Reflections on political leanings…

After my post the other day on ‘permanent revolution’ I got to thinking about how Christians have responded to politics. Interesting how in Europe there is a mainstream political movement called ‘Christian Democracry’ which more often than not is on the right wing of politics. Interesting too how in America the weight of the Religious Right is thrown behind the Republican party, so much so that to vote democrat is to vote against God!

I suppose the separation in the UK of politics and religion is something that guards against this – yet I would guess that most observers would say that the church would line up on the political right with its conservative tendencies in terms of family and life issues…yet the Labour Party draws a large proportion of its politicians from the Christian Socialist Movement.

What saddens me is that when you lean to the left, politically speaking (!) you’re automatically tarred as being a liberal, theologically speaking (thanks to Graeme for reawakening this thought process!)…yet surely this has got nothing to do with it! The Christ of the gospels can be interpreted just as much as a social campaigner as a moral conservative…but Christ just could not be defined in these terms – he was Christ! Neither a leftie or righty! So surely to make an assumption that someone who feels more comfortable with a left-wing perspective is theologically liberal is deeply flawed. Now, I’m not saying I’m a ‘fundamentalist’ by any terms…but I’m fairly sure that I’m not a liberal! But then, here we go again…trying to box up God in our terms, rather than seeking to know more of God…the incredible mystery of God will never allow us to tie him up in neat little packages…of that I am sure!

Just as a provocative question…if you’re a Primitive Salvo, does that necessarily make you a ‘fundamentalist’ theologically? Or is it something a little more blurry?


13 thoughts on “Reflections on political leanings…

  1. Martin, Andy H again. Dunno whether you, I or anyone else I know would consider me a primitive salvo, but I’d say, first and foremost, as when we had that conversation at Roots, that I’m a Christian. That apart, like you say, it’s about trying to put ourselves, as well as God, into neat little boxes. Why bother?

  2. Now here is an possibly inflammatory statement!

    It has been said on numerous occasions by well respected people that Marxism is really Christianity without Christ! That may be a bit simplistic, but it contains a valid point!

    Politically, I am definitely on the left, but theologically I am certainly not a liberal! I would say a resounding ‘Amen’ to your comment that Christ was just as much a social campaigner as a moral conservative. He showed up the hypocrisy of Jewish society whilst still managing to convict people of their sin.

    Coming to TSA, there are some in the primitive camp who seem to be more fundamentalist than others, but that’s true about the Army in general. I would suggest that the only fundamentalist thing about true Salvationism is the passionate battle for every person’s soul. As long as we do not compromise on that I suspect that there can be as many different expressions of that as there are Salvationists!

  3. I don’t think you can be a liberal primitive. Primitive Salvationism is about primitive, no compromising salvation…authentic salvation which does encompass more than just the soul, but the saving of the whole person.

    Now there are some baptists, for example, who would say that saying that salvation is wholistic is a liberal notion, but I don’t see how you can say that biblically.

    I recenlty made comment on my blog about the terms ‘Christian’ and ‘Salvationist’ so won’t repeat them here.

    I’d reckon, from my understanding, that you’d have a job to be a Primitive Salvationist and be theologically liberal.

    However, I’ve never really equated political liberalism with theological liberalism. I tend to vote for who has the most morally sound policies and that can be anyone from Liberals, and Labour to Conservative, Green and Socialist! (I’ve voted all of them in the past!)

  4. Interesting thoughts…

    Graeme, funny, I had thought long and hard about that ‘christianity without Christ’ thought while at Uni.

    Andrew – I’d agree about extreme liberals struggling to be primitives (perhaps those who verge on universalism etc.) but I guess it’s also about our definition of fundamentalism…my biggest problem is trying to restrain God to our limited concepts/words. Not really a problem with doctrine, but interpretation of doctrine etc.

  5. Your talking about what I think they call neo-orthodoxy..the whole ‘God is a mystery thing.’ Thing is…of course we will never know everything about God…silly to suggest we can.

    But the God who communicates through the Word didn’t intened to leave us with any doubt about who he is and exacty how much confidence we can put in him. If we put more emphasis on trying to understand the God of the Word, we will find that the Word of God will give us enough of what we need to understand about him to promote his name to all who need to know.

