Recently Kristopher Norris and Sam Speers, authors of a new book entitled Kingdom Politics: In Search of a New Political Imagination for Today’s Church, spoke at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. They contend that “politics” has come to mean only one thing in modern culture: influence by the use of coercive power, utilizing either the state or a particular political party. Such is not the original, or best, meaning of the term.
The Biblical use of the term is quite different and is the one which Norris and Speers commend to the church to inform its understanding of its role in an increasingly polarized political landscape. The term as it is used in scripture has three distinct but closely related meanings. The first is, simply, citizenship. For the Christian, however, one’s primary citizenship is not on earth, but in the Kingdom of God. The second use of the term is to describe one’s allegiance. Again, the Christian’s primary allegiance is not to a political entity, such as a country or a candidate; the primary allegiance is to God, who claims authority and Lordship over all. The third use of the term in the Bible is to describe one’s values and consequent conduct and way of life. For the Christian, the way of life is guided by the will of God, the example and teachings of Jesus, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Norris and Speers call the church to embody and practice a different type of politics: not the partisan rivalry associated with state or party, but the Biblical model of politics that is based in Kingdom citizenship, allegiance to the Lordship of Christ, and lifestyle molded by spiritual principles. Does this mean that Christians and the church avoid the political process and partisan issues? Not at all. It does mean that Christians reclaim their political identity in the best Biblical sense: as people of faith whose King and Kingdom transcend nations and parties.
Rather than shunning politics altogether or (the other extreme) identifying solely with one political party, the church will seek practices and policies that reflect the depth and breadth of the church’s identity and mission. This means practicing a citizenship that is informed by our faith and that consequently works for the good of all and the rights of all.
Yes, there is hope for politics – if the church will embrace its uniquely political nature and work to embody it in the world.