Christianity has had a deep impact on politics for two thousand years, but its principles and commitments have often been mixed with other attitudes and been compromised by actual Christian behaviour, so it is not always clear what they are.
It is worse than this. In the twentieth century powerful political groups – Nazis, Fascists, State Socialists and Communists sought to eradicate Christianity and especially Christian political thought. Christians were often persecuted – in the USSR, China, Nazi Germany and elsewhere and Christianity went underground for quite long periods. More insidious were the western commitments to the unfettered Individual and Consumer Capitalism which also sought to sideline Christianity and its principles, and have done so quite successfully, though there are two billion or more Christians worldwide.
These pressures have resulted in a reaction among Christian churches in the West. They have often retreated into ecclesiasticism, into the business of what happens in churches. Actually the New Testament says little about churches, and Jesus was scathing about the Temple Party and its machinations and also about the Pharisees and their construction of ethical minutiae, a problem not unknown to churches today. Moreover the Greek word, ekklesia, refers to the principal public assembly of ancient Athens during its golden age. It is a democratic word, if you like, and not at all linked to cultic practices, but more a description of the people of God living the whole of their lives before God. Politics is as much a part of being a Christian as going to church, and Jesus’ titles – the Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Son of Man and the King of the Jews – reflect this. Jesus main teaching was of the Kingdom or Government of God, wider than just political, but also fully political.
There is another way in which a Christian political faith has been closed down. Christianity is a Gospel of peace. Love your enemies. Don’t think of killing others; don’t even be angry with them. Those who take the sword perish by it. Blessed are the peacemakers. Forgive those who offend you. Since the mid nineteenth century the arms companies and the military-industrial complex have been out to sell arms around the world and create the tensions which lead to war. Before each World War they defeated strong, mainly Christian, peace movements, and the World Wars duly followed. Since 1945 they have been intent on showing that peace does not work and only armed deadlock does. Actually peace does work and saves trillions of resources and millions of lives, but the military-industrial complex has intimidated the church until it too accepts armed deadlock (and wars) like most other people. The Christian political message of peace has become a vague distant hope of no political consequence as the war industry intended, and Christian politics is pushed off the map.
Now, for many, there is not even any time to think of these issues. The instant political culture of the day, where the medium is the message, dominates the media. How many tweets one has seems to matter more than whether what was said was true. It cuts against political thought and more so Christian political thought. Trying to see as God sees, seeing life, the creation, history and empires as God sees, cannot be approached by tweeting. It needs a bigger canvas. The Bible was written over several thousand years and we poor sods need a bit of time and thought to begin to see that kind of picture. This little offering tries to reopen a door which was partly closed from the outside and inside in the last century and look at the Christian political faith.