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God's Huckster

Preaching Jesus in a politically-charged climate.

Average Rating:  [see ratings/reviews]God's Huckster

I pastor a church made up of (at best guess) 40% Democrats, 40% Republicans, and 20% unaffiliated. In short, that's a rather politically inclined (and charged) church community. It creates, I admit, quite the homiletical headache. Broadly, the Democrats desire me to teach more on the "systemic" issues of society—ecological degradation, racism, and marriage equality. The other half, however, wish I talked more about "personal" issues—repentance, sexual fidelity, and methods for a healthy prayer life. Just about everyone is looking for something different; a reality that might just drive just about any preacher insane. It certainly does me!

It's an important question: how does one preach faithfully in a politically-charged climate?

The gospel is political

We must begin with a simple truth: the gospel is political. Into the old creation, Jesus Christ descended that he might establish a "new creation." There, it is written, "the old things will pass away." (2 Cor. 5:17) This new "administration of grace" (Eph. 3:2) would instigate swift and immediate change. Jesus' Kingdom, he would say, was "at hand." (Matt. 3:2) It was not far off or long coming or speculative. It was here and now. Paul, for this reason, would call Jesus the "Second Adam," (1 Cor. 15:45) the One who does away with the kingdom of the first Adam, which brought death to the story of creation. In sum, Jesus' work undoes this entire "kingdom of darkness," "transferring" (Col. 1:13) a people into this new kingdom. The way it is done is not a mistake—he would "die on a tree" (Acts 5:30). It is not without weight that the narrative of death would be undone on the very thing where it began—a tree. The political overtones are not insignificant. In short, one might say Jesus came to make creation great … again.

My goal is to teach Matthew the Tax Collector to learn to worship God alongside Simon the Zealot.

As preachers, we recognize that the pulpit plays a unique place in the life of faith. For it is here that we understand our words to be an invitation into this new kingdom and new world. Preaching invites us into God's kingdom that is always "at hand." It is there that we "hold out the word of life" (Phil. 2:16) to a dark and dying world.

That perennial danger lurks when we misappropriate our task and hold out anything other than this "word of life"—our opinions, conjecture, or speculations. This couldn't be truer than in a politically charged culture like our own. Theologian Leonard Sweet, in his book Giving Blood, has identified what he calls one of the worst things a preacher can do: "[T]o give people the sense that their worship experience has been hijacked—hijacked by politics, by personal agendas, by individual druthers, by private vendettas." But when we prop up our own political conclusions regardless of what the text says we demonstrate that we love our own preaching more than God's people or even God himself. That raises the question: how do we preach about the politics of Jesus while staying faithful to the task of the "word of life"?

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A. J. Swoboda:
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Don Ratcliff

January 29, 2017  1:17am

Could you please consider, not as a matter of politics but as a matter living in Christ, praying on the way we are treating the less fortunate, the stranger who believes differently and immigrants to our country if that is living in Christ? thank you for your time. I believe I just found my calling.

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b.Jo

June 24, 2016  8:06pm

Thank you for some insight is a very tough political season.

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William Sillings

June 20, 2016  1:12pm

Very thought provoking. One point I'd like to see addressed: One of the problems with Evangelical theologies is the pessimistic "posit" that Christ's Kingdom is mostly future, that Christ does not intend his kingdom to reign until the millennium, and that Christians just have to wait until that time comes. Mr. Swoboda comes close to a better point of view when he says that Christianity should affect one's political position. When he posits that Christ rejects the political offices we offer him, he is correct. However, isn't that because he already reigns, that his rule extends to all the earth, and that Christians are actually ambassadors sent forth to announce his reign in all the earth? Does such rule not include his reign over political, societal and economic aspects of world existence? Does his reign not mean present day rulership over all? Of course, our problem is, that if we're just waiting for some future return, he doesn't get to reign now. That seems erroneous to me.

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James H Johnson

June 20, 2016  12:33pm

It pains me to speak this way-but; I am not scholarly enough to trace down the origin of the word "politics", or "political". I did pull out my NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance - and could find no reference to either of those words. We are exhorted to be not of the world though in it, but in it while being a citizen of God's Kingdom - a right given to us by Christ Jesus. Politics is an essence of the world - something created by fallen men. The behaviors described in the Bible can be described as "Political" . . . but they are descriptions of the fallen - those Christ came and died to save . . . from "politics." We err when we attempt to comport the actions of Jesus with the things of the world.

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Mark Pitts

June 20, 2016  10:29am

Very thought provoking and incredibly timely.

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