Day: July 4, 2011

the second irony of Christian cultural engagement

At its heart, the Christian good news speaks of One who conquered death– the living Lord who not only promises life, fullness, and satisfaction but can actually deliver the goods.

Before this Lord, all the overwhelming variety of regimes and regimens clamouring to deliver fullness and satisfaction can only fall silent.

Whether we’re talking about modern diets, ancient emperors, luxury cars and holidays, or political ideologies — they’re all left shuffling their feet awkwardly in his presence.

At least, that’s the claim.

Problem is, Christians only rarely seem to be able to bring themselves to believe it.

After noting the first irony of Christian cultural engagement, it is this ‘deeper irony’ that James Davison Hunter highlights (To Change The World, page 172):

[I]n the Christian faith, one has the possibility of relatively autonomous institutions and practices that could … be a source of ideals and values capable of elevating politics to more than the quest for power. But the consequences of the whole-hearted and uncritical embrace of politics by Christians has been, in effect, to reduce Christian faith to a political ideology…

What is it that stops us believing that compared with every short-term fix and provisional band-aid, Jesus can actually deliver the life we crave?

Is it addiction to instant gratification — a pleasing return on any investment, without needing to wait too long?

Or is it capitulation to the consumer-shaped myth of freedom as ever-expanding choice — so that we lack the ability to see that genuine freedom, as Stanley Hauerwas puts it, ‘lies not in creating our lives, but in learning to recognize our lives as a gift’.

Unless we can answer this question, I doubt we’ll ever escape from the deadly cycle of big promises being defaulted on by people out to grab and hold onto as much power as possible…