Politics, science, education, economics, society, and every other basic aspect of a nation’s life – in the long run these are not neutral subjects. The way in which these areas develop in the minds of individuals or communities is determined by the kind of god that governs the thinking of those individuals or communities. And that determines how collective problems are analyzed and solutions enacted.
This is vitally important to get into our heads, at least for anyone who wants to see a nation directed by a gospel-shaped wisdom: because the way the gospel thinks is different from other ways of thinking about sociology and politics and economics and foreign policy and so forth. A gospel-shaped wisdom is going to have different ways of analyzing such problems and offering solutions for them.
The difficulty is that a gospel-directed and -shaped wisdom for a nation’s problems may seem terribly odd to both individuals and communities. The reason for this is because the gospel doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere; it is different than the ways people are used to thinking about problems and solving them. (For an introduction to this phenomenon, refer to the series on Jesus as a Teacher of Wisdom in Ancient Palestine.)
Here I want to note some apt examples from theologian and philosopher John Peck, whom, I should add, was also my tutor. From a lecture many years ago, Peck’s observations about the oddity of gospel answers to the collective problems of a nation remains pertinent today:
“We are in a society which, since Freud, has been pleading increasingly diminished responsibility. Well, that makes the gospel assumption of human guilt seem pretty silly. And our politics is torn between individualism and collectivism and a lot of uneasy compromises in between. That makes the concept of the Trinity – a God of individuality in community – one God – an unbelievable God. It makes the God-man Jesus an impossibility, logically anyway. And our economics is obsessed by the two alternatives of breakneck progress or stagnation. So that the idea of slowing up for the sake of the helpless seems an unrealistic idealism. It hasn’t got any space. And our education is so devoted to scientific measurables, that faith and hope and love sound a bit daft – because you can’t mark them on a dial.”
This is equally true in areas of interest to this blog, such as diplomacy, international relations, and foreign policy. In the U.S., foreign policy analysis and decision making, for instance, is deeply rooted in ideological thinking. This makes the idea of constructing international relations based on what the gospel would have to say about peace and human mutuality seem ridiculous.
If a nation is not run on a gospel-directed and -shaped wisdom, it is by default run on some other wisdom, on some other way of seeing national life and expressing it, on some other way of trying to analyze and solve its problems.
©2014 by Charles Strohmer
Boy image by Daniel (Permission via Creative Commons)