Church and Politics

by Harley Voogd

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The German Christian philosopher, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, taught that societies can be classified into three different stages: tribes, kingdoms, and empires.

The simplest form of society is the tribe. A tribe is a small group of people held together by a common attribute, like family. Tribes are suspicious of outsiders and tend to stay within their own boundaries. Tribes resist change. Tribes also look into the past and tend to worship their ancestors.

As a society matures, the different tribes bind together to form a kingdom. Because there are now many different people with different viewpoints, a higher culture can develop. Kingdoms tend to worship through temples and looking to the heavens.

Nations can fall into either kingdoms or empires. Whereas a nation refers to a people with common descent and culture, a kingdom will consist of one nation, and an empire will consist of many nations. Cambodia is a kingdom with one nation: the Khmer people. There are some minority groups of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Barang (white people), but the overwhelming majority is Khmer. Canada, however, is a multi-national country. Looking at things this way, Cambodia is a kingdom and Canada is an empire.

As a society matures beyond the kingdom stage, the nations join to form an empire. The empire, though consisting of many nations, must have a common religion or worldview in order to stay cohesive. Without a common “worship” center, the empire becomes multicultural, which doesn’t work. Worship is still through the temple, but despite all the different kinds of peoples and languages, the temple must be the same for all. Rome didn’t care which religion you held to as long as Caesar was the common god for all and over all.

Multiculturalism does not work because you can not have a whole bunch of people living together believing all sorts of different things. It sounds good, but it does not work in real life. People who would disagree and defend multiculturalism are people who don’t really believe in anything, or are at least blind to the fact that they have themselves elevated their particular worldview above all others.

The story of the blind men and the elephant comes to mind. Each man is in touch with one part of the elephant and believes his part is the whole, but of course it is not. Multiculturalists point out that each religion or worldview is like each blind man, each with a part of the truth but not the whole. Therefore, we can all live in peace if we accept the fact that none of us knows the whole truth. The problem with that idea is that the multiculturalist, in order to know each religion/worldview only sees a part of the whole, has to himself see the whole elephant, which is just what he claims is impossible.

It’s easy to put a “coexist” bumper sticker on your car and then only associate with people who believe the same as you believe. Enter tribalism. If multiple belief systems are allowed to pervade the empire, people will form small groups where they feel they can belong, and the empire breaks down to the most primitive form of society again.

Canada would actually be better off (in the short run) to become completely atheist. Rather than trying to force several different belief systems into a doomed syncretistic society, it would be healthier to unify under one banner… in the short run.

And this is the cause of all the political conflict in the west today. Each worldview is fighting to be on top. Christians, Muslims, atheists, multiculturalists, etc… all want everyone else to believe what they believe. That, in itself, is perfectly normal. But it’s only right for the one group who actually has the truth to be on top.

I, as a Christian, believe that one truth to be Christianity. I want everyone to believe as I believe. Is this bad? No, it’s normal. I don’t want tribalism — I don’t want to just hang out with people who are just like me. I don’t want a mono-national kingdom — I don’t want to just be surrounded by people who dress the same, talk the same, and sing the same. I want an empire — a multi-national society with many different variations unified under a common religion. A true Christian empire can only form by the bond of the Holy Spirit who creates a single (yet complex) culture.

But, this kind of empire does not (yet) exist in any part of the world. For better or for worse, western christendom took a run at it, but that attempt is fizzling out now. Tribalism seems to be on the rise in the west. The nationstate has failed our expectations and people are turning inward and into smaller groups to solve their problems.

Western Christians lament at the “fall” of Christianity. Some complain of persecution. (Western Christians have never experienced persecution.) A lot believe the end is near. There isn’t a whole lot of positive feeling for the future.

Many are turning to politics for salvation. “If we could just get the right people in office, that would solve these problems. We need someone tough, who won’t listen to the opposition’s ideas.” While certain levels of tribalism is often a welcome thing in a church (we all need a family), it becomes destructive when combined with us-versus-them secular politics.

Jesus is calling everyone into His kingdom. That kingdom is not of this world (although it is invading this world). No one should be turned away from the Church just because his political views differ from those of the majority of the current members. The politics of Jesus are above ours. Only Jesus is qualified to be the emperor, the king, and the tribal leader all at once.

In the western multicultural neo-tribal society, Christians are called to work beyond the confines of right-wing/left-wing politics — challenging culture where it opposes God’s plan and promoting culture where it conforms to God’s plan. Those who don’t believe in Jesus should be happy when Christians are at work in a society, because they know there will be change for the better. When one does oppose Christianity, let it be because he hates the truth of it, rather than because he hates those who promote it.

Tim Keller is one of the most successful pastors in North America. His church is in New York city, one of the most difficult places to start up a new church. Here is his take on church and politics…

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