“For it is my belief that there is
no more powerful response to totalitarians
than to take time to reclaim life from their power.
By refusing to let them claim every aspect
of our life as politically significant,
we create the space and time that makes politics humane.
Therefore, there is nothing more important for us to do
in the face of the threat of nuclear war than to go on living—
that is, to take time to enjoy a walk with a friend,
to read all of Trollope’s novels, to maintain universities,
to have and care for children,
and most importantly, to worship God.”
“Taking Time for Peace”
Stanley Hauerwas, essay in Christian Existence Today, pp. 253ff.
The above statement might not strike you as politically significant. Politics that refuse to work the tired rut of conservative vs. liberal aren’t taken seriously as political thought. That is how the media and political parties condition us to think, or rather, not to think. Are you willing to think, pray, and act outside of that box? I am, and that helps free me.
The better part of my theological and ethical study in recent decades, as I’ve despaired of the left-side-of-this-versus-the-right-side-of-that as the dance of death, is learning to see politics in a whole new way. We say we hate politics in the church. But what we really hate is when the partisan politics of the modern nation-state usurps our Christian message. We hate it as the faith of the church gets coopted by ideologies with agendas.
Since revolutionary days of yore, with Moses Mather getting arrested with 50 other men in our Meetinghouse, we want to worship and serve in a church that addresses the vital issues of our time. We do not want a church content to exist in a bubble apart from life.
But guess what, that requires hard and imaginative work from us all to see in new ways, rebelling against socially conditioned ways of construing what is political. Where do we go for this? How about the Sunday lectionary gospel lessons in Jesus’ familiar Sermon on the Mount? We tend to read it as salve for personal anxieties to make us feel better.
But what if Jesus’ beloved Sermon means to empower us communally in saving ways? What if the Cross is not just an object of personal piety, but even Jesus renunciation of a grinding, dehumanizing political system in his own day? What if the Cross is actually an alternative to extremes of insurrection and doing nothing and everything in between? What if salvation isn’t an individual ticket punched into heaven, but collective by nature?
I hasten to add, I am unequal to posing the Gospel as an alternative vision all by myself. I am not that faithful or insightful. But we can be thrown into this dilemma together. That is what church is for. May I look for you these Sundays as we chart an alternative way?