One of the complaints named about evangelicals (especially by those under 30) is that they are too political and that the politics espoused equate Christianity with conservatism.
Kaityln Scheiss in her book The Liturgy of Politics would take on that complaint by calling us to be more political, not less. She looks to take the church deeply in the realm of politics for the good of our neighbor, rather than our own good.
On that journey she calls for Christian political engagement to be deeply rooted in Christian formation. Our political life should be formed out of our life of worship, prayer, song, and so on. This formation needs to be intentional. Church leaders, pastors, and others need to think deeply and act concretely to form political disciples who live the ways of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Disconnecting our politics from this intentional formation has led God’s people to espouse positions that are contra God’s desire for the way his people are to be in the world. Scheiss writes,
"When our spiritual formation practices (the sacrifices and the festivals for Israel, and the spiritual disciplines, sacraments, and worship services for us) go unexamined, we end up participating in rituals that are “detestable” and a “burden” to God. Good practices lead us in the direction of seeking justice and defending the oppressed, goals with unavoidably political dimensions."
When we are rightly formed by practices we find that are tuned to God’s standard of goodness, justice, and mercy, we consciously take this standard with us into every sphere of life, including the political sphere.
In this call to formation, Schiess echoes the work of James K.A. Smith (You Are What You Love), Micheal Gerson (City of Man), and David Swanson (Rediscipling the White Church). Scheiss adds to these important works a wonderful and insightful vision of how followers of Jesus can be shaped so that we live out God’s heart in the political sphere and have right and good conversations around hard and difficult political issues.
The Liturgy of Politics is packed with short, but thoughtful chapters that cover much ground. One of my favorite chapters was “A Confessing City: Reading Politics with Augustine”. This chapter is hugely important for any of us who believe that this political moment is the political moment. Schiess points out that Augustine refused to name such moments and instead pointed to a long-term life of faithful political involvement,
"City of God not only severely tempers our expectations for meaningful political work, it also provides a new measurement—rather than evaluating an action’s immediate success, Augustine’s work outlines the features of these two opposed communities as descriptions that help discern between different political actions. Does it align with the earthly city and her bent toward pride and domination, or does it align with the love of God and neighbor that characterizes the city of God…"
Some of Scheiss’ examples may be a bit too pointed for some in our present political climate. But these examples also bring reality into the conversation and call on us to think through what has shaped our politics and whether where we’ve ended up reflects the kingdom of God and his desires.
I found this book to be a hopeful view on where we can go in the world of politics.
This is an excellent book for church leaders, lay people, and even for those who are not Christians who are seeking to think through this season of politics. But more than that, it is an excellent primer for thinking about politics, our involvement in them, and how we are being shaped for participating in the political sphere.