Church, State, and Citizen: Christian Approaches to Political Engagement

Church, State, and Citizen: Christian Approaches to Political Engagement

Church, State, and Citizen: Christian Approaches to Political Engagement

Church, State, and Citizen: Christian Approaches to Political Engagement

Synopsis

Christians are often portrayed as sharing the same political opinions and the same theological foundations for their actions. Yet, from the time of the early church, believers have held a variety of perspectives on the relationship between church and state and what constitutes legitimate political behavior for Christian citizens. Thoroughly Christian political beliefs run the gamut from disavowal of any political responsibility to a complete endorsement of government policies and the belief that the state has been divinely appointed.

In Church, State, and Citizen, Sandra F. Joireman has gathered political scientists to examine the relationship between religion and politics as seen from within seven Christian traditions: Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal. In each chapter the historical and theological foundations of the tradition are described along with the beliefs regarding the appropriate role of the state and citizen. While all Christian traditions share certain beliefs about faith (e.g., human sin, salvation, Christ's atonement) and political life (e.g., limited government, human rights, the incompleteness and partiality of all political action) there are also profound differences. The authors discuss the contemporary implications of these beliefs both in the United States and in other areas of the world where Christianity is showing increasing vigor.

Excerpt

Sandra F. Joireman

Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has remarkable vigor in American politics. It motivates individuals to act on both domestic and international policy issues and encourages a wide range of political behavior, from voting to lobbying or protest. the faith of various Christian politicians has been both a subject of public interest and an issue in political campaigns. in the United States, the public expects that candidates will declare their religious beliefs in any description of qualifications for political office. This is unusual in the politics of developed countries. the recent emphasis within the popular press and some academic writings on the importance of the Christian vote or the Christian political lobby can lead one to the impression that there is one type of Christian voting behavior or one kind of Christian political lobbying. Yet careful observers of Christian political behavior have noted that in the past few years there has been increasing variation among different factions of North American Christians over specific policies (Guth et al. 2005). Moreover, Christians of a variety of persuasions are becoming involved in policy areas that have not previously been thought to be of concern to Christians, such as international human rights issues (Hertzke 2004). This diversification of political advocacy illuminates what has always been present within Christianity—an array of positions regarding the role of the state and the role of the individual Christian citizen within the state. There is no one “Christian” approach to politics. Rather, Christians evince multiple approaches to the state and political . . .

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