February 13, 2011 / Praxis
An interview between TOJ Editor-in-Chief Chris Keller and the author of GENERATION EX-CHRISTIAN, Drew Dyck.
October 14, 2008
So here we are: The children of the moral majority have finally grown up and moved out of the house. Many of us are now questioning our evangelical subculture’s take on morality and whether being in the majority is something to be desired.
We saw that many of our fellow church members got what they wanted when George W. Bush became President in 2000, but are dismayed at the fruit of this victory: a greater disparity between rich and poor, a unilateral war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, the endorsement and practice of torture, and an increasingly devastated natural environment.
This public questioning of the religious right by young evangelicals, combined with the megachurches’ slow march to the middle on humanitarian aid and international interventionism, have got the media abuzz and Democratic party officials salivating over potential shifts in evangelical politics.1
The excitement of media and political elites over the changes within evangelical political engagement may be a bit premature, however. Although some evangelicals are certainly distancing themselves from the religious right’s social conservatism and its strategic alliance with militarism and neoliberal economics, it is yet to be seen whether this will translate into more votes for the Democratic party or a defection from partisan politics in general.
Where do we go from here? is a question many social-justice-concerned evangelicals are asking. The two leading figures of the evangelical left, Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne, provide overlapping but ultimately different answers to that question. Both of their answers are worth examining, not only because the two figures are popular, but because their answers bear witness to the politics of Jesus in our present context.
God’s Politics according to Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis and Sojourners have been on the scene since 1971, and the vision of Christian political engagement that Wallis articulates and the Sojourners community embodies has changed significantly over the years. The most recent incarnation is exemplified in Wallis’s God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (2005) and The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in Post-Religious Right America (2008). He writes in The Great Awakening that the kingdom of God which Jesus spoke of “is far more than a call to a new inner life, or a rescue operation from heaven. It is an announcement of a new order of life that is intended to change everything about the world, and us with it.”2 Because the kingdom of God is a totalizing vision for this world, it encompasses all realms of society, including the political realm. This doesn’t mean that Christians are to jump behind projects which seek to remake the world in one fell swoop, though, like communism tried and capitalism is still attempting. Rather, “because the kingdom is not born of worldly kingdoms, biblical politics resists ideology and the notion of ideal societies, and instead focuses on specific issues and reforms.”3 Therefore, Christians are to “challenge societies and states not with unreachable utopian dreams but with specific demands that make justice and peace more possible.”4 Living out of the kingdom and evaluating the world by its standards does not mean we should “retreat to private property or exemplary sectarian communities.”5 On the contrary,
To reject the false and dangerous claims of ideological visions and regimes does not exempt us from political engagement, but rather invites us to the very social participation that societies and states need—evaluating them by a specific set of standards outside themselves. Not to engage is to accept the status quo [. . . .] The kingdom is the vision, but concrete political priorities and policies bring us closer to it or farther away from it. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream—a vision he called the “beloved community,” one completely consistent with the kingdom of God. But he fought for specific goals, such as the civil rights law in 1964 and the voting rights act in 1965.6
But how, exactly, are Christians supposed to engage the wider society and encourage “concrete political priorities and policies”? Wallis writes in God’s Politics:
We bring faith into the public square when our moral convictions demand it. To influence a democratic society, you must win the public debate about why the policies you advocate are better for the common good. That’s the democratic discipline religion has to be under when it brings its faith to the public square [. . .] religious people shouldn’t be told just to be quiet, they should be invited to participate as citizens who have the right and the obligation to bring their deepest moral convictions to the public square for the democratic discourse on the most important values and directions that will shape our society.7
Christians are called to bring the values of their faith—as understood through the lens of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets—with them wherever they go, including and especially the public square. This has led Sojourners to engage its organization and constituency in advocacy visits, email and candidate pledge campaigns, peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience, worship services centered on specific issues, town hall meetings and candidates forums, voter education and registration drives, and more.
