How Christians can be a third party in politics

Michelle Crotwell Kirtley

October 19, 2011

Michelle Kirtley confuses two aspects of  lobbying by Christians: the political, that of lobbying one's elected representative, and the policy-oriented, that of lobbying the executive and administrative branches of government.<br><br>In terms of practical politics, the path of direct political lobbying has limited utility. As her article acknowledges, the elected representative will be centrally concerned with electoral reality and the coalition of support that backs him or her. This majority coalition generally is also fairly stable, so here in West Michigan our congressional representation will be from one party, no matter what the other side does (or hopes to do). So even more important than the Christian identity will be the partisan one -- for those Christians within the majority, they may enjoy a significant voice. Of course, for those in the minority, the possibility of impact is reduced to what would be marginal or feel-good concerns. <br><br>This Christian-branded direct political lobbying runs into two other difficulties: Christians will be found on both sides of the issue, so political lobbying always runs into theological headwinds. A second difficulty arises from the specific branding. Christian political branding has functioned as an alienating activity, the biblical millstone for young adults (case in point, Alisa Harris' memoir, <i>Raised Right</i>).<br><br>In contrast, lobbying of the administration can appear to have more impact. However as it is invariably translated through pragmatism, the specific Christian distinctives tend either to be eroded -- how is one policy different from another? Or particular in the case of justice issues, this same lobbying has often been challenged theologically as a watering down of the Gospel with imported social science (aka marxism). <br><br>So is there another way?<br><br>It strikes me that the real value of the Christian community is the construction and support of a worldview. We may not, likely not be able to change the mind of our elected representative, but we can as a community shape the context for his or her decision.  Actions, policies, convictions flow out of plausibility structures; the Christian community and its worship is where we create the default position, the tacit beliefs that govern our lives together. In this, having a Christian anthropology, a Christian view of the person is far more significant for our politics than the momentary electoral victory.<br><br>What the Christian brings to the political table is not a set of policies so much as a lived out, cruciform reality, that knows how to forgive, and how to hope. Men and women who know this Truth are far more likely to make the right decisions, independent of their party.

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