Things Only the Church Can Do
Since the First Century Church—And Every Century Since
*The following except represents the concluding thoughts of Nathan Hatch's essay:Let the church be the church, in concrete places, in specific places and neighbourhoods. Let it renew and manifest its primary reason for being: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” Click To Tweet
“The function of our popular culture is to reflect our desires, to cater to our every desire. A church, by contrast, is in the business of forming habits, shaping desires, instilling loves that are appropriate rather than disordered.
This is the opportunity—for the church to be the church, to return to the task of religious and moral formation, to build communities that bind people together, to instill a deep conviction that life can actually have transcendent purpose and is not all about individual wants and desires, and to fuel a life in which that transcendent purpose radiates into the world at large. I do not always agree with Stanley Hauerwas’s Anabaptist strain of ethics, but I do agree that in some sense the church today needs to become an “alternative polis,” whose purpose is to embody, to look like, God’s kingdom among ordinary people—teachers, doctors, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, and the homeless.
Churches clearly need to form the faithful in how to think—and sometimes act—in the arena of politics and society. But that task needs to be done with great humility and with a depth of historical and theological reflection rarely seen. Such nuance will definitely not conform to current political orthodoxies and may make it very difficult for believers to become full-throated advocates for either major American political party.
Most of all, our nation needs communities of faith that give meaning, dignity, and love to twenty-first-century people who are lonelier, more stressed, and with less sense of hope than at any time in recent memory. People need acceptance for who they are, not for what they do, and forgiveness for the stray paths that all of us have stumbled onto. Let the church be the church, in concrete places, in specific places and neighbourhoods. Let it renew and manifest its primary reason for being: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.”
Follow this link if you'd like to read Nathan's full essay:
The Political Captivity of the Faithful.
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