Shane Claiborne and Politics for Ordinary Radicals
In both lifestyle and rhetoric, Shane Claiborne resembles the Jim Wallis of the late seventies and early eighties.8 He lives in an intentional community called The Simple Way, which is in Kensington, a poor neighborhood of North Philadelphia. When not found on Potter Street, Claiborne is running around as a leader in the New Monasticism movement, calling for the conversion of the church from materialism and militarism to Jubilee economics and nonviolence. His most recent book, which was coauthored with Chris Haw (who lives in a sister community across the river in Camden), is Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. In the book, Claiborne and Haw set out a vision of Christian political engagement in which the church operates largely outside and in spite of nation-state politics. They write:
Jesus is forming a new kind of people, a different kind of party, whose peculiar politics are embodied in who we are. The church is a people called out of the world to embody a social alternative that the world cannot know on its own terms. We are not simply asking the government to be what God has commissioned the church to be [. . . .] The church is not simply suggesting political alternatives. The church is embodying one.9
Being part of this peculiar people—the church—challenges all of our assumptions about what it means to be political and how we are supposed to go about influencing society. Rather than voicing its political opinions by voting for the politician or party whose views closest match our own, the church demonstrates its politics through its daily actions:
In Jesus we meet not a presentation of ideas or a new political platform but an invitation to join up, to become part of a movement, of a people that embodies good news. Political embodiment means that we become the change we want to see in the world, not just lobby politicians to change things for us. It means that we must take the responsibility that our political views demand of us. Not many of us have seen people, much less a political party, who are ready to enact the change they want to see in the world.10
Claiborne and Haw describe a number of instances of this peculiar political embodiment: living in community in the abandoned places of empire, serving and spending time with the poor, practicing war tax resistance and obstructing violence, doing prophetic actions (like proclaiming Jubilee on Wall Street), growing your own food, redistributing wealth and paying for each others’ medical bills, driving cars that run on grease waste, following the Christian calendar, and more.
An Autobiographical Aside
Two years ago, when I graduated from college, I moved to DC for Sojourners’s year-long internship program. It was a great year, as I experienced intentional Christian community, living in an urban environment, and working in the faith-based peace and justice movement all at once. But at the same time, I knew there were ways in which my life and work were disconnected and thus disingenuous. For instance, I lobbied for health care and food stamps in the halls of congress, and even got arrested while protesting budget cuts, but I didn’t have any friends who were hungry or lacked health insurance. I rallied for the rights of the poor and vowed to end poverty, but I didn’t know any poor people, let alone serve in a soup kitchen.
I quickly saw the importance of joining “the irresistible revolution”; I saw that my personal choices and practices mattered as much as my political positions. I also became frustrated with the ways in which I thought Sojourners’s agenda was often determined more by our reactions to politicians and the media than our faith commitments. The pressure to be heard, relevant, and respected by the big players often kept us from discussing the root causes of war and poverty and from taking more radical chances in our organizing.
Given these concerns, it is pretty clear why I found New Monasticism, with its focus on local practices and prophetic actions, to be so exciting. Claiborne and Haw’s book Jesus for President dramatized clearly the ways in which the United States is an empire and the way in which following Jesus will cause us to confront and collide with this empire. Jesus for President highlights everyday, ordinary practices through which Christians can follow Jesus and resist empire. At the same time, there is a tendency within New Monasticism to not recognize the good that God is doing outside (or in spite of) the church and to disparage wider movements for social change. I found myself just as frustrated at the Jesus for President book tour event I attended as I had been during some meetings at Sojourners, but this time from the opposite end.
Much of my thinking in these past two years has been about trying to put words to these frustrations, trying to figure out why I’m uncomfortable, finally, with both Wallis’s Anabaptist ethics mediated through public reason and Claiborne’s personalist Christian anarchism. The person who has helped me to live most creatively in the tensions between Claiborne and Wallis is the late Mennonite theologian and ethicist John Howard Yoder.11
Finding a Way Forward with John Howard Yoder
In the introduction to his book Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World, John Howard Yoder sets out the way in which the realms of “church” and “world” (and thus politics) relate to one another:
The will of God for human socialness as a whole is prefigured by the shape to which the Body of Christ is called. Church and world are not two compartments under separate legislation or two institutions with contradictory assignments, but two levels of the pertinence of the same Lordship. The people of God is called to be today what the world is called to be ultimately.12
He then details five Christian practices that, properly understood, are social processes within the faith community that can serve as paradigms for the wider society. For instance, the practice of baptism is being brought into a new humanity, joining a reconciling interethnic people in which “all prior given or chosen definitions of identity are transcended.”13 And communion is first and foremost about the economic act of sharing our daily sustenance with one another, and for the faith community to take it seriously, it “demands some kind of sharing, advocacy, and partisanship in which the poor are privileged.”14
For Yoder, the way the church is political is by being the paradigmatic people of God who patiently call the world forward to its ultimate shape, which Jesus spoke of as the Reign of God. Christian political engagement, then, is primarily about two things: embodying an alternative to the world’s ways of being and doing, and making plain to the world the possibility (and necessity!) of its conversion in the contours of the Reign of God. The political tasks of the church are to be the church, through the practice of the faith with all of its radical implications and then, from out of that understanding and context, to point and encourage the world toward God’s shalom.
