Frankly, I doubt seriously that many national leaders — even US leaders — give a lot of thought to just war theology when deciding whether to go to war. The churches don’t teach this in Sunday school or preach it from the pulpit, and so national leaders follow their instincts. And as I’ve noted earlier, our instincts are often more trained by nationalism than Christianity. Indeed, we so compartmentalize our thinking that we Christians routinely ignore our Christian values on political questions.
Part of the solution is for our pulpits and classrooms to teach our members how to think about the daily news in Christian terms. Of course, our preachers and teachers have virtually no training on this either, as our seminaries and Bible colleges are more interested in the Nestorian controversy than the Christian perspective on adoption or illegal immigration. Indeed, once we suggest that preachers should consider such things, we open the door for preachers to spout whatever their political party tells them to think — which is scary indeed — and certainly happens in too many churches already.
It’s good, I think, that the Churches of Christ have largely refrained from using the pulpit to discuss politics, unconsciously following the teachings of Lipscomb and others. But I think it’s good because we don’t know how to do it well, not because it’s off limits. Indeed, we need to develop an understanding of God’s will for such things. Just as the Campbells and Stone preached fearlessly against slavery before the Civil War, our preachers should have preached against racism and discrimination long before Martin Luther King Jr. The Bible is really quite clear.
On the other hand, there are plenty of questions not clearly answered by scripture, and we should stay out of what the Bible doesn’t answer. I think it’s abundantly clear that God expects us to care for his Creation. Therefore, it’s easy to condemn air pollution, the dumping of medical waste in the ocean, and other obvious cases. It’s not so easy to say whether God opposes or supports drilling in ANWR or off the California coast.
Nonetheless, I think it greatly helps the conversation if we begin by acknowledging what the Biblical principles are, even if their application is uncertain in a given case. At least we’ll be weighing what God says rather than selfishness or nationalism.
We need to seriously study on how to apply the scriptures to political questions — not just war. We have a lot of work to do.
Rather than taking off on a new series on how the church and politics relate, here are links to some posts written quite some time ago on that subject —