Why Politics Aren’t Evil

Recently I’ve come across two interesting statements on friends’ blogs:

(1) “humans were created to rule the world on God’s behalf” (Daniel Kirk, in summarizing an article by Richard Middleton)

(2) “Cultural/creative power is the ability to successfully propose a new cultural good. But privilege is the accumulated benefits of past successful exercises of power… Jesus retains power but does not exploit privilege.” (Al Hsu, summarizing a talk by Andy Crouch, author of the fabulous 2008 book, Culture Making)

When I read Kirk’s blog today and saw that statement (which is nothing new/revolutionary to me), I was hit by the way it connected to what Hsu had posted, and the way both were connected with one of the big questions we debated in my Mission in American Culture class last quarter, which focused on politics in America.

Many students were afraid of politics, eager to separate themselves from the corruption, the bad decisions, even the power itself.  (See some of our blog entries on evangelicalism and politics.)  However, as a political science major in college, I didn’t feel able to turn by back on the political process.  I’m not saying it’s all good.  But I also don’t think the concepts of parties, PACs, organized interests, grassroots protests, executives, judiciaries, and legislatures are inherently bad.  I think they’re cool cultural innovations we’ve created to try to manage our societies.  And that can’t be completely awful, right?  Government is just sort of… necessary.

What these statements do, though, I think, is make an even more positive case for politics.  Politics is about the distribution of power.  We were created for power, for rulership.  And as such, we can’t ever get away from politics.  If these two statements are true, politics is woven into our very beings.  The question is not should we participate in politics but how can politics serve to rule the world for God–and by that I’m not meaning how can politics legislate morality or force devotion but rather how politics (and every other human endeavor) can be used to honor the human potential in all of us (including the ability to make our own decisions about things like religion).

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