I have had a bit of a holiday from blogging for the past month. Easter went well and we are now turning our attention at Christ Church to Ascension Day and Pentecost when there is quite a bit going on.
I was at Ming Hua, our theological college, yesterday, where the subjects under discussion were the Christian attitude to those in authority and to war. Living in Hong Kong and coming from the UK, gives different perspectives on these issues. The UK is, after all, at war in Afghanistan and Iraq and is going through a general election as I write. While in Hong Kong, there is much argument and debate about attempts to change the way the Chief Executive is chosen here. How involved, then, in politics should the Christian be and what should be our attitude to the various political issues of our day?
There are, I think, two extreme positions. On the one hand, there are those who think that Christians, or at least the Church, should not be involved in politics at all. As politics is about how the society in which we live is governed and organized, this seems to be an impossible position for anyone who takes the Bible seriously to adopt. However, on the other hand, there are those who engage in politics wholeheartedly and think the Church should do the same, but whose approach is no different to anyone else involved in politics. You wouldn't know they were Christians in other words.
What both these positions have in common, ironically, is that effectively they both leave God out of the picture. The first thinks that belief in God and involvement in politics don't mix. The other keeps belief in God and political involvement separate. If we see this world as God's world and if we believe we should love our neighbour as ourselves, it is hard to see how we can keep either God or ourselves out of politics.
But our starting-point, our ideology and presuppositions will be very different to those of the non-Christian, even if we end up voting with those who don't believe what we believe. The Christian will never forget that this age is transient, under the judgement of God, and that all human endeavour, even at its best, is tainted with sin. We will never, then, be able to give ourselves completely to any human political system or philosophy.
This is something that Christians in the west especially need to hear for there is the somewhat strange notion amongst some western Christians that freedom in a political sense and democracy are one and the same thing. Consequently, if the Christian supports freedom, they should also support democracy. I have often said I feel more free in Beijing than I do in London. I can walk the streets of Beijing without fear of attack, for example, in a way I can't walk the streets of London.
Democracy is a voting system for deciding who should govern us. It is not the same as freedom nor does it guarantee it. It may be a good system, but to absolutize it is as wrong as it was in the past to absolutize the divine right of Kings.