The American Election and the American Church

Erik Cooper —  October 30, 2012 — 7 Comments

It’s a week before the Presidential election and like some ghastly traffic accident, I can’t bear to look or seem to look away. Politics is like that. The repulsive indulgence we hate ourselves for peeking at.

As I’ve watched this election season unfold, I’ve started to ponder some interesting parallels. An intriguing overlap between the trajectory of American political culture and the journey of the western Church.

I’ve never claimed to be the most intellectual guy out there, so call this my laymen’s analysis. If you disagree it’s OK, I’m not on the ballot.


A grossly over-simplistic analysis of the American political scene might looks something like this:

One group fights to hang onto traditional mindsets, finding health and hope in the way things have always been.

Another group claims flaws in the foundation, seeking to progress beyond what we’ve always known to something they believe more noble or enlightened.

Which side of that equation you fall on tends to depend a lot on where you live, how good or bad those existing mindsets and structures have treated you, and how exposed you’ve been to other cultures and ways of thinking.

I believe you could argue a similar grossly over-simplistic trend in the western church today.

One group fights to hold onto the traditional understanding of the church, perhaps giving new or updated expression to old models, but staying true to the essence of what has always been (at least in our culture).

Another group challenges what they see as fundamental flaws, seeking to push beyond what we’ve always known to something they believe to be truer and greater.

Again, I believe geography (both regionally and also urban/suburban), personal experience (either beauty or pain), and exposure to other ways of thinking are the major driving forces.

So who’s right? Like politics, I’m not sure the answers are ever neat and tidy. But I do know they’re more about Who than how.

Let’s be honest, a lot of things can get in the way – or even take the place of – an authentic relationship with God. But liberal or conservative, high church or house church, the enemy is sin – not our church expressions. And the goal is Christ – not our preferred way of life.

Regardless of your perspective on next week’s election or the state of the American Church, let’s never forget the centrality of the Gospel. This journey is about embracing what Christ has done for us, not arguing, pointing fingers, and debating who’s more right in what we are doing for Him.

Just my two cents. What do you think?

7 responses to The American Election and the American Church

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if our country came with a manual as complete as the bible? How many times has our good doctrine changed in 2000 years? How many times has our country’s doctrine changed in the last 200 years? Churches may bicker over the details, but at the end of the day it’s all about staying true to the word. It’s all about Jesus. To what truth does our country adhere? The more I think about it, the more it eludes me. Regardless, you’re right about the church. At least we can keep the Gospel at the center.

  2. Mr. Cooper, I have one thought and it is this, “I think you are onto something!”
    God is calling me back to Christ and His work on the cross. Somehow, that became the side note along the way. I’m enjoying the journey back to Him. Take care.

  3. Mellanie Brennan October 31, 2012 at 10:33 am

    I think this is very insipired, Erik. What does the gospel call us to be and do as individuals and a nation now in this place? Each generation must work out its salvation, What does it mean to be a disciple and what does it mean to welcome the Kingdom now? I struggle with this daily in a very personal way.

    In the church and in the political sphere we hear arguments about the abundant life, who is entitiled to it and who is not. Jesus spoke up and acted out on these very issues. It led to his political execution. But the Roman government and the Pharisees did not have the last say.

    We cannot answer What is the way of the cross? in a vacuum. The cross is grounded in the earth, pointing heavenward, with arms outstrectched. I try to keep this image at the forefront of my thinking when I have hard choices to make.

  4. Wow Eric. Very astute and well articulated observations. Think you nailed it. Think our charge as believers in that climate is to remain prayerfully aware of pitfalls. Some things get discarded because they were ever only built on footers dug with human hands and not THE ROCK. Others should remain, guarded even, to prevent new zealous builders without knowledge from tearing them out without fully understanding what they undergird. The “church” hasn’t always been as responsive as some would expect – at least as an institution. Think we should aspire to be nimble in our response to the world around us. Similarly, political institutions can only offer limited solutions to the problems in the world and when able to execute them often do so ineffeciently. Sobering thing is – of what and of who are our religious and political institutions comprised? US!

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