If we examine Wallis’s and Claiborne’s projects in light of Yoder’s understanding of Christian political engagement, it seems that Claiborne spends much of his time on the first task (calling the church to be the people of God), and Wallis spends his on the second task (calling the world to be more just and peaceful in accordance with God’s reign). The problem is that you really can’t do one without doing the other.
Without the existence of a “living, breathing, visible community of faith,” there is no alternative to point the world to, no good news to share.15 This is why Claiborne’s message that the church is political through being as a people, with a peculiar set of practices and on the margins of society, is such an important corrective to most popular talk of faith and politics. In an effort to make clear the political nature of Jesus’s gathering of disciples, Yoder called this “distinct community with its own deviant set of values and its coherent way of incarnating them” the “original revolution.”16
Although Wallis certainly believes in the church’s call to be countercultural, and his life and writing both testify to that fact,17 the significance of the church suffers from a lack of attention in his work. At times for Wallis the church can be reduced to a voting bloc within the larger nation,18 or half of a leg on the three-legged societal stool.19 These examples do not constitute idolatry, as several have said from their academic perch; rather, they are representative of Wallis’s pragmatism.20 Instead of discussing the church in its own right, Wallis prefers to talk about the role religious values play in national politics.
My concern isn’t that Wallis is a heretic (he’s not); I’m just not sure we can get where he and many of us want to be using the methods he proposes. Talk of religious values leaves the church largely disembodied and cedes much of our Spirit-given moral agency over to the nation state. Values quickly become political opinions; by contrast, embodied practices—such as the ones Yoder mentions in Body Politics—can point us toward political alternatives. Values don’t provide a threat to the existing order; they only seek to modify it. More radical implications can be drawn from lived experiences, especially when those experiences are shared within a community.
Voting our values as American citizens who happen to be people of faith requires very little of us and will ultimately change little; the building up of a people who side with the poor and actively pursue peace with their very lives would be costly but could change more over time. This is not to say that we shouldn’t do both (see below), but if we skip over peoplehood in our attempts to be public, we’re ultimately not offering the world much or expecting much of the church. As Yoder put it, “Only a believing community with a ‘thick’ particular identity has something to say to whatever ‘public’ is ‘out there’ to address.”21
But what of the second task, that of patiently calling the world forward? This is where Wallis and Sojourners excel. In their writing and advocacy, they push the world toward the next step: to care for the poor by increasing the budgets of social programs, to welcome the stranger by reforming the immigration system, to make peace by supporting resolutions to end the Iraq War.
Claiborne and Haw are more dismissive of attempts by the church to influence legislation. They worry that such actions could lead Christians to build a kinder, gentler empire rather than to resist our present one. Therefore, they spend much of their book demythologizing empire’s idolatrous claims. This is a vital lesson if the church hopes to be faithful followers of Jesus, followers who are realistic about social change.
