Sunday, December 22, 2019

Evangelicals, and social and political issues

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8)

In light of Christianity Astray Today's nonsensical editorial (see here for example for a rebuttal against leftist politicking), it is pertinent to go back to the principle of Christian social and political engagement. Engaging in social issues, and sociopolitical issues, it is asserted, is a way to not bifurcate the Christian faith and act in obedience to Micah 6:8, to "do justice." The church ought to be engaged in justice in social issues, it is claimed. But how should we engage with social issues? One pastor in Singapore has asserted that when it comes to social issues, the key thing under consideration is whether something is "biblical" or "not biblical," not whether something is "left" or "right." The funny thing is that if that is the case, then why is he advocating for leftist issues while refusing to engage in "political right" issues? Why is "political right" issues seen as "imposition" while "political left" issues are not seen likewise as "imposition"?

As it should be evident from someone who looks at "Evangelical" sociopolitical interaction, "Evangelicals" are basically naive and ignorant on this issue. The whole idea that one can be focused only on "biblical" and "not biblical" categorization is, quite frankly, un-Christian. Both the "Religious Right" and the "Religious Left" claim that their social engagement is "biblical" and their opponents' social engagement is "doing politics." Just like everyone has a default tradition, so likewise everyone has a default sociopolitical tendency. The way to be biblical and not bound by tradition is to understand one's tradition and be critical of it. The way to be biblical and not bound by one's sociopolitical tendency likewise is to understand one's sociopolitical tendency and be critical of it. Otherwise, what happens when "Evangelicals" want to engage social issues is that they baptize whatever sociopolitical tendencies they have imbibed from their environment. Those brought up in a political right environment will assert that their political right approach to social issue is biblical, while those brought up in a political left environment will assert that their political left approach to social issues is biblical.

The assertion has been made that Evangelicals after the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy have lost the practice of social activism they were engaged in prior to that controversy, and thus Evangelicalism today has a truncated faith. That might be true (depending on how one understands the genesis of Evangelicalism), but how should one engage social issues? If one really wants to be biblical in social engagement, then one has to be critical of one's sociopolitical tendency, a trait which is seldom seen, if at all, in Evangelical social engagement.

It has been argued by Mark Noll that the scandal of the Evangelical Mind is that there is no real mind in Evangelicalism. Likewise, I will assert that the scandal of Evangelical social engagement is that there is no mind or real social engagement in Evangelical social engagement. Evangelical social action cannot even be categorized as "biblical," or "non-biblical." Rather, the real categorization of Evangelical social engagement is "worldly," or "reactive." From Jerry Falwell to Tim Keller, Evangelical social engagement is anti-intellectual, anti-reflective, and more about emotions than propositions.

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