“The politicization of the Gospel is a project of both liberals and conservatives in American Christianity. While Biblical Christianity has a responsibility to bear witness to a transcendent ethic and on that basis to criticize social evils, the danger comes when that transcendent focus is lost and the Church sells out to a secular ideology. Today the ‘crude salvationism’ and ‘other worldliness’ of traditional religion are giving way to elaborate efforts to use Christianity to sanction a political agenda. Liberation theology promotes a socialist utopia; fundamentalists who follow ‘reconstructionism’ promote a theocratic state. The German Christians would be able to agree with both of them.”
Gene Edward Veith Jr.
Modern Fascism — Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview
I’ve been over this kind of thing before but since the mistake that it represents is so prevalent in so much literature I will deal with it again here.
Veith in his book is warning about the possibility for Fascism to come to the fore once again in the West. Much of what he says in this regard is simply outstanding, though this quote leaves much to be desired. The problems with it are as follows,
1.) I agree that because of the Transcendent reference point that we find in the personal God of the Bible we must criticize social evil. However criticizing is not enough. It is not enough to say, that something is wrong without offering a Biblical alternative. A Transcendent reference point not only provides us the ability to critique social evil but it also provides the ability to promote social good. If on one hand we are allowed to criticize evil political agendas then on the other hand we must offer something that approximates a Christian political agenda.
2.) It must be agreed that the politicization of the Gospel is a project of both liberals and conservatives. The question we must ask is whether or not it is possible to have a politics from nowhere. Is it possible for a Politics to exist that is not beholden to some faith or belief system? The problem isn’t that people want to derive a politics from Chrisitianity. This is unavoidable and inevitable. The problem is when we politicize a Gospel that is not the Gospel and end up with a politicization of some other belief system that we wrongly say is expressive of the Gospel (Veith’s ‘selling out to secular ideology’). We will be forever in the position of criticizing social evils unless by God’s grace we get a politics that grows up out of the soil of Christianity.
3.) While we must continue to emphasize the ‘other worldliness’ of Christianity we must not emphasize it in such a way that it becomes disconnected from this world. It remains possible to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. Certainly Jesus saves us from our sin (Veith’s ‘crude salvationism’) and makes us fit to live with Him in heaven but between then and now lies a tract of time that needs to be spent on doing His will here as it is done in heaven, and God’s will applies to every area of life, including politics. Let us remain other-worldly and let us bring that other-worldliness and incarnate it into this world.
4.) When Veith talks about ‘German Christians’ agreeing with the notion of a Theocratic State he isn’t being complimentary. But the problem with the German Christians wasn’t that they had a Theocratic State the problem is that the Theocratic State was beholden to the wrong God. Veith seems to think that having a Theocratic State is avoidable but this would be to introduce neutrality in to our thinking. Every State is Theocratic. The State we currently live in is Theocratic. It is never a question of being Theocratic or not being Theocratic. It is only a question of which Theocracy that a people are going to have. Currently we are governed by the God of the people. We call this Democracy but that is just a Theocratic system where Demos is God (The voice of the people is the voice of God). Veith, like many in the West, seems to think that a State can be set up that isn’t in service to some God somewhere. We fault the German Christians for setting up the Theocratic State that they set up. We fault them because the God of the Bible was pushed aside for a false God in that Theocratic State. Their mistake wasn’t a Theocratic State. Their mistake was idolatry.