We’ve had quite a few flabbergasted mentions over the months of the shocking recognition that so many Mennonites vote Republican, wondering helplessly what to do about their ignorant collusion with oppression, and Tim mentioned in his post on Gregory Boyd the converse fear that the new generation of Mennonites and their teachers (at least) have similarly sold out to a left-wing political program and forsaken the gospel for social activism. Both fears, I admit, seem to me deeply right. Whether by overlooking the horrors of war and sidestepping the political example of our crucified Lord, or by flattening salvation to a social phenomenon and forgetting that the truth of Christ transcends every political concern, Mennonites of all political stripes have given up the principle of nonconformity that’s necessary for the church to be the church.
That’s my contention: that the problem across the board is that we’ve lost the principle of nonconformity. And more specifically, we’ve forgotten that nonconformity is a theological principal. It’s not that we refuse to conform to this or that bad policy, but that we refuse to conform to the world, this fallen, deathly, blasphemous, and violent world, this world whose goodness has been disfigured by sin. And we are joined instead not to justice or righteousness or fairness in the abstract, but to Jesus Christ: ‘joined’ as an apprentice to her master, ‘joined’ as a child to her mother, ‘joined’ as any person to her own spirit and power. Being so joined to God passes judgment on every political program, certainly, because it reshapes the notion of the political itself. No political agenda is untouched by the good news of Jesus’ resurrection–because Jesus is resurrected as Lord–and every form of praise and discipleship becomes a political act. Judgment on so-called conservatives: by ‘conserving’ what remains wrapped up in the powers of violence, you serve the prince of darkness rather than the prince of peace. Judgment on so-called radicals: by preaching justice rather than Jesus,* you cut the world off from the root of true life and condemn it to self-destruction, meaninglessness, and hell.
Of course, this suggestion seems sectarian to the right and absolutist to the left. But this is precisely what I mean: nonconformity to the world. We must constantly and seriously consider in what ways our commitment to Christ pronounces judgment on every political commitment–for Christ alone is Lord.
* This is no better, of course, than preaching Jesus rather than justice–as if the two could truly be split. But it must be admitted that the radical ‘program’ often quite explicitly renounces actually preaching Jesus, thinking justice a near enough equivalent.