Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Body Broken by Charles D. Drew

I can't get enough of the political books that are unbiased politically. I love books that simply speak the truth in all instances. Broken Body (a re-release) is the perfect example of the book every Christian should read in this venom-filled political season.

Drew tackles a number of issues for Christians to grapple with - both Democrat and Republican. He does it all with a humility and gentleness that everyone will read and understand. Without all the heated rhetoric, what are the pundits to do?

If you consider yourself a Christian and you're interested in politics - you have to read this book.

Among other things, Drew writes about how to keep the church focused on the kingdom of God and not to be so easily distracted by the political hot-talk.

He explains the two-kingdom mentality and what it means to give Caesar his due while giving God His.

This book levels the playing the field in a society that loves to claim God is on their own side while vilifying the other side. You will not finished this book unchanged.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by New Growth Press.

Below is an interview I had with author Charles Drew.

Why are Christians so prone to panic during the political process and how can we avoid panicking?

I think Christians are prone to panic, at least in part, because they have made an idol out of political solutions. Idolatry happens whenever we put our deepest hopes in anything created; whether it is our vision for America, or a particular candidate, or a particular law we hope to see passed, or a particular platform we hope to see established. There is nothing wrong with having a vision and a strategy for seeing that vision advanced.  The problem arises when we put our deepest hopes in such things. And anger, fear, and panic are good signs that we have. Christians need to see that making an idol of political solutions is more than frustrating for them (idols have no life in themselves).  It is deeply wrong, for it is false worship ("Let all be put to shame...who boast of idols" Psalm 97:7).

We can avoid panicking, or we can at least reduce our panicking, by repenting of our idols and renewing our trust in God.  As part of the process of repenting we may find it helpful to note how weak political power actually is:  Very few people get to exercise it, and when they do, they discover huge obstacles to exercising it in a democracy like ours where Congress can hold up legislation for years.  And more than likely their power is short lived - as Democrats discovered in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Could you explain what you meant by "the idol of too much hope" in politics?

Some Christians just want to be left alone.  But others have rightly discovered that in our democratic system they have a voice.  We have discovered, rightly, that we need to exercise our  voices in the public square.  We have more hope when it comes to exercising political influence than do many people in our world, both now and down through the ages.  The problem as I see it is when we put too much hope in the political process.  Politics is made up of people, and people are weak, fallible, and self-centered.  Our power, if we ever get any, is short-lived, our political solutions are imperfect (often with unintended consequences); if we succeed in passing a good law this time around the likelihood is that it will be reversed by the "bad guys" the next time around.  Thinking that there exists a "magic bullet" politically is, for these reasons, naive, and it sets us up for disappointment, frustration, and anger.  Ironically, those who put too much hope in politics often end up so disillusioned that they withdraw into the "safety" of cynicism.  The Christian who properly moderates his hope in politics is more likely to stay active, as he should, because his deepest hope does not lie in political success.  He knows that God is in charge of results, while he is "in charge of" faithfulness - patiently and humbly seeking to move things in the right direction.

In your book, you call some Christians "secret utopians".  How is that contrary to what Christ promoted and how can our prayers reveal that aspect of our lives?

Christians ought to be utopians in one sense.  We believe that Jesus is ruling at the right hand of the Father and it is only a matter of time before his kingdom becomes fully manifested on planet earth.  This hope animates us, or should, in all that we do in our public discipleship.  What I mean by the term "secret utopian" is something different.  The secret utopian is the person who thinks that we can ourselves bring in God's good society by our own efforts and strategies and is therefore driven to make it happen and fearful when the "bad guys" seem to be getting their way.  This sort of utopianism can show up in bitter and impatient praying, "God, get rid of that Senator!"  It can show up in the failure ever to thank God for one's leaders or to pray humbly for them, understanding how very difficult it is to govern given all the frustrations and temptations of office.  It can show up as well in triumphalistic praying: "Oh God, thank you that your man is in the White House!"  The praying of the proper sort of utopian (the one I mentioned first) will be earnest, grief-stricken, humble, and hopeful:  earnest because we know that no human being or group of human beings can solve our nation's deepest problems, greif-stricken because this is our country and we are responsible for what is wrong with her, humble because we ourselves can only guess at what the best solutions are, and hopeful because we know our Father hears us, his triumphed in Jesus, and will in the end put everything right.

When talking about Christianity and politics you will always seek to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.  How can a Christian decide which of God's values should be enforced by law and which should be enforced by other means?

This is a very good question calling for a great deal of careful thought.  We should note first that everybody legislates morality - even the atheist - for morality expresses the values we hold dear and laws are the codification of those values.  So the really important and interesting question is not whether we should legislate morality, but rather which morality we should seek to legislate - your question.

First, some of God's laws go straight to the human heart and are, for that reason, unenforceable by human law.  These should remain off the books.  I am thinking, for example, of the first and the tenth commandments ("You shall have no other gods before me" and "you shall not covet").  There are other  divine laws that address human public behavior and need enforcement for the purposes of limiting human selfishness and cruelty.  "You shall not kill", "you shall not steal", "you shall not bear false witness", and possibly "caring for the poor and marginalized" all belong to this category.  The Christian and the non-Christian can often find common ground in these areas.  But even here it gets tricky: Abortion in my view is a form of killing that should have laws written against it - but what precise form should they take (what form of the law is likely to pass, what should the sanctions be for breaking the law when so many don't view the unborn as a person, and what provisions should be made in the case of rape and other special circumstances).   How about killing in a war if the war is not a just one (and who decides whether a war is just or not)?  Or take the command against stealing.  What constitutes stealing, and what sorts of stealing should we write laws about (Are excessive interest rates stealing?  Are certain executive salaries outside the range of what is fair and just and therefore a form of stealing from share-holders and employees?  Who decides?).

Even trickier are laws that pertain to marriage and sexual behavior.  Christians may agree, for example, that gay sex and therefore gay marriage are wrong, but they may in good conscience disagree on the best way to advance the cause of traditional marriage in our culture.  Some may earnestly believe that legislation is not the way to go, that it will only drive gay people from the church; others may be convinced that legislation is the way to go.   And how, even if Christians all agreed that gay sex should be forbidden by law, how would such laws be enforced?

So the answer to the "which law" question is nuanced.  Christians should think and talk about them, refining their thinking and knowing that they may well have to live with the fact that they will come out in different places on question in particular instances.  For this reason, I believe that pastors, speaking on behalf of Christ from the pulpit, should be very reluctant to dictate on the question.   As private citizens, not speaking for Christ, but simply talking about their own view in informal conversation, they can and should speak their mind.

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