Blogs (Faith), Life-Ecstatic (Faith), Sermons

Politics and Faith: Not a Good Mix

I really enjoyed a recent interview with Tim Keller at The Atlantic, especially one section that deals with politics, faith, and how Christianity flourishes when it moves away from the centre of power. It highlights, for me, how when we mix Christianity with politics we come out with something that no longer looks like Christianity but is just another idea struggling for its own place in this world. The power of Christianity is sucked out of it when it deliberately mixes with earthly power.

Here’s the excerpt:

If you think about it, Christianity was, maybe 150 years ago, very dominant in all the big cities. Peter Drucker—do you know who he is? He was a management guru. He wrote a bunch of books—he wrote The Effective Executive. Anyway, I was at a talk he did where he was talking about how the big cities of America had become more like Europe. He was saying that when he moved from Austria in the 1930s. … He was already an intellectual, he was a professor, and he got a job at NYU. And he was moving to the New York area—I think Hoboken or something like that—and he was trying to buy a house, and the banker said, “I’d like to speak to your rabbi or your priest or your minister.” And being Austrian, he was surprised, and he said, “Why?” And the banker said, “Well, we would never lend money to someone that doesn’t go to a synagogue. Why would we trust you if you weren’t a member?”

And when Drucker told that story, he was trying to say things have changed, in his own lifetime. Things have really, really changed in a place like New York. There was a time at which, you had to, essentially, profess to be an orthodox Christian, to even really be in power, to work your way up, to get a loan.

It’s the other way around now. Frankly, if you are an orthodox Christian in Manhattan right now, it’s a social problem. People are nervous about you, they feel like you’re bigoted. And so actually right now if you are a graduate of Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, and you’ve got your MBA, and you’re working on Wall Street, or being a downtown artist or something like that, and if you are an orthodox Christian, that’s very, very subversive. It’s very transgressive. And in that setting, to some degree, it’s tough to be a Christian here. But in other ways, it is the kind of soil in which Christianity does well. And that is: Christians are out of power.

I know what you’re saying is, “Yeah, but New York is a power center, and if you have an MBA from Harvard and you’re working on Wall Street, then you’re part of the power.” Well, yeah, but if you’re a Christian, at this point, that still puts you somewhat on the outs. Certainly not in my lifetime is that going to turn around. Which means, it’s not a bad soil for Christianity to grow here.

This is an interesting perspective: that the Christian faith actually does well in the kind of soil where it is not favoured. Keller seems to be right, as far as history is concerned. I think that gives us a good sign of how we should treat politics in our churches.

I explored the concept of separating faith and politics, church and state, in a series of posts last year. Here are the links to these posts:

In the World but Not of the World
In the World But Not of the World: Who is the King?
In the World But Not of the World: Not Being Sidetracked
In the World But Not of the World: Ideologies Do Not Rule Us
In the World But Not of the World: Transformation

I tend to find this a liberating concept not only in allowing me to have a clearer view of what my job as a Christian in this world is, but also has allowed me to have clearer political views since I know that my faith isn’t attached to these views (it strengthens my faith as I’m not doubting if I’m really a believer.)

Moreso, I think it helps us to see where even in our own personal lives we are mixing the philosophy of the world into our faith’s worldview.

The posts culminated in a sermon I preached at my church (Church on the Square). If you’d like to give that a listen, download it here:

19_September_2010_Being in the_World_not_of_it_ Ryan_Peter

(Right-click and choose ‘save target as’ to download the file rather than stream it).

Life-Ecstatic (Faith), Sermons

A Better Life: Not The Point

Football and Beer

Last Sunday I preached at my church (Church on the Square) a message entitled Choose the Better Life or Choose the Better Hope.

Here it is for those who would like to download it -> 05 Feb 2011 – Choose a Better Life or Better Hope

(Right click and choose ‘save-target-as’ to download it rather than stream it.)

The world’s philosophies and everything we are taught in this world revolves around having a better life. Everything is about making our life better, getting what we want, making things better for ourselves.

But this isn’t just a problem in the world but also in the church. When we walk into a Christian bookstore the best-sellers are often the latest self-help book that centres on making our life better in some way.

We are not called to seek a better life but to seek and pursue a Better Hope – Jesus Himself. He is to be our treasure and our all in all. But often the pursuit of a Better Life is disguised in Christian lingo and hides behind good sounding things like having a better marriage, a solid family, etc. These things aren’t bad to want and God wants us to even have them, but when they become our core focus and desire they become our treasure, and we are commanded by God that He and He alone should be our treasure. If we treasure anything else we are in the area of idolatry.

And so He should be our treasure because actually there is no joy in this world that compares to Him. But we might not be able to agree with that statement until we’ve actually experienced Him for ourselves, until we have tasted and seen that He is good.

We need our eyes opened to see Him and glory in Him. When we chase after the Better Life our lives get aggravating and full of anxieties. We try hard to make things work, to find the latest formula for our life, and the Bible is not meant to be used as a book to give us the formula for a better life; rather, it’s there to open our eyes to see Jesus and rather have our hearts changed to seek the Better Hope. We were not created to bear the burden of making life work but rather created to enjoy God forever.

That’s what the sermon is about. Hope you enjoy! I’ve tried to fix the sound as it is quite soft but I’m not having much luck. So you might need to put it up a bit.