Thursday, February 15, 2018

Public Square

In an interview with Stephanie Summers, James K. A. Smith, who wrote the book called Awaiting the King, said,

In the American context in the 1970s and 1980s, we acquired a theology of culture that, rather suddenly, made us care about engaging in public, political life. In fact, we might have even had quite confident visions of how we were going to march into the public square and transform culture, because we were equipped with what we knew to be this capacious, wise Christian worldview in which the Gospel had something to say to every sphere of life.

However, I think we overestimated how effective our ideas would be, and we underestimated the deformative power of cultural currents that were already in the water in the public square. So we marched out to transform culture, and it turns out that culture ended up transforming us. Instead of transformation, what we got is our own assimilation.
This is really true. He also said,
And yet in the process of the sheer pragmatism of trying to get that done, we missed the deformative dynamics of things like consumerism, or libertarianism. We didn't realize how loaded the economic game was, and so then we ended up conceding to economic models and principles that I don't think sit very well with the biblical narrative. Yet now we are more committed to those kinds of partisan economic principles than we are to that biblical vision of economic flourishing.
Correct again, but he went on to say,
For some Christians, all of a sudden, we read the Scriptures in a way that we've never ever seen them before, and we realize that God cares about widows and orphans and strangers and aliens. We become newly animated by this passion for justice and feel a need to answer this call and be out in the public square working for justice.
This last one is misleading. When we get concerned about widows orphans and strangers, the correct response is sharing and caring. If the task is to big, we should persuade others to help us in caring for them. If we are surrounded by caring people, they will join us in caring and sharing.

Rushing to the public square is an inappropriate response. Christians rush to the public square, because they want to force other people to share and care for suffering widows, orphans and strangers, using compulsory taxation and government programs. Jesus refused to force people to share and care for those in need, if they did not want to do it. If we follow his example seriously, we would not rush to the public square.

If we see a problem, we should do something ourselves. Forcing someone else to share and care using state power is not the gospel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The acculturation has completely disfigured American evangelicalism. So many Christians have adopted a "let us do evil, that good may come" mentality. A large portion of the clickbait and fake news in the US is produced and consumed by professing Christians who think anything goes as long as it works against their political opponents.