    Now, I’m happy that I’ll never know all of God but I’m also convinced that God quite likes us being sure of who he is, what he has done and what his intentions are for the world.

    He inspired Luke to write his gospel so that we would be informed, he inspired John so that we’d know how to be saved.

    Its lovely for us who like talking theology to mystery-ise about God but I’ve seen people who let their grandiose talk fog their commitment to mission and the uncomplicated, uncompromising task of proclaiming Christ crucified.

    Having spent 4 years in theological institutions I guess I’ve probably had every theological conversation there is to be had at least 10 times. I found that for mission in the real life that if you don’t keep in simple, you not only lose the Christians, but you lose the possibility of winning the non-Christians with the gospel.

    The wonderful thing about the gift of tongues is that we never have to worry about finding words to praise God with…my Spirit can utter utterances I never need to know, but in uttering them my sould gets nourished all the same.

    Yep…Gods all a mystery, but he really has made it so simple for us to be so sure of him. I think he even asks us to be confident in him. Shame that all of our tendancies tend to lean towards clouding God up!

    yours, always ranting,


  6. Andrew

    Whilst I agree that to be a ‘Primitive Salvationist’ it is nigh on impossible to be theologically liberal, Martin’s question about fundamentalism still stands.

    Our first calling is for the salvation of the world and that means all people. For this we must be fundamentalists in reaching lost people! Nothing should compromise that goal.

    This does not mean that we must be like the religious right-wing fundamentalism that we associate with the word today. Too much of this is about the picking and choosing where they will apply strict adherence to scripture! Instead of loving the sinner, it is about abusing anyone who doesn’t agree with their viewpoint, whilst being totally ignorant of their own hypocrisy.

    I would say that to be a primitive Salvationist we can be neither liberal nor fundamentalist. Instead our whole lives must reflect Jesus’ life and in all our dealing with people we should act as He did. Therefore we protect the oppressed, whatever their sin may be, and speak out against the oppressors. We must challenge the sin in peoples’ lives whilst never condemning the people themselves.

  7. I think we are confusing ourselves and others by using words like liberal, fundamentalist, primitive.

    “Take the world but give me Jesus!”

    I think Christian Schwartz defines it best in his NCD materials, we need to be radical! Radical coming from the word Radix meaning Root!

    We nned to get back to the root and the root is Jesus! You can label me fundamental, liberal, primitive, emerging, quaker, baker or candlestick maker, who cares!

    As long as you label me a Christian (as in Christ like). Christ was a radical fundamentalist as he backed up OT law and scriptures, He was a radical liberal as He questioned the pharisaical bigottry, he was a radical primitive as He claimed not to do anything the Father hadn’t told Him to and a radical new thinker as he turned all religous traditions on their heads.

    We need to be like Jesus, in our relentless questioning of social and economical oppression and in our relentless love for the lost and in our uncompromising stand for the truth of the word of God.

  8. Thanks Patrick – couldn’t agree more on the use of inaccessible terms that confuse and draw blank expressions or prejudice.

    My worry, however, is that to many Christianity = fundamentalism, by which I mean the negative sense of the word…ie deeply judgmental of anyone who doesn’t look, act, smell like us…even fellow believers!

    I just pray we who are followers of Christ can show the world we’re not all right-wing bigots…oops, sorry!

  9. hehe … Well I think we can all agree on the fact that judging others is against the word of God, “Judge not, lest ye be judged yourself” (apologes for the KJV but it’s how I memorized it) We are called to model the Christian faith by becoming more like Christ. And Christ was the friend of sinners, Lord of truth!

    I would like to append to my NCD comment above that what Christian Schwartz propagates is Radical balance! Not Truth or Grace or Justice but rather Truth and Grace and Justice. Also being careful to point out that it’s not the balance of these where it becomes neither but 100% truth, 100% grace and 100% justice. That is Jesus model of radical balance!

    (As I pointed out in my blog this morning before this debate broke out, thanx Graeme for pointing me in this direction.)

  10. Hi friends,

    My name’s Steve Bussey. I live in New York, and am part of our Project 117 staff at the School for Officer Training.

