Christian Presence As Politics

The winds of policy in the United States have turned in favor of abortion. Recently, President Biden signed an executive order repealing the Mexico City policy. The policy, put in place by Reagan in 1985, withholds Federal funds from overseas heath organizations who perform abortions. How ought Christians respond when the winds of policy change?

Policy matters. The temporal good of our neighbor hangs on political policy. In the case of the United States, 60 million children have never had a voice partly because of prevailing policy. The same could be said of the millions of African-Americans who endured policy-based oppression in the Jim Crow era, and millions more in Constitutionally provisional chattel-based slavery before them. Christians ought to mourn when policy perpetuates injustice. But we can’t stop there. What should followers of Jesus do when the winds of policy blow against the Kingdom of Jesus? 

According to Sociologist Andrew Whitehead, evangelicals prioritized anti-abortion policy more than any other voting demographic in the 2020 Presidential election. Policy asks, can laws be changed? Can Roe v. Wade be overturned? What legislation might slow the abortion rate? And what seems priority for most: which Presidential candidate is pro-life? These are valid questions. But policy is not the only way followers of Christ are to be pro-life. When policy is the only focus, “pro-life” becomes “anti-abortion”. But to be pro-life in the way of Jesus requires more than policy. It requires a holistic appropriation and valuation of life from the womb to the tomb, in every arena and circumstance, with an ever growing range of variables. In short, being pro-life demands a community.

Creative opportunities for Kingdom participation vanish when we submit ourselves to the singularly of political influence to bring about change. There is a better way, where our politics become our presence.

The Kingdom of Jesus is different. Citizens of Christ’s Kingdom follow the rule of Jesus. The risen King transcends the shifting winds of the State. Nowhere is this clearer than in the early generations of Christianity. These early generations could not count on the tolerance of the Roman government. Unlike American Christians, they couldn’t shape public policy with their vote. Instead, their politics became their local presence. 

In a culture of casual infanticide, Christians began going outside the city gates, rescuing infants left to die. There was no pathway to enact policy. No advocacy. But there was a culture. And this culture was changed, slowly but faithfully, by the presence of faithful Christians who welcomed the cast aside and unwanted into their homes. What might happen if this sort of vision of presence came from the pulpit and religious programs within the Church in America? What if we began talking about pro-life beyond an issue to support, but a lifestyle to embrace?

Another sensitive issue of policy today is the revolution along lines of gender & sexuality. Roman culture was sexualized beyond America, if you can believe that. And how did the early church respond with their limited civic power? Their presence. The sexual ethic of the Church was described by the Church Father Tertullian who wrote, “they had everything in common, except for their wives.” If given the choice, would you rather have the SCOTUS ruling that legalized same-sex marriage repealed or every Christian marriage in the Church in America restored? Your answer will determine whether you think the Church’s witness to Jesus’ sexual ethic comes from laws that are passed or lives that are changed.

When the winds of political policy change, American Christians don’t have to wait 4 years or sit on their hands because the “right” administration is in office. By letting our presence be our politics we transcend gridlock. We join the Spirit of Jesus at work in our communities. We recognize that, like Dr. King’s commitment to non-violence, presence can mean agitation—a disruption to the cultural stagnation that lets justice flow.

Being pro-life & embodying the sexual ethic of Jesus is not just a matter of policy. Instead, it’s a matter of participation. A matter of presence.  Political policy will always turn by the wind of political power.  But the Spirit of God (the Greek word in the NT for Spirit could also be translated “wind”) is the power of the resurrection. It’s by this Wind that the body of Christ can be a faithful presence that reveals the Kingdom in our cities. All this so that our neighbors in these cities now can join us in looking forward to that city, who’s designer & builder is God.

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Published by Jared Stacy

Jared is an American Pastor, writer, and PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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