There is a sense, though, in which Claiborne and Haw’s prophetic stance lacks the patience that makes wider social change possible. An instance of this can be seen in Claiborne’s reflection on being asked to serve as a political candidate’s advisor:
We do take seriously the opportunity to dialogue with political candidates [. . . .] As for the presidential candidates, we’re not sure how our counsel will go over, since it may begin with advising those seeking office to melt down the weapons of our arsenal and transform them into things that bring life to the suffering masses of this planet—“beating swords into plows” as the prophets say. But we’ll see if anyone takes us up on the offer.22
I would disregard this as rhetorical flourish if I didn’t think Claiborne was serious. Patience, however, would start with requesting the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, or the refusal of an attack on Iran, or not ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan. As Yoder wrote in his essay “‘Patience’ as Method in Moral Reasoning”:
Pedagogical patience takes account of the fact that human learning takes place in sequences and stages [. . . .] A similar kind of teachability sequencing applies to societies. A state which plays fast and loose with habeas corpus can hardly be asked to forego the death penalty. A culture which despises the just war constraints need not be invited to rise to the challenge of nuclear pacifism. Jesus’ words about pearls and pigs represent not speciesist antiporcinism but realistic audience criticism. There can well be persons or audiences where I will not expect to be able to communicate all that I need to say about the sacredness of life.23
One of the ways that the faith community exercises patience is by becoming bilingual and occasionally speaking truth in terms that are not always our own.24 Yoder, while committed to the “pacifism of the messianic community”25 and the practice of war tax resistance,26 engaged just war theorists as potential allies and even addressed military academies on the subject. The church, by way of analogy from its common life, must at times speak the language of the powers in order to hold them accountable to the Reign of God and to patiently call them forward to it.27
As a people who have been freed from the powers, we are able to use the language of the powers to engage them both realistically and hopefully. We are to be realistic in that we understand with Jesus that “the kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.”28 As Yoder put it: “The exercise of government is by nature oligarchical and domineering. Democracy does not differ from other forms of government fundamentally, but only in shading.”29 And yet we are to be hopeful, because we believe with Paul that Christ Jesus has “disarmed the rulers and made a public example of them.”30 Therefore, writes Yoder, the church can speak to the nations “using the tyrants’ legitimation language against them:”31
If the ruler claims to be my benefactor, and he always does, then that claim provides me as his subject with the language I can use to call him to be more humane in his ways of governing me and my neighbors. The language of his moral claim is not the language of my discipleship, nor the standards of his decency usually to be indentified with those of my servanthood. Yet I am quite free to use his language to reach him.32
Claiborne seems to deny this second language, whereas Wallis rarely speaks the first these days. Claiborne brings to the church in the United States an important gift by demythologizing nation-state politics. Unfortunately, he goes on to discourage direct involvement in the process and thereby shortchanges the possibility of transformation present within the current system.
How Then Shall We Vote (or Not)?
The way these questions of church, nation-state, and social change have manifested themselves most clearly in recent months has been over the question of voting.33 Some socially conscious evangelicals (like Wallis) think that we should vote for the popular candidate who most closely represents Reign of God values, whereas others (like Claiborne) think that voting is largely an act of capitulation to our dirty, rotten system.34 Again, I think Yoder can help us get beyond the impasse.
A commitment to Jesus’s “original revolution” requires that we refuse to buy into the many myths surrounding democracy and its practice. Our particular form of democracy is not such an improvement over other systems that it should be violently exported to other countries. American-style “freedom” is not an idol worth killing for. Furthermore, democracy does not actually constitute a form of rule “by the people, for the people.” As Yoder made clear, “We are still governed by an elite, most of whose decisions are not submitted to the people for approval.”35 Another myth is that voting in itself will accomplish significant social change, like the idea that if Barack Obama is elected our country will cease to be racist, or if John McCain is elected we’ll win the war. Political campaigns make these assertions, and much of our country nods their heads accordingly, but such claims remain unproven historically. As far as the “every vote counts” slogan, it is simply untrue in national elections due to our Electoral College system.
A majority of the church in the United States still assumes that voting is one of the most meaningful ways Christians can engage themselves politically. This assumption is Constantinian; it assumes that politics for Christians is primarily about ensuring that society is headed our way. The problem here isn’t so much that we have a take on society and would rather have things go one way than another—we all do, and rightfully so as people who want to see a world marked by peace and justice rather than war and greed. The problem occurs when our goal is to direct society, to make sure things “come out right”; the problem occurs when we are more concerned with managing this realm than witnessing to a different one. Under such assumptions, controlling society and being “effective” often take precedence over our faithfulness to the politics of Jesus and the people he cared for.
In contrast, when some Christians see through the political slogans, they attempt to avoid Constantinian temptations by disavowing voting altogether. An argument I often hear is that voting in elections will distract or inhibit the church from becoming directly involved in working for justice because we will then expect the government to enact our values for us.36 Indeed, the church in the United States largely expects too much of the nation-state, but it is a mystery how some Christians expect that not voting would be the act that causes the scales to fall off and the church to step up. This argument falls apart because the relatively few Christians who actually do the work that we all should be doing as the church encourage civic participation on the side of the people they serve.37 Christian Community Development Association members, for whom the poor are not a merit badge to be earned but real people with real needs, don’t care if the needs are met through the church basement or a government agency. They welcome effective government anti-poverty programs and support candidates who will put them in place.
