The Church should be above politics?
Should it? Or, should we find out what do we mean by ‘above’ politics? In the sense the Church is floating and so passing by all matters political, untouched and untainted by them?
The Church concerns only with God and what God has done, is doing, and will do with his people. In this sense, there are indeed areas that the Church bypasses without needing to give any regard, for eg. the vague scenario whether should you eat cabbage or broccoli at the hawker’s center tomorrow. Hence the question is not whether should the Church float above politics, but is politics included in what God has done, is doing, and will do with his people?
As citizens of a nation-state and people who confesses allegiance to God and his Christ, the Church is inevitably overlapped by anything non-Church that are located within the shared national border and policy. This overlap means that the politics of the non-Church may occasionally spill over into the Church, and vice versa. So, if politics affects the Church, then the Church cannot help but to engage it. In other words, the Church should not float above politics.
One may object by saying that anything political is dirty and therefore the Church should not have anything to do with it. But isn’t the Church itself dirty, filled with weed? (Matthew 13:24-30) So should we then ask the stupid question, should then the Church floats above itself? Or should we pretend that the Church consists of utopian human beings who have no problem giving up their parking lot to other Church members during Sunday service?
If politics is part and parcel of the Church, and if national politics and the Church mutually affects each other, then in order to do Church, we have to do politics. And here lies a fundamental question to ask: What does it mean for the Church to do politics?
From that one question springs other questions: Does doing politics mean having the parliament filled with Church people? Does it mean legislating laws based on obligations that are meant only for the people of God? Does it mean ‘Christendom’? If it is, then what is ‘Christendom’?
There are of course many other questions that we can ask. However, the point of this post is simply to point out that the Church does not and should not be above politics. In any case, the Church is called to be precisely what it is not: the light and salt in a world that overbears upon the people of God.
A recent example of how this plays out is Rowan Williams’ meeting with Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury is using his moral authority to persuade Mugabe to desist and repent. He denounces the injustices and demands change. It may not work, of course, but merely by visiting the land and speaking out, he manifests humanitarian conviction and moral fibre. He shames our politicians and eclipses other church leaders as he confronts face-to-face that which is largely ignored by the African Union, the British Government, the US, the EU and the UN.” (Cranmer)