    I’m interested in your debate between primitive Salvationist, fundamentalist, liberal etc. etc.

    I’ve been wrestling through similar debates and have just finished a paper on it which I’m progressively posting on my blog.

    However, it’s from the perspective of media’s essentialized representation of evangelicals – reducing us to a couple of overly simplistic, crystallized stereotypes.

    What I like about the older Army was its’ intentionality in breaking free of such stereotypes. If we end up becoming simply funamentalist OR liberal – we have more to lose than gain.

    Maybe we need to move beyond such limiting either/or approaches?

    Steve Bussey

  11. Thanks for the input, Steve.

    To be honest, I didn’t intend this post to ever kick off about semantics – however, it’s raised some really interesting points. I think you’re absolutely right about the early Army – it was quite simply undefinable. We’ve evolved from there to a point where we now argue about what Army is or isn’t, and how ‘distinctive’ we actually are! i.e. we can be defined! And interestingly, much of the debate comes back to the old fundamentalist vs liberal thing, just in Army language!

    I’d love to see an army that embraces the everyman approach, where we can be any of the above, and yet still understand why God has called us to this church. A concern for me is that if you’re any but one in particular you could be viewed as being a second class salvationist.

  12. This all depends on one’s understanding of the term fundamentalist and thats where confusion comes.

    I’m simply talking about believe that the Bible is the word of God, doing what it says and sharing its message. Whereas I guess you are maybe tarring ‘fundamentalism’ with some Southern Baptist nutters who dance around with snakes.

  13. Great Blog, great discussion… hope it’s not too late to chip in.

    I must confess that I hate tags maybe it is the linguistic pedant in me coming to the fore, but I really struggle with tautology in any shape or form.

    Here are some modern examples…

    Born again Christian
    Radical Holiness
    Primitive Salvationist
    Social Gospel
    Seeker friendly evangelism
    Aggressive Christianity

    These are all classic examples of tautology yet they are all useful phrases because the original word has had its meaning eroded over time.

    I have been called a ‘primitve’ Salvationist and I definitely an aggressive Christian, I teach (and live) radical holiness, I deliver a social gospel (but certainly not a humanitarian one) any evangelism that works must be definition be ‘seeker friendly’ and I though I am a corn again Christian I can clearly remember a time when I was just a Christian!

    However the tags are not mine they are applied by others in their attempt to define me or explain to others where I am coming from. Of course the problem with this is that as a sinner saved by grace who has give his whole life to God I will always (like Christ) be unpredictable and sometimes even surprise those who think they really know me. The truth is that as a true Christian (there I go with more qualifying tautology!) nobody will ever be certain just what I am going to do next.
    If Christ lives his life through mine then it is likely that his inconsistent and non-partisan approach will be the same today as it was then. He will operate through me according to what he sees and what he wants.

    • He may want me to make a homosexual an adherent (no commitment just a chance to belong).
    • He may want me to defend the Christian’s right to define homosexuality as a sin on national TV
    • He may want me to forgive a terrorist (Islamic or otherwise) for the death of a relative.
    • He may want me to nurse a single teenage mum recovering from an abortion.
    • He may want me to caution government against casual abortions
    • He may want me to live by faith among the homeless.
    • He may want me provide free medical supervision for active junkies
    • He may want me to throw a birthday party for prostitutes
    • He may want me to expose my children to apparent danger by witnessing (living) in a needy area.
    • He may want me to live like an untouchable
    • He may want me to take part in a protest against social injustice or falling moral standards.
    • He may want me to overturn tables in the temple
    • He may want me to turn up at Westminster Central Hall in sackcloth and ashes
    • He may want me to do something completely new that no one has ever done before.

    Doing any or all of these things may win a whole host of tags but none of them will be comprehensive for I am designed from the heart out to be ‘all things to all men.”

    At the end of the day we are Christians and as such we can never be accurately pigeonholed, we will always appear to some to be contradictory, we will be unpredictable, passionate and most importantly of all fruitful.

    Call me what you like as long as you don’t call me late for a prayer meeting.

    Yours under Christ and irrepressibly over the devil


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s