“If Christian theology is to be more than just an intellectual game, if it is to deal with you personally, it has to bring the word about God to bear, not just on your church life, but on your life in the world.” – Shirley Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), page 4.
One of my former theology professors was a man named Shirley Guthrie, and during the time that I was in his classes, Dr. Guthrie emphasized that theology embraces every facet of life and affects every decision we make. For Shirley Guthrie, a Christianity that declines to engage political and economic questions or refuses to question the generally accepted practices in the world is harmless and ineffective. Christianity is not satisfied with retreating into a purely private spirituality or pious pretentiousness, but instead Christianity must faithfully address the realities that we encounter in our lives– the issue of family responsibilities, the use of force, and how we utilize financial and environmental resources. He stressed that the Christian faith enables believers, not to escape from the world but to live in it in order that the world can begin to be made new. Therefore Christians are recognized, not by how much they pray, but by how much they pray for the world. They are recognized, not just for how much they read the Bible, but by how the Bible influences their business practices, political commitments, and social relationships. Christian theology is immersed in the world, for it is in the world that we meet the Spirit of the living God who is at work to bless us with the gift of abundant life.
In just a few days, we Christians will have numerous opportunities to live out our theology in the world. As we vote in the presidential election on November 3, we can employ our theological understandings in deciding how to cast our ballot. Even though God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, most issues in the political arena can also be seen as theological issues, and believers of all persuasions can cast their votes for different candidates for reasons deeply rooted in their faith. However, as people of faith, our theology summons us to examine the candidates by measuring whether they enhance human life, human dignity, and human rights; whether they strengthen family life and protect children; whether they promote reconciliation and equality; whether they serve peace and social justice; and whether they advance the common good rather than only individual, national, and special interests.
In addition, because this election has the possibility of becoming
somewhat contentious, I have been invited to serve as a peacekeeper at the polls on Election Day. After all, if Christian theology is to be more than just an intellectual game, it has to bring the word about God to bear, not just on our church life, but on our life in the world.