Politics Is Not the Opposite of Gospel

From Politics & Evangelical Theology :

Another concern [Evans] articulates is a common one, and it involves pitting the “gospel” against “politics.” She is tired of “vain attempts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power.” No matter how many times it is said and no matter how many different ways it can be said, it is still a false dichotomy. I remember during my seminary days attending a lecture on the role of Christians in civil matters. The professor was arguing for the need of a broad moral consensus in society and the legitimacy of Christians engaging in matters of politics. Part of “loving our neighbors” means, among other things, seeking their social and cultural well-being. A classmate of mine was baffled by this and asked me: “So I shouldn’t mind if my neighbors go to hell, just so long as they’re ‘good’ people?” He was implying that anything less than individual gospel conversions to Christ had nothing to do with the Kingdom of God! They were equivalent to Rachel’s “vain efforts” to advance the Kingdom through “politics and power.”

I have seen this sentiment expressed innumerable times on Internet comment threads and Facebook posts, always by disillusioned younger Christians. Somehow, according to this line of (non)thinking, caring about politics and public policy means not truly caring about people. It is always gospel or politics. But a second’s thought shows this to be nonsense. Of course I want my neighbors to become Christians. But in the event that doesn’t happen (I am not God, after all), I want them to have wonderful lives, not miserable ones. Contrary to my seminary classmate, it makes a great deal of real-world, practical difference whether my non-Christian neighbor (who may well be going to hell) is an upstanding citizen, faithfully married with wonderful, well-adjusted children, and a successful career or whether he shipwrecks his life and the lives of everyone around him. I would argue that if all I cared about was my neighbor’s life and happiness in the next world while ignoring his or her life and happiness in the present world I would be the dictionary definition of an uncaring person. Seeking and promoting the kind of society that brings happiness and prosperity to my neighbors and their children and their children’s children is not at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ!"


Brian Mattson