I think I should begin this post by apologizing to my followers and others for my previous post “Selling Citizenship” (which I removed). Flogging both American political parties is not the same as being nonpartisan so I need improvement in my own thinking. There are, though, two things I might raise in my own defense; I was attempting to write something that would be humorous and interesting being inspired by Word Press’ “Snark Bombs, Away!” Also, it seems that partisanship may be innate in human nature. There are some who think it is in our genes. However, note I wrote “innate” not “determined.” We have a choice in the matter and that is what I am going to consider as part of my thinking concerning the reformation of American Christianity.
Partisanship entered Christianity very early in its history. The story is told in Acts 15:1–35. Although the apostles and elders in Jerusalem agreed with Paul and Barnabas that circumcision and the Mosaic law were not required for salvation, the circumcision party remained. They were still active when Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians about the middle of the first century.
Another instance of partisanship shows up in the church of Corinth. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:1–4) takes the people there to task because they were arguing over his teachings and those of Apollos, apparently quite a gifted preacher. As Christianity continued to expand over space and time, there were endless divisions and quite bitter partisanship lasting until the present and presumably continuing. How did that happen?
As in my own case, partisanship, even in the service of nonpartisanship, is a case of losing objectivity and allowing our ego to grow too large to see the other person’s position. This is particularly the case when we think we are on the right side of a “moral” issue. Thus reformation is a cause that could easily lead us into partisanship. However if reformation is to be more than simply the creation of another “church,” it must be as inclusive as possible. People from all different Christian understandings should be welcome to join us in looking up to Christ.
The opposite of partisanship is unity. Just as there is danger for reformation in partisanship, there are also hazards in unity. The cost of unity in a reformation can be the loss of core values. Some churches maintain their institutional unity while losing the respect of the society they are meant to serve.
So where should we who seek a reformation of American Christianity be on the spectrum of partisanship versus unity. It seems we could start by removing from the partisanship those issues that result from our personal preferences. For example, there have probably been more contemporary churches divided over the worship music than over any understanding of the person of Christ. On the unity end of the spectrum, we need to remember that the coming together we seek is spiritual not institutional nor in the manner in which we worship.
A revival of the idea that Christianity is the kingdom of God, a spiritual realm containing all believers, can allow us to see where we should go in our efforts to reform American Christianity. It will free us not only from the attractions of the world, the flesh and the devil but from the temptation to make churches the be all and end all of Christian experience. We are people of a higher reality.