Thursday, August 13, 2020

Following Jesus and Political Understanding


                                                          (St. Joseph, Michigan)

I had a recent encounter with a person, call them X.

X: "I am against socialism."

Me: "Can you explain socialism to me?"

X: "No."

Me: "Can you tell me what socialism is?"


Me: "Do you find it odd to be against something you know nothing about?"

Politically, America is deeply divided. As a follower of Jesus, how do I evaluate this? What do I do about this? How shall I think about this?

Here's my approach, 

1) I identify certain guiding principles; and 

2) I keep studying and learning. This means disengaging from social media arguments, and finding the best scholarship available that can help me, in the first place, understand the issues. I am uninterested in people who want to argue political issues without first putting a lot of work into understanding those issues. This may not be you, but it is me.


  • Change hearts first. When hearts are changed, systems transform.
  • Focus on issues, not political alignment.
  • I must understand before I evaluate. This takes time. I hesitate to jump on someone's political bandwagon. I rarely read political things people send me. My focus is on understanding. This takes time and, as I understand things, deep immersion in scholarly materials.  
  • Attack arguments, not people (no ad hominem abusiveness please). Evaluate arguments; formulate arguments. Love people.
  • Lift up Jesus, the one who changes hearts and minds, and from whom we Christians acquire our ethics.
  • Deepen your abiding life in Christ, as the first thing to do. All relevant, Spirit-led action comes from this ongoing attachment to Christ.
  • When the Holy Spirit identifies a socio-cultural need and burdens you with it, labor in the Spirit to achieve transformation. For example, my church family helped begin a soup kitchen that provides a meal every day of the year, serving 75-150 a night. For example, my church family has been involved in serving and raising support for ministries that rescue women out of sex trafficking. For example, Linda and I have, over the decades, provided free counseling for needy marriages and families (this is ongoing, to the very moment I am typing these words).
  • Study and grow in learning about the relationship between following Jesus and political involvement. This will assist you in transcending shallow, uninformed, hate-filled debating. Here are some resources that have taken me deeper.

SOME RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME (These are resources I have read and studied, and have helped me better understand the relationship between religion and politics. Surely there are more. What books have helped you?)

The more context, the more understanding. I was trained to approach my studies this way. For me, God calls me to contextual studies. 

So, currently (8/13/20), I am reading...

An Introduction to Political Philosophy, by Jonathan Wolff. I bought a used copy. It is so well-written. The first chapter on "The State of Nature" has hooked me. (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau - if there was no state, no government, what would life be like?)

The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works In the Real World, by Greg Ip. Reading an excellent book like this adds to my ability to vote with rgeater clarity.

Other books that have informed my contextual understanding include

And, of course, keep saturating yourself in Scripture. Why pay attention to anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus but has no time for this? Or, has no time to pray? Or, is disconnected from the church?

Study the ethics of Jesus. Read the Gospels. Check this out - The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. 

Do I agree with everything written in these books? 

Of course not. I don't even agree with everything you say. 

And, I have said things that, upon reflection, have caused me to disagree with myself.


Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (a book I co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I''m now giving attention to Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Followed by... Technology and Spiritual Formation

Then, Linda and I will co-write our book on Relationships.