OK. I’m going to lay another bit of To Change The World on you.
This one’s going to sting…
Christians are urged to vote and become involved in politics as an expression of their civic duty and public responsibility. This is a credible argument and good advice up to a point. Yet in our day, given the size of the state and the expectations people place on it to solve so many problems, politics can also be a way of saying, in effect, that the problems should be solved by others besides myself and by institutions other than the church. It is, after all, much easier to vote for a politician who champions child welfare than to adopt a baby born in poverty, to vote for referendum that would expand health care benefits for seniors than to care for an elderly and infirmed [sic] parent, and to rally for racial harmony than to get to know someone of a different race than yours. True responsibility invariably costs. Political participation, then, can and often does amount to an avoidance of responsibility.
According to Hunter, this is the third irony of Christian engagement in the modern West. And it certainly cuts pretty deep when I reflect on my own approach to political participation.
I know that I’m way more willing to speak out and agitate for change than I am to shoulder the responsibility to make changes where I am — or to take the trouble to get myself into a position to make more effective and wide-reaching changes.
It also reminds me of something Lesslie Newbigin once wrote about the need to anchor Christian social action in the life of the local congregations.
Not only can our common worship of the one who is Lord over both church and world prevent social action from setting sail for a distant country which bears little resemblance to the gospel-motivations that launched it.
But, better still, it helps ensure that we can’t avoid taking responsibility and owning it ourselves.