In this country, there seem to be five basic types of political stances taken by Christians. Many American Christians, however, lack the understanding or imagination to see all five. Some can see only two or three. Most will easily understand four. But the fifth remains an elusive, incomprehensible mystery to them. The reason for this is that it is wholly different from the other four in character and worldview. The four stem from some form of worldview inherited from modernism; and generally, they share in the great worldview bath of modern Enlightenment Liberalism. The fifth kind of Christian politics is not rooted in modernism—or at least, it consciously seeks not to be. For that reason, it is a breed apart from the other four, and so adherents of the four find it difficult to imagine or understand.
Let us have a brief look at these five views:
First, there is left-oriented Christianity. This may range from basic blue-state Democratic leanings all the way to Christian versions of Marxism. If you are a Christian who voted for Hillary Clinton in the election of 2016, whether from a place of general approval or as the lesser of two evils, you are probably a good example of someone this kind of political stance.
Second, of course, there is right-oriented Christianity. Here again is a range, but these Christians tend to believe that right-wing, “conservative” politics best match the teachings of the Bible. If you are a Christian and have supported Donald Trump in any way or to any degree, and certainly if you voted for him even as the lesser evil, it is rather likely you are in this group.
Third, there are many Christians who are “moderate” whether on purpose or on accident. That is, they may intentionally try to stay in the middle, not adopting the planks of any platform to the right or to the left. Or they may, simply out of confusion, end up somewhat tenuously in such a position. If you spread your vote and your political critique around because you don’t want to get tied to one party or another, this might be you.
Fourth, many Christians try to be apolitical. These brothers and sisters are interested in keeping their focus on the things of God. They want to work in and through a church that stays out of politics. If this is your political stance, perhaps you didn’t vote at all. Or if you did, you would never talk about it to anyone, and you wish no Christians would talk about their vote publically. You see Jesus as having a kingdom “not of this world” and believe He would not want His church to get bogged down in the mess of earthly politics. We should just be about the business of winning souls and building up the body of Christ.
Well, those are the four. What could possibly remain? We have covered leftward, rightward, centrist and noninvolvement political stances. All parts of the political spectrum are accounted for, and so is disengagement from it. Thinking spatially, it is difficult to picture any other option. How could there be a fifth kind?
The fifth kind is a radical commitment to the kingdom of God under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Of course, Christians of all kinds will think of themselves and their politically like-minded fellows as having such a commitment. But they believe that the kingdom of God is manifested in this time and place on earth in a commitment to right, left or centrist political ideas. Or in the case of the apolitical type, it is believed that the kingdom of God is manifested in a church that remains unsullied by the muck of worldly politics.
Christians who have the fifth kind of political stance share a commitment to the kingdom of God which, at once, transcends the political spectrum and actively engages it. They understand—really understand!—that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. They understand, furthermore, that He is not even a modern Enlightenment liberal. His kingdom is both transcendent and immanent, both not of this world and deeply involved in this world.
Commitment to the kingdom of God, then, is extremely political and it will necessitate political involvement in this world, mostly through faithful testimony, but also through social action. Sometimes that testimony and action will sound to those whose imaginations are trapped within the modern worldview as though it were left-leaning (perhaps when advocating for the poor against the ugly side of capitalism) or right-leaning (perhaps when advocating for the pre-born against the selfishness of “reproductive rights”).
When Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, He was not saying that it was located on Mars or even in heaven. He was not saying that His kingdom had nothing to do with this world. He was saying that it was qualitatively different from anything this world has seen or can understand. That it is of another realm refers to its essence, not its location. Indeed, King Jesus is very interested in this world and has bled to claim it for His own. This world is in rebellion against its true King, but it will not always be so (Rev. 11:15).
The church is here in the world as a colony of heaven. And her mission is to be a picture and a foretaste of the kingdom of the One who has already conquered the world but who is patiently letting it go its way for the time being. This is what James Davison Hunter has called “Faithful Presence.”
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, ‘Well, duh! Of course!’ But if you think this understanding of Christian politics is clear or easy to understand, you are probably either not an American or are one of the many who only think they get it. I, for one, have been reading, thinking, talking about this kingdom politic for many years. I have been actively trying to let it frame my worldview, and I continue to struggle, finding myself drawn into modernist modes of thought.
So in general, if you would be one who is committed to the kingdom of God with this fifth kind of political stance, I would suggest starting by cultivating a healthy suspicion of your own sense of already having it. A second step, for some, might be to trade your diet of either right or left-oriented media faucets for more Scripture.