Great dialog and conversation, Leslie and Melody! Reminds me of the Listening Groups and Missional Action Team discussions, and wrestling with various readings of scripture we had (and still have) at the Hollywood Church—just in a more public online forum and not in a small group of 5 or 6 in the damp, moldy basement of the church.
“As for political action - Jesus’ model was not to garner political power…”
It is not so much about power as it is about directly impacting individual lives. In our faith-based, social justice work the illustration is often made of the story of the Good Samaritan. Perhaps many (if not most) of us have tried individual acts of charity (I believe that is the word used in I Cor. 13, KJV): helping in a soup kitchen, buying a sandwich for a person living on the streets—maybe even helping a mugging victim on the side of the freeway, and putting him up in a motel room (just like the Good Samaritan). But what if these muggings occur every evening for the next year? Do I have the personal (or even congregational) resources to help 365 victims? Does that mean we give up? Do we just tell the next 364 mugging victims to be patient, “Jesus is Coming Soon, so I have to go back to work on my personal perfection”?
Is there, perhaps, a role for corporate action-- band together as a congregation, and maybe even get a few other congregations in Hollywood /Los Angeles to advocate for more street lights, security cameras, more police foot patrols or drive-bys? Advocacy IS action—not just politics. Perhaps critics do not consider this righteousness; but I would respectfully propose that in rubbing shoulders with mugging victims, neighbors, police officers, politicians, street light installers, members of other churches, synagogues and mosques in addressing community needs, our listening and conversation skills are developed and refined, and some righteousness “miraculously” emerges.
Parenthetically, politics is simply the process by which we collectively, as a community and a society, determine what we (not “I” or “you” or “they”, but “we”) want. We can do this in a mean spirited, power-hungry way (just like any church endeavor) or in a civil, cooperative way (just like this discourse).
During our conversations at the Hollywood church about whether social justice work meant “getting involved in politics”, and would detract from the Gospel Commission, I recall we discussed that similar debates were going on among our denomination’s founders during the SDA church’s formation right in the middle of the U. S. Civil War. And yet this is precisely the time the church made very public (and controversial) stands on Abolition and non-combatancy. It doesn’t get more political than that! ; )
I do agree we should be discerning about when, how and why to get involved in “politics”; and that corporate, congregational growth in righteousness does not mean excusing the lack of individual moral and spiritual growth/standards.
As for individual perfection this side of the Parousia, that seems like such a difficult yoke and a heavy burden; I haven’t yet met anyone who came close, much less achieved, that level of personal piety; --on second thought, my 1st generation SDA mom came awfully close, like maybe 87%;—my 3rd generation SDA dad: nah!, he was too mischievous to even be considered.