Some people argue that voting is violence because it polarizes one group against another and is an effort to legislate one’s values over another. This is wrong. Voting is rather participation in coercion, and coercion is not inherently violent. Labor standards in the workplace, child support wage garnishment, unarmed intervention in humanitarian crises, most community organizing campaigns, and the church’s practice of excommunication are all examples of nonviolent coercion. Walter Wink convincingly argues that Jesus’s commands in Matthew 5 to turn the other cheek, walk an extra mile, and give your inner cloak, too, are each illustrations of this as well.38 A world free of violence is something we should all work and pray for, whereas a world free of all coercion is impossible in this present age. People make wrong choices and have wrong ideas that need to be counteracted by others. Voting is one way to do that.
In working through the question of voting in 1976, a year that saw even more nationalistic fervor than our present one, Yoder wrote in his essay “The National Ritual: Biblical Realism and the Elections”:
If the vote does not mean that we are ruling ourselves, then we can rejoice that it does mean that the rules regularly consult their subjects. A system in which the subjects are consulted, and in which the oligarchy can be changed nonviolently, is better than other systems, so we shall participate gratefully, though with lowered expectations, in the plebiscite, to the extent that real options, such as real platform integrity or technical competence of major figures, are at stake.39
It is my judgment that “real platform integrity” and “technical competence of major figures” are at stake in the upcoming election, and that is why I disagree with those who say “there is nothing to vote for.”40 Obama’s support for ending the Iraq war and the practice of torture, developing a comprehensive alternative energy plan, providing health care for all Americans, and restructuring our taxation system is a platform that Christians should be excited about.
This doesn’t mean we should support everything he does or says, particularly as he tries to show everyone how tough a Democratic president’s foreign policy can be. If he is elected, we will still need to serve in our church basements and down in Lafayette Park with our bullhorns. Furthermore, “technical competence” is a factor in this election as well, because McCain selected someone with no experience on a federal level and little experience on state and local levels as his running mate.
Turning to Yoder one last time:
We shall expect more (relative) effect, as witness and as power-for-change, from the non-electoral modes of presence than from the franchise. To go to the polls is then not, as the Hutterite and the hippie on one side and the superpatriot on the other contend, a ritual affirmation of moral solidarity with the system. It is one way, one of the weaker and vaguer ways, to speak truth to power.41
Voting can be one practice among many, such as protest, prayer, and pilot projects, through which we can patiently call the world forward to its ultimate shape. In this particular election, I’ll be happy to do it, without expecting anything too consequential to flow from my action.
Living in the Tensions
There is a tension to be creatively lived in at the borders of church and world. At times, it seems that Wallis has forgotten the borders exist, whereas Claiborne acts as if they’re impassable. I’d love to see Wallis talk more explicitly about the need for the church to become a people in its own right and for Claiborne to make an advocacy visit or two on the Hill. Really, what Wallis and Claiborne need is not me reminding them of Yoder’s words but each other.
There will always be tensions between the local practices of the faith community and wider movements for social change, prophetic actions and pragmatic policy-pushing, the primacy of faith language and the necessity of public language. The challenge is to avoid setting up false alternatives for ourselves, to avoid thinking that our particular piece of the puzzle is the only one that matters. Instead of dismissing either prophetic signs and alternative experiments or advocacy and civic participation, we need to find ways to deepen the connections between them, because the possibilities for authentic cultural transformation just might lie at their intersection.
Whether wearing a suit and tie or homemade clothes, may we all be more faithful to the radical, evangelical politics of Jesus.
1. Roughly the same article will appear every three or four months in major newspapers touting the newfound broader social agenda of evangelicals and how it could affect election outcomes. For a few examples, see E. J. Dionne, “The New Evangelical Politics,” Washington Post (August 19, 2008): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/08/18/AR2008081 801850.html or Neela Banerjee, “Taking Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to the People,” New York Times (June 1, 2008): http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/us/01evangelical.html.
2. Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2008), 62.
3. Ibid., 67.
4. Ibid., 67.
5. Ibid., 67.
6. Ibid., 68.
7. Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 2005), 71.
8. Jim Wallis’s earlier books Agenda for Biblical People and Call to Conversion are more similar in topic and rhetoric to Claiborne’s Jesus for President or The Irresistible Revolution than they are to his own later works.
9. Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 228.
10. Ibid., 235.
11. Yoder’s influence can be seen throughout both Claiborne’s and Wallis’s thought and work, and he is referenced more than any other author in both Jesus for President and The Great Awakening.
