by Len Wilson
At Invite, we exist to build a like-hearted community of influencers who are high on Jesus, low on politics, and biased toward innovation. But what does it mean to be "Low on Politics"?
There’s an old hymn that goes, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it / prone to leave the God I love”. It’s an apt and elegant way to describe the ugliness that lives in us, and as true a statement of human nature as I know.
Enlightenment utopianism notwithstanding, we are not improving our way out of our own nature, and we cannot build the kingdom of God via our own effort. On the contrary, our human condition, formerly known to some as sin, is the desire to leave the presence and authority of God and to establish our own fiefdoms, east of Eden. We don’t want the power of the Almighty God; we want our own power.
The 19th century English politician Lord John Dalberg-Acton is famous for his remark that power corrupts. Whether this is causal—the acquisition of power is a corrupting influence—or correlational—power and corruption tend to go hand in hand—is irrelevant. Perhaps corruption is even a prerequisite for power. Evidence is plentiful that if you give a person power over other people, that person tends to make the maintenance of power their number one priority. This is known as “looking out for number one.”
One of my favorite films is Michael Mann’s The Insider, the retelling of the whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand’s testimony that took down Big Tobacco. The protagonist of the film isn’t Wigand, however; it is Lowell Bergman, the 60 Minutes producer who stood up not only to the tobacco industry but to his own corporate overseers to speak truth to power on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves. In the film, Bergman represents the highest and best of American journalism. What is noble about journalism, and yes journalism is prone to corruption, is the realization that truth is imperiled by power, and the calling of the journalist is to continually opt for truth, even in the presence of money.
This does not mean that we favor revolt, as the Zealots of Jesus’ day and so many since, who have taken up arms in the name of the Jesus, to overthrow compromised authority. Because what is the end result of political revolution? “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Or to quote Sting, “there is no political solution.”
Jesus knew the true source of the problem and thus did not speak against pagan power; he in fact encouraged his disciples to pay their due taxes to Caesar. Instead, Jesus reserved his harshest words for the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who manipulated God’s words in the pursuit of power. He called them “a brood of vipers.”
Power corrupts, because it reflects our own fear and desire to be in control. The Pharisees and Sadducees sought signs of the consummation of their vision of a new kingdom, but Jesus rejected their idea of power (Matt 16:4), and then warned his people to beware of their leaven, their glutenous vision of human authority which slowly grows and takes over (Matt 16:16). Jesus is clear: the Kingdom of God is not found in the formation of political systems and in the exercise of human power, no matter how noble the intent; the kingdom of God is only found in the presence of God and is only built by Jesus (Matt 16:18). Jesus is the only good, true, and beautiful source of authority.
To say “low on politics” is not to say that we do not have political opinions or engage in political activity, nor is it to say that we do not work with people who possess political opinions or engage in activity. Rather, it means that to be “high on Jesus, low on politics” is to be of the same ilk as Acton and Bergman. It is the acknowledgement that not only does power corrupt, but that corruption is in the human heart. No organization, not even a faith-based one, has the corner on the truth, and any political system—any system of power formed by men and women—is prone to “leave the God I love.” We may only find power in metanoia, in turning away from the world, in humbling ourselves, in surrendering to Jesus, who has been given all authority on heaven and earth (Matt 28:20), and by receiving the authority of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, we welcome truth-seekers from all manner of faith traditions. We lift up Jesus as the ultimate authority on heaven and earth. And we tend to eschew activity which trends too closely toward any specific, partisan political platform.
Image courtesy of National Institutes of Health and used through public domain via Wikipedia Commons.