Winter 2003
Volume 7 Number 2

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Both Soaries and Forrester said they benefited from exposure to this tradition.

“Faith is as much a grid through which I view the world as it is what I rely on emotionally,” said Forrester, who cited Rienhold Niebuhr as a significant influence. “My faith gives me the right questions.”

Stackhouse, who in the fall semester taught a course titled “Politics As a Calling,” thinks the church is responsible to help people develop the kind of grid to which Forrester refers—though without blurring the distinction between Sunday worship and a political party’s national convention.

“I see no reason why the church can’t sponsor committed groups that are willing to make a case [for political causes] in congregations and in public life,” says Stackhouse. “I don’t want a church ever to become a political party. When you can’t tell the difference between a church service and a political rally, you’ve lost it. But in many churches these days people do not raise public issues from the standpoint of faith. At the least, these issues can be clarified and preached about—not coming to conclusions, but presenting a framework for understanding.”

“In my view,” said Soaries, articulating the way he puts this into practice in his congregation, “the church teaches people what the gospel is, motivates people to want to live the gospel, and mobilizes people to be participants in the process. In this context [of politics], that means taking advantage of your rights. It means registering and voting. It means serving on committees. It means weighing in on policy. It means having in focus at least the same concerns that Jesus had.”

This echoes Kuyper’s inaugural address in 1880 at the opening of the Free University of Amsterdam, in which he said, “No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign of all, does not proclaim, ‘Mine!’”

As politicians campaign and take seats of power, as churches strive to proclaim the gospel in word and action to their neighborhoods and governments, as individuals enter voting booths and work with grassroots organizations, Kuyper asserts that the Christian confession of Christ as Lord embraces everything.

Of course, Christian faith doesn’t come with a voter’s guide. But it does make clear certain responsibilities, and that more than “national interests” are at stake. Common membership in the body of Christ does not translate into political consensus, but it does provide direction for faithful political decisions. The prophet Micah’s response to life’s grand questions—What is good? What does the Lord require?—seems, for instance, a worthy compass as Christians, in their various ways, take part in the political realm: “…to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

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