Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spiritual Warfare of Politics

We are living in an interesting political age. I have always had a keen interest in politics -- from a very young age. I've written on it here and in books. I also believe in the importance of social justice work, having been actively involved in community organizing efforts. This political season has opened my eyes to the fact that as a person of faith/Christian I should not put my faith in political solutions. Even the best politicians are human, and theologically that means they, like me, are prone to sin. In one of my books -- Ultimate Allegiance -- I argue that the Lord's Prayer is a Christian pledge of allegiance, committing those who recite it to a higher realm than the national one. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in participating in the political realm, it's just that my ultimate faith (trust) is not placed there. At a time when at least one of the candidates for President has, is, and will engage in a politics of personal destruction, we need to be aware of the spiritual dimensions of the political realm.

With this in mind I want to share a few words from a new book by Richard Beck. It's entitled Reviving Old Scratch. It's a book about spiritual warfare. I will be sharing a review of the book shortly, but I thought I would bring out these words as a call to reflection about the spiritual dimension of political life. In a chapter near the end of the book titled "Turning the World Upside Down," Beck talks about the disruptive nature of the Gospel. He notes that the Romans called the Christians atheists because the Christians denied the value of the Roman Gods. That is, they refused to pledge their allegiance. This was form of spiritual revolt. Regarding political action, Beck, who is a psychologist and professor at a Church of Christ related university, notes that it is in reality not radical enough. That's because it doesn't get at the root of the problems.  So he writes:

This isn't to say that political activism or electoral politics are useless or ineffective. Some laws and policies are better than others. And some have lasting and revolutionary significance. So it's our duty and responsibility to engage in this ongoing work. But this political work often fails to get to the spiritual roots of systemic injustice and oppression, the sacred and unquestioned values that justify and perpetuate the political systems of the world. Until the gods of the nation are called into question, radical change is not possible. Economics is always about exorcisms. [Reviving Old Scratch, p 168].
What is it that needs to be exorcised? It is the sin of idolatry -- giving allegiance to the god of the nation. But it's not only the nation, for there are other gods the keep us from giving full attention to the realm of God. Yes, we need to engage in spiritual warfare if we're to truly get at the root of the problems of the age. Beck has a lot to say about this, and I will share more as time goes on.  But let us reflect on this for a moment -- to whom shall we give ultimate allegiance? Just remember that Old Scratch is ready and waiting, unless . . . .

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