Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Who is Your Political Lord and Savior?

In The Last Week, a book on the final week of Jesus according to Mark by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, the authors ask an important question:

Who is your political Lord and Savior?

I preached a sermon on this question on Christ the King Sunday a couple of years ago. This brings up the larger question regarding how the church is to be involved in the public square. Moderator of the PC (U.S.A.), Bruce Reyes-Chow invites readers on his moderator blog to explore this question. Bruce writes:

Beginning on Monday, July 6, I will have the privilege of representing the Presbyterian Church (USA) at a series of meetings in Washington DC. And while I believe most of our denomination supports a presence in public square discourse, I realize that for some, even the existence our Washington Office* and our presence in political arena raises some strong objections. So feel free to push back - like any of you need permission - on our relationship with politics, but I am going and am honored to do so.

I will begin four days of congressional visits in DC by continuing conversations with folks from our Washington Office and other PC(USA) partners to get up to speed on a breadth of General Assembly policies but primarily four issues: Cuba, Philippines, Jubilee and the Employee Free Choice Act. After that I will have the opportunity to meet both individually and as part of delegations with various agencies and public servants. These are all issues that I have great concern about as a local pastor, but I will be there to represent the PC(USA) and our policies and statements.

I most definitely support Bruce in his work. I commented on his blog:


Happy 4th! I think on this day it is good to remember that the only clergyperson to sign the Declaration of Independence was a Presbyterian minister, John Witherspoon. I would say that was a political act, even a partisan one.

There is no way to please everyone on this topic, as you know. We will make decisions in the political realm that we may later regret. Nevertheless, our Reformed principles such as the sovereignty of God over all of life spiritual and political, freedom of conscience, and our quest for social righteousness compel us to be involved in the political realm.

Even as I may disagree as an individual on some of the decisions of the Washington Office and the decisions of other denominational officials (including you!) I support and encourage our and your involvement in the public square.

I will be following your work with interest.

Thank you for taking on this charge as moderator in all its ambiguity!

One of the particular issues for which I think the church should speak is in the area of healthcare. Bruce writes:

One important part of this trip will also be to participate in the Faith Leader Summit on Health Care to be held on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Gradye was originally supposed to be our rep, but will be participating in the funeral services of Bill Forbes. This will be a time for us to have a PC(USA) presence as part of an interfaith delegation that will do a great deal of listening to and speaking with members of congress and President Obama's Health Care Reform Team.

I hope you will share your thoughts not only with Bruce but with your local representatives in congress. Check out the website, Tennessee Healthcare Campaign for resources on how you can become informed and speak truth to power regarding affordable healthcare choices for all.


  1. Interesting you should bring up Bruce Reyes-Chow in this context. One of the things about Jesus's ministry and the views of the early Christian movement that is highlighted by the scholarly work of Dominic Crossan is the contrast between Jesus and the Roman Empire, and how proclaiming Jesus as Lord was an act of high treason against Roman imperial authority.

    Every October in San Francisco, there is a huge weekend event that celebrates the American Empire. It is when the Blue Angels come to town and make an entertainment spectacle out of war jets, the death machines of the American Empire. In my mind, making entertainment out of military jets is morally the equivalent to making an entertainment spectacle out of gas chambers. Personally, instead of being entertained, I am haunted by the sounds those jets make as they fly overhead; I wonder what the victims of US bombing raids in Iraq thought every time they heard those jets. What is the real purpose of these air spectacles, anyway, if not to serve as a propaganda tool and to turn us all into cheerleaders for the American Empire?

    I remember when Bruce Reyes-Chow wrote in his blog one October about how he brought his children to watch the Blue Angels. His reaction was quite positive, and thus diametrically different from my own.

  2. Seeker,

    Thank you for that. I think that is a prophetic statement regarding Empire and the way of Christ.

    Now I am a bit embarrassed as in a few hours I am going to watch the fireworks display!

    Seriously, I think the war machine is something American church leaders have been inept in criticizing.

    Although, I do think Bruce does speak against Empire and perhaps he needs more encouragement to do so.

  3. "Who is Your Political Lord and Savior?"

    Was, is and always will be Jesus of Nazareth.

    Hi, John. Happy 4th.
    Keep fighting to broaden that "Independence" to ALL Americans so this holiday will eventually retain it's true meaning.

  4. I don't think I have a political Lord and Savior. There are some great folks out there working for justice and peace, and it's a vital and noble work.

    But I'm just not sure salvation is something to be found in the polis. Our efforts to bring things into balance between competing sociocultural perspectives just ain't where the rubber meets the road soteriologically.

    That doesn't mean we shouldn't seek justice and equity through the processes of our democratic republic. It also doesn't mean that this work can't serve a prophetic purpose, as in the current struggle for GLBT rights.

    But salvation is not the goal of political dynamics.

    Or maybe I've been reading too much Augustine and Niebuhr.

  5. Hey Beloved,

    I think I made the post confusing. The question I remember as a child is, "Who is your personal Lord and Savior?" The answer of course (for Christians) is Jesus Christ. Borg and Crossan challenge us to think of Christ not only in personal but in political terms as well. The challenge not only being personal righteousness but social righteousness too.

    In isn't about Christian exclusiveness nor about Christians forcing their narrow church politics on the public, but seeking justice and peace for Earth as well as my own personal

  6. "Now I am a bit embarrassed as in a few hours I am going to watch the fireworks display!"

    Fireworks aren't war machines. They're turning swords into plowshares, and gunpowder into art and spectacle. Though as a former professional pyrotechnician I may be a bit biased. :)