The Bible and Politics

I’ve been spending quit a bit of time thinking about the relationship of faith and participation in the Public Square. A critical part of this has been examining the Bible to find what God’s tells us about what our involvement should look like. As James Brink has already pointed out, this is essentially a theological endeavor, and therefore it is highly unlikely that we will ever come to the same conclusions about what reformational politics should be. Lately, I’ve been mulling over two passages in particular, Genesis 41 and the Beatitudes.

Genesis 41 is the more overtly political of the two passages. Joseph, a servant in Egypt, has been called to interpret the dreams of Pharoah. He foretells of seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Pharoah, impressed by Joseph, places him in charge of preparing the country for the famine. Joseph collects grain in every town and village, and when the famine does arrive, the State is able to sell the grain back to its citizens, and even to foreigners, and the effects of the famine are averted. God, through Joseph and the government of Egypt, cares for His people and provides for them in a time of need. Granted, this care did not come as handouts from the government (the grain was sold), but the people were cared for nonetheless. Pharoah did not shake his finger at his people, claiming they did not orepare themselves for the famine — he provided them what they needed.

The Beatitudes are, arguably, not overtly political. Jesus is teaching here, outlining the values that His followers should hold. But, as the Burkean Canuck has rightly pointed out, the Bible is often at its most political when not explicity discussing politics, and this is case here. Even Richard Muow has come to understand this, thanks to Kurt Vonnegut. One question I have always posed to conservative Christians is why don’t passages like Matthew 5 apply when you are involved in the political process? Why, as Christian in government, should you not heed Christ’s commands and care for your neighbor with the resources you have?

On a related note (and one that will require more thought): based on this discussion of the relationship of faith and science, do we need to have the same discussion about the relationship of faith and politics? Are we looking for explicit answers that aren’t necessarily there?