Christians in Politics or Politics in Christians?
For release June 3 and thereafter (463 words)
by CRAIG LADWIG
It is easy to find observers of Indiana politics with secular concerns about the number of individual candidates, even party factions, seeking office as "Christian."
There is the obvious problem of single-issue politics; that is, a constituency is activated to elect a candidate for his position on issue "A" only to find out too late that he opposes it on issues "B" and "C" and the rest.
The concern of others, however, is spiritual — especially in recent years as Christian groups have become more adept at political organization and therefore more tempted by it. This concern may be guided by an essay, "Meditation on the Third Commandment," from the Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis.
The essay boils down to these points:
- When Christians set about forming a political faction or party they necessarily exclude other Christians who disagree with the means the faction champions.
- It is likely that on the full political field this faction or party will find itself a minority of a minority.
- Such a minority must form alliances with other minorities, alliances with those who are at best ambivalent to Christian convictions.
- And even if Indiana Christians are particularly skillful at this game, they end up with a political faction that is “christian” only in that it’s officers have a powerful incentive to claim to be followers of Christ. Worse, by calling itself a Christian this or a Christian that, the party unavoidably implies that those who disagree with it are un-Christian.
Would Lewis, then, leave Christians sitting around waiting for the lions to get hungry? Not necessarily. He has three specific and coordinated alternatives to modern political parties (“secret societies of murderers and blackmailers,” he called them).
The first and best, or course, is to convert their neighbors one-by-one toward the eventual realization of a Christian majority or, in the end, a Christian unanimity.
Another would be to simply witness to those persons currently at the head of political factions, parties, nations or even empires (the Constantine strategy).
Yet another would be to form what Lewis described as interdenominational “Christian Voting Societies.” Such a society might write letters to the editor such as this one. Or the society might draw up more formal letters of assurances about political means and ends, assurances that members of the society would vow to extract from office-seekers as a condition of support.
So Lewis would have Christians merely pester politicians with letters?
“Yes: just that," he answers in his conclusion. "I think such pestering combines the dove and the serpent. I think it means a world where parties have to take care not to alienate Christians instead of a world where Christians have to be ‘loyal’ to infidel parties.”
“Pesterer-in-Chief” has a good sound to it. Nominations are open.
Craig Ladwig is editor of the Indiana Policy Review.