Loving Political Power Over People

on June 20, 2017

This Stephen Mattson essay in Jim Wallis’ Sojourners essentially chides religious conservatives for loving power over people, as they exploit Romans 13 to justify wielding the sword in defense of nationalism, hyper patriotism, greed, sexism, xenophobia, racism, deporting immigrants, defunding poverty programs, withholding health care, and overall sputtering of hatred.


When Christians love political power more than people, instead of exuding love, joy, peace, happiness, and self-control, they spew hate, fear, war, bigotry, and unrestraint.


When Christians love political power more than people, “Christianity” becomes a campaign strategy to gain more votes instead of a transformative faith that draws people closer to God and the rest of humanity.


When Christians love political power more than people, Christianity is replaced by Christendom, where the supernatural power of God is rejected for the worldly power of faith-based organizations, institutions, and politicians.


When Christians love political power more than people, they simply stop being Christ-like.

Then concluding:

For American Christians — especially those privileged to hold political, economic, and social power — these are often hard truths to accept, but we must recognize the reality that the Christian faith can be hijacked and turned into something God never meant it to be. Far more important than whether we’re a Democrat or Republican is whether we’re actually following Jesus and loving everyone around us. Because What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36)

So there’s the deplorable conservative Christian path, dripping with hypocrisy and blood. And then there’s the pure path of Jesus.

What does that pure Jesus path look like politically? For Sojourners across decades it has been a larger welfare and regulatory state, no military, and a government that, without using “violence,” still imposes a strict egalitarian vision on the whole of society. Sojourners founder Jim Wallis and his followers have invested many years in pursuing political influence and power to enact this agenda that supposedly heeds the Gospel.

Mattson essentially accuses conservative Christians of succumbing to the Satanic offer of worldly dominion that Jesus rejected. But is the Religious Left absolved for grasping political power because its agenda is reputedly more generous? Do religious liberals ever err in their promotion of ever larger more powerful government? When did Jesus, or the Apostles or prophets, make this statist demand?

And why should a people for whom patriotism and nationalism are taboo cooperate in constructing an ever larger superstate to micromanage their society? What social glue binds them together in this project? And since borders and militaries are taboo, how will this project be indefinitely sustained?

Particularly noteworthy is Mattson’s complaint that religious conservatives want “morality and spirituality [to] become legislated and…voted into being,” with the “good news of God’s love…substituted for enforcing our preferred brand of religion.”

But Sojourners et al advocate all sorts of legislation to enact their vision of a just society, based on their “preferred brand of religion,” which is essentially a form of Christendom governed by a liberal Protestant Social Gospel.

Mattson’s superficial commentary is too often what passes for Protestant and evangelical political theology in today’s conversation. Its assumptions are entirely American, modernist, and fairly Manichaean, arraying children of light against children of darkness.

Instead of trashing the Christian Right and sacralizing the Christian Left, there should be greater acknowledgement of the commonalities between them, as they both seek a City on the Hill, while mostly ignoring historic Christian political theology about the state’s divinely ordained but limited vocation.

And whatever the political limitations of conservative Christianity, it is at least rooted in an orthodox spiritual vitality that begins with care of the individual soul, not ambitiously sweeping political transformation, which often seems the Christian Left’s community building priority.

Christian political engagement across the spectrum merits critique. But Mattson’s dismissive and unserious caricature of the Christian Right teaches very little except what is wrong about much of the unreflective Christian Left.

  1. Comment by Scott on June 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks for writing this column. Mattson’s columns have become the bench mark for just how intolerant and hate-filled Sojourners has become. He essentially writes the same column over and over again. Mr. Mattson is not aware that his claims about hatred have become classic pot-meet-kettle. By the way, Jim Wallis and the rest of the Sojourners contributors have called upon their followers to “be strong in the face of hate” – but they haven’t written one word of condemnation about the Steven Scalise shooting. Not. One. Word. Total hypocrisy.

  2. Comment by Karen Dinsmore on June 23, 2017 at 4:07 am

    Excellent. Your article is so encouraging. My former church became involved with Willow Creek & Bill Hybels. I began investigating “Progressive Christianity” about 6 years ago. At that time, it had several different names: The Emerging Church being one of them, where they believe that essentially there is more than one way to God, not necessarily, through Jesus Christ alone. They spend an inordinate amount of time chastising conservative Christians, name calling, stereotyping, and judging…all the very same things they are guilty of. You are one of a few brave, knowledgeable Christians who is willing to speak out & reveal what is happening in our churches. Christians need to wake up and do some investigating on their own about what is happening in our churches.

