Over at The Twelve, Jason Lief pushes back against those who see the call for Christian engagement on social issues as “the social gospel.” For him, the Christian community is called to oppose the ideologies, the powers of this age, starting wtih Jacque Ellul’s thoughts about money or Mammon. Following Ellul, Christians are called to bear witness, to speak on behalf of the weak and voiceless. And they are called to listen
The Christian community must listen to the voices of the oppressed, the poor, and the marginalized. We must oppose every form of hatred, every form of racism and bigotry, and every attempt to silence. This begins with confession—listening to the poor and the oppressed, and confessing our participation in sinful systems that pay homage to the idols of power and wealth.
But is he right, here? Is this the path for Christian engagement in politics?
After all, most of us take our politics from the sociological community where we live, so a person from Ann Arbor has a certain politics, and the Dutch dairy farmer has another political framework. We’re embodied, and the challenge for us within the scope of our own life is to manifest and promote the reign of God. The press of acting justly towards our neighbor or of acting for the good of our community is common. Likewise the resistance to the powers of this Age is common to us in our varied sociological settings. E.g. we all struggle with Ellul’s technology (techinque) as it actively seeks to stop our growth into Christian maturity. And technique is but one of the Powers with which we must engage in conflict.
So if we face a common task, albeit expressed differently, what is the role of confession? Isn’t that a form of perfectionism, my need to be absolved before I can speak: one more leftover of individual pietism, of me and Jesus?
So, too, consider the notion of opposition, itself an inherently reactive stance. If I oppose I do not really have to change, the problem is always with the Other. And to the extent we oppose abstract causes — those general national, international problems– we are only importing our own pre-existing values. Our sociology reigns.
Rather than think in terms of the political, why not think in terms of diverse voices, that the task of God’s People is to pursue justice and the good of the neighbor in the context of their particular sociological settings? We are open to the seduction of power, money, and the other idols and principalities of the age, what we need is not opposition, but a common cause, a commitment to confess Christ in our public lives as well. This will look different depending on where we are, and I would think that’s ok, perhaps even what God seeks. This finally why opposition doesn’t work, it muffles the summons to proclaim and act on Resurrection.