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Death to Deconstruction 7--Public but not Political

“The gospel is inherently political.”

People throw this phrase around today uncritically. But is it true?

I think what they mean by it is that the gospel isn’t just for our private lives. It’s not just personal piety. The gospel affects how we treat others; it has implications for the public sphere.

But does that make it “political”? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s the right word. When we say something is “political,” we mean that we use the power of the state to enforce it. My kids’ Little League has rules—enforced rules that govern how we treat each other on the field. But that doesn’t make them “political.” I can’t go to jail for arguing with the umpire. Little League culture is not enforced with the sword.

Not everything public is political. The gospel is public but it is not political.

In Death to Deconstruction: Reclaiming Faithfulness as an Act of Rebellion, Joshua S. Porter appeals to a generation abandoning the faith, urging them to choose a more nuanced faithfulness instead of outright rejection of orthodox Christianity. He structures his book around five “great predators”: biblical illiteracy, the problem of evil, a politicized Christianity, hypocrisy, and self-denial, laying out paths forward within orthodoxy avoiding each.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to work through Porter’s book and offer a response. The book is great—there is much I agree with. However, I sympathize with the deconstruction trend more than Porter does, and so I will also talk a little about how toxic streams within evangelical culture have contributed to the deconstruction movement and how often deconstruction is a rejection of American evangelicalism and not a rejection of Jesus. I also want to suggest a path forward for reform and paint a picture of what a post-evangelicalism could look like.

The third of Porter’s great predators is a politicized Christianity. I agree with Porter that American evangelicalism has become too politicized, and I think a lot of this fanaticism comes from the faulty thinking that politics is the best way to bring about kingdom values. Nowhere is this more on display than with regard to abortion. Some people fall into the faulty mindset that the only solution is conservative Supreme Court justices, and by implication, electing politicians who will appoint conservative Supreme Court justices. Now, don’t get me wrong—I think Christians should vote their conscience. I am in favor of a conservative court and I generally vote for politicians who promote them. But a conservative Supreme Court is not the highest good.

What if, instead of trying to make abortion illegal, we try to make it unthinkable? What if we taught people the value of human life? What if we valued family over wealth? What if we committed to taking care of moms in crisis? What if we taught young men the value of fidelity, chastity, and responsibility?

Are there ways of influencing the public sphere without being political? In my opinion, this is the path forward for creating the just society.

What do you think about that? Is it possible to create a just society without the use of political power?

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