  3. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on June 23, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    What was Christendom (Christians dominionizing all levels of society on behalf of their King has devolved into merely 4-walled Christianity, aka Christendumb. Today’s Christians are best depicted by Christ in Matthew 5:13 as salt that’s lost is savor, good for nothing but to be trampled under the foot of man.

    For more, see blog article “Self-Imposed Impotence” at http://www.constitutionmythbusters.org/self-imposed-impotence/.

    Then “Ten Reasons the Kingdom Here on Earth Isn’t Mission Impossible.”

  4. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on June 23, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    Concerning the hijacking of Romans 13 by saltless Christianity, see blog series “Ten Reasons Why Romans 13 is Not About Secular Government,” beginning at http://www.constitutionmythbusters.org/ten-reasons-why-romans-13-is-not-about-secular-government-pt-1/.

  5. Comment by David Thrush on June 24, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Liberal Christians are guilty of hypocrisy and projection…like all liberals they accuse their opponents on the right of doing the very things they are committing themselves, seeking political power, using government to force their version of morality which is skewed. Obama claimed to be a Christian, and then began using government agencies to attack conservative groups…his followers and acolytes do the same thing and falsely claim it is righteous and “Christian”

  6. Comment by Chris on June 26, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Mark Tooley: “Instead of trashing the Christian Right and sacralizing the Christian Left, there should be greater acknowledgement of the commonalities between them, as they both seek a City on the Hill, while mostly ignoring historic Christian political theology about the state’s divinely ordained but limited vocation.”

    ” … the state’s divinely ordained but limited vocation.” ??

    Was “the state” of Stalin and the USSR “divinely ordained” ? I suppose you’re referring to the grossly misinterpreted and taken out of context Romans 13. Read it starting from Chapter 12 continuing through 13 and you’ll see the authority is NOT secular government, but the Church (i.e., the Civil Body Politic of Christ). “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done … ” WHERE ?????

    and ” … the commonalities between them … ”  ??

    Are the so called “Christian Right” and “Christian Left” really followers of Christ ?

    Do they stand up for and promote Christ, His Kingdom/Will on earth ? 

    Or should they be better described as this: ” … but if the salt become tasteless, how will it be made salty again ?   It is GOOD FOR NOTHING ANYMORE, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matthew 5: 13)  ????

    What’s really their “commonalities” is both have become tasteless salt.

    What are the so called “Christians”, “Right or “Left”, going to do about anything, write, call, fax & e-mail a congress critter?

    Oh, I know, they’ll “vote” for the right people to take office and they’ll make laws against the wickedness and change all the bad policies.  Oh yeah, that’ll stop it alright. It’s been workin’ pretty good so far, right ?

    Is it not the “Fundamentalist Christians”, “New Testament Only Christians”, etc. (both “Right” and “Left”), that teach the lie that God’ Laws, Statutes and Judgments have been done away with, “contrary to us”, etc., etc. (when Christ Himself said the exact opposite: Matthew 5: 17-19), the ones that have lost their saltiness ??

    “Unless they speak to the Law and the testimonies, there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8: 20.

    This nation has become “twice the sons of hell” as those who have proselytized it.   Do you remember who Christ identified as the proselytizers ??

    We allowed the process to begin when we decided “We The People” should be god (sovereign) and decide what is to be the supreme law of the land.

    The legislative process provided by the various federal and state constitutions was the vehicle used by the enemy to corrupt over time (via gradual increments) and finally take over.   Now, the state is the god of most, knowingly or unknowingly, and the “god” the state is controlled by His and our enemies.

    This nation wanted to determine what was “good and evil” (remember the garden?), instead of enforcing His Perfect Moral Laws.

    Malim in se (evil in and of itself as defined by The Great I Am, the ONLY lawgiver) vs. malim prohibitum (evil because someone determines, or legislates, it to be evil).

    The only way to save this nation is to turn back to Him, His Perfect Moral Laws, Statutes and Judgments, i.e., His Kingdom/Will On Earth.    Seek Him while He may yet be found.

    “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, And I will give you rest. Take My yoke (i.e., His Law 1 John 5: 2 & 3, as well as His tithe [tax] system) upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and ‘YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.’ (Jer. 6: 16). My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” Matthew 11: 28 – 30.

    He told us that if His people ” … shall humble themselves (e.g., quit thinking we’re the sovereign, take our proper place and quit usurping His), and pray, and seek my face (e.g., He’s to be the ONLY law giver), and turn from their wicked ways (e.g., enforce His Laws, Statutes and Judgments); THEN will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.