Sunday, September 30, 2007,9:43 PM
The Kingdom vs. Utopia
Does believing in the mission that Christ gave us imply that one has liberal Utopian leanings or progressive delusions of grandeur? It's a question that I seem to encounter quite often these days. Generally the argument proceeds something like - all you emergent types are too tied to progressive liberal politics so therefore you think the government will save you and usher us into a perfect Utopian future (which is really a modern conception of progress anyway...). Or something similar along those lines. This is generally followed by some sermon on how we as Christians a should not corrupt ourselves (or the gospel) by getting involved in politics. Or at least about how we should only focus on trying to help those we have a personal relationship with - in our local community.

Don't get me wrong - I don't think the government can save us or bring about a perfect world. No one political party has all the answers or will automatically make this world a better place. But I don't think that is reason to just abandon politics or give up altogether. And (as I've mentioned before) I don't think working to bring God's Kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven" can just be written off as the modern myth of progress either.

To take to heart Jesus' command to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" - would imply that one actually believes that it can be done. If we are following in the way of Christ, living out the Kingdom values, and teaching others about the things Jesus taught then part of the idea is that we are attempting to make this world a better place. If we follow in Jesus' footsteps to "preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" then we should be actively working for those things believing that God has the power to make them happen. So in seeking to feed the hungry, to heal those with AIDS, to stop sexual exploitation of children, and to end slave like conditions in the factories we are not just buying into liberal ideas of progress through science, we are following Christ's commands.

But apparently to think that any of that will actually work is wishful Utopian thinking. And to think that the government or technology might assist in bringing those things about is to place our faith for salvation in such organizations. At least, so I have heard. But I'm not buying it.

The world is broken - God's kingdom is not on earth as it is in heaven. And often it has been the very people who claim to follow Christ that have caused the brokenness. If there is something that can be done to bring healing and reconciliation to the World, is it not a good thing to do it? And if a big organization or a government (many of whom caused the problems to begin with) are in a position to help heal the ills of the world, why the hell would I not support that? Even Jesus when the disciples reported that they had seen a man driving out demons in his name said, "Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you."

I don't think the government will save us or that they have all the answers. I don't think that the world will just get better and better because of the wonders of technology. I am not deluded into thinking that Utopia will just appear if enough people vote a certain way and start recycling. But I do believe in Jesus and the mission he has called us to. I do believe that as Christians we are expected to care for others and to stop the injustices in this world. And I have no problem using the government or technology to help make that happen if that is what it takes. The mission is bigger than the fear of being consumed by an secular agenda of progress. And if working to make Kingdom values a reality gets dismissed as an Utopian delusion, I really don't care. I'll just keep on following Jesus.

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posted by Julie at 9:43 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/30/2007 11:19:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I think part of the problem might be a return to dichotomistic thinking that separates the world into "Christian" and "non-Christian". Rather than seeing God at work through many different means (including through governments and technology), this sort of anti-Utopian reaction you're describing seems to want to say that God is really only at work in the small local communities of Christians. It's a sort of separatism all over again, even if this time it's coming from the neo-liberal camp rather than the fundamentalist camp.

  • At 10/01/2007 06:02:00 AM, Anonymous sonja

    I probably haven't had enough coffee ... but your first paragraph got under my skin. In particular, this sentence, "...all you emergent types are too tied to progressive liberal politics so therefore you think the government will save you and usher us into a perfect Utopian future (which is really a modern conception of progress anyway...)."

    However, many fundamentalist (modern) types seem to be tied to regressive conservative politics ... but that's okay? The path to salvation is through regressive conservative politics? I don't buy that line of thinking.

    Either it's okay for Christians to engage in politics. Then all Christians need to understand that politics and religion are somewhat separate and a person can be a person of faith and have a differing political perspective. Or, (and this is silly) we should agree that Christians not engage in politics at all. But to say that Christians should only engage in conservative politics is highly suspect.

  • At 10/01/2007 02:59:00 PM, Blogger paul

    By that measure we should all be communists - oops that didn't work either. If any thing that shows me that rhe Kingdom of God can't be imposed from without but born from within...

  • At 10/01/2007 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    I may be wrong (though I could just ask her in person of course), but I think Julie was reacting not specifically to fundamentalist modern folks who say this kind of stuff, but to the neo-liberal, anabaptist, Hauerwasian Mafia types who also say this kind of stuff. Hence the irony that some forms of postmodern Christianity can lead to a similar political isolationism as some forms of separatist fundamentalism (at least, pre-Falwell).

  • At 10/02/2007 11:23:00 AM, Blogger Tripp Hudgins

    Yeah...I struggle with this too. Paul says that governments are a gift to us from God...And that governments are called to be saved/godly/vehicles of salvation as much as any other person or organization. Well, that's how I understand all that stuff in Romans.

    But the warnings in Romans are also true. And the political language of Christ's Kingship are ample warning.

    And no one said that any of these organizations...or the faithful communities...will be free of sin. In fact, I think that the Bible is pretty clear that they are not free of sin.

    We all need redemption.

  • At 10/05/2007 11:11:00 AM, Blogger Steve Hayes

    As someone once put it: what is wrong with us that can be solved by politics is not all that is wrong with us.


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