Politics in the Ordinary

Read an amazing article about “Making Citizenship Personal” which calls us to engage in politics by first and foremost starting with our own hearts and the institutions near and dear to us – our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, etc. In a way, this is a call that should not be too unfamiliar, for just as Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God — implying that he was somehow in competition with the kingdom of Caesar — and without taking up arms, so we who are his followers ought to think differently about what it means for us to engage in politics today. It’s not only about “renewing” politics by sending forth politicians armed with “a gospel worldview of politics”. It’s about reorganizing our own lives and relationships in accordance with what makes sense in God’s kingdom. Jesus didn’t cause a ruckus by gathering an army. Instead, he upended the traditional institution of the family and reorganized it around himself.

How ought we to respond to the problems of racism in society? Is it by expressing social solidarity and anger at certain symbolic representations of the problem (i.e. Trayvon Martin) by posting and sharing articles to such effect on social media? Is that how we can register our “protest” against the injustice of the world, to show that we’re on the side of justice, the side that will eventually be vindicated in the end? I cannot help but wonder whether the problem that Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith (N.T. Wright’s version) is yet alive and twitching with us today in the attitude of the young intelligentsia towards hot social issues of the day. Red equals signs, the right likes on the right articles, the right shares, the right tweets, and the sense of smug self-satisfaction that comes from unmasking privilege, are these but the new “works of the law” to mark out one’s membership among the righteous?

But as the prophet Habakkuk writes: the righteous shall live by faith. Just as Jesus was vindicated by his resurrection, so those who work and wait for God will be vindicated. It is not the hearers of the law who are justified, but the doers.

In a world with shrill cries and catcalls for justice all around, let us be those who do justice and not merely hear it. This means trying to embody it in our own relationships. Hate racism? Let’s start with our own hearts, for we might be surprised to see what we find or what we might end up being called to do. It might mean changing our lifestyle to try to force ourselves beyond our accustomed patterns. It might mean some hard talks. Some discomfort. Some damaged relationships.

It might mean different things for different people. But one thing is certain. It means something.

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One thought on “Politics in the Ordinary”

  1. Good thoughts – I’ve been struggling with the same issue as well, especially its implication for American progressivism. It seems like to me we’ve gotten so progressive the government’s safety nets become almost an excuse for individuals not to seek justice. I.e. if I believe so strongly about safety nets for the poor, why not also become their neighbor? My feeling is we need to recover a sense of justice that actually costs something – that is, more than simply our votes. A cheap justice may be no justice at all.

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