12. John Howard Yoder, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community Before the Watching World (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), ix.
13. John Howard Yoder, The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiological and Ecumenical (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998), 367.
14. Yoder, Body Politics, 22.
15. Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989), 47.
16. John Howard Yoder, For the Nations: Essays Public and Evangelical (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 175.
17. Wallis, The Great Awakening, 64-66.
18. Wallis, God’s Politics, 11.
19. Wallis, The Great Awakening, 70.
20. For examples see Doug Harink, “God’s Politics? A Response to Jim Wallis (Part One),” in Faith and Theology, http://faith-theology.blogspot.com/2008/07/gods-politics-response-to-jim-wallis.html and James K.A. Smith, “Constantinianism of the Left?” in Fors Clavigera, http://forsclavigera.blogspot.com/2005/05/constantinianism-of-left.html.
21. Yoder, For the Nations, 43.
22. Shane Claiborne, “Advise Everyone, Endorse No One,” in God’s Politics Blog, http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2008/07/advise-everyone-endorse-no-one.html.
23. John Howard Yoder, “‘Patience’ as Method in Moral Reasoning: Is an Ethic of Discipleship ‘Absolute’?” in John Howard Yoder’s Unpublished Writings Research Site, http://theology.nd.edu/people/research/yoder-john/documents/PATIENCE.pdf.
24. For a discussion of first and second languages, see Ted Koontz, “Thinking Theologically about War against Iraq” Mennonite Quarterly Review 77 (2003), http://www.goshen.edu/mqr/pastissues/jan03koontz.html.
25. See John Howard Yoder, Nevertheless: Varieties of Religious Pacifism (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992).
26. See John Howard Yoder, “Why I Don’t Pay All My Income Tax,” Sojourners, March 1977, 11-12.
27. See John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (South Bend: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 160-166.
28. Luke 22:25 NRSV
29. John Howard Yoder, “The National Ritual: Biblical Realism and the Elections,” Sojourners, March 1977, 29.
30. Colossians 2:15 NRSV
31. Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom, 169.
32. Ibid., 158.
33. For examples see David Fitch, “‘Not Voting’ as an Act of Christian Discernment: Calling the Emerging Church into a Different Kind of Faithfulness,” in Reclaiming the Mission, http://www.reclaimingthemission.com/2008/07/not-voting-as-act-of-christian.html and Anthony Smith, “Not Voting as Violence, Or . . . Why I Get Suspicious When White Men Tell Me Not to Vote,” in Emergent Village Weblog, http://www.emergentvillage.com/weblog/not-voting-as-violence.
34. Claiborne and Haw discuss voting in the last two pages of Jesus for President. They share examples of other New Monastic communities who choose to vote on behalf of their immigrant friends who cannot or in accord with their poor neighborhoods. They close the book, though, with these lines: “Perhaps for others, rocking the vote may mean going to the booths and writing in our Candidate, because he doesn’t seem to be on the ballot.” The examples they give of other communities demonstrate a patience which the world desperately needs, one which is sorely lacking in their final sentence. See Claiborne and Haw, Jesus for President, 334-335.
35. Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom, 158.
36. For an example of this, see Tripp York, “A Non-Voting Manifesto?” Christian Ethics Today 70 (2008), http://www.christianethicstoday.com/cetart/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.main&ArtID=959.
37. The Christian Community Development Association, which is composed of faith-based organizations doing on-the-ground justice building in urban communities, encourages advocacy and voting in their publications. See Christian Community Development Association, “October 200 eNews,” http://www.ccda.org/xm_client/client_documents/October_2006_enews.pdf.
38. See Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 9-37.
39. John Howard Yoder, “The National Ritual: Biblical Realism and the Elections,” Sojourners, March 1977, 30.
40. See Andy Alexis-Baker, “When There is Nothing to Vote For: Liberalism, John Howard Yoder, and the Church,” in Electing Not to Vote, ed. Ted Lewis (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008), 10-22. Alexis-Baker claims Yoder in this polemic against voting, a move which I think is misleading in its selective use of quotes. It seems that Alexis-Baker would slam the door on civic engagement; a door which Yoder previously set about cautiously, faithfully opening for his fellow Mennonites.
41. Yoder, “The National Ritual,” 30.
n this essay, Tim Kumfer examines two leading figures of the Evangelical left, Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne, in light of John Howard Yoder's thought, and ponders whether or not Christians should vote in the upcoming national election.