semblance of “accountability”. If  the voters don’t like someone, they don’t have to vote for him or her next time round. We all know that this is a very blunt instrument. Accountability isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In the UK, most of the seats are “safe”, and most of the candidates are professional party hacks  with little experience of real outside life.

So those who follow Jesus have the task, front and centre within their vocation, of being the real “opposition”. This doesn’t mean that they must actually “oppose” everything that the government tries to do. They must weigh it, sift it, hold it to account, affirm what can be affirmed, point out things that are lacking or not quite in focus, critique what needs critiquing, and denounce, on occasion, what needs denouncing…Each generation, and each local church, needs to figure out wise and appropriate ways of speaking the truth to power….

We in the modern West have trained ourselves to think of political legitimacy simply in terms of the method or mode of appointment: once people have voted, that confers “legitimacy”. The ancient Jews and early Christians, by contrast, were not particularly interested in how rulers had become rulers. They were far more interested in holding rulers responsible in terms of what they were actually doing once in power.

–NT Wright, God in Public: How the Bible Speaks Truth to Power, 163, 164, 165.