A Call for a Non Partisan Sabbatical

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : June 5, 2005

Check out this article from the South Bend Tribune by a history professor from Goshen College.  Here’s a sample:

"The sky is not going to fall if Mennonites for five years back out of partisan politics," he said.

In a recent speech and subsequent Tribune interview, Roth stressed
that he is not asking church members to disengage from their
communities or from political concerns.

But he said the nature of that involvement should shift from
electoral politics to a Christ-centered politics that more directly
engages the hungry, the homeless and the dispossessed.

"I think that demands much more from us than simply mouthing the
slogans of whatever the latest party ideologues are offering us, on
both sides," he said.

…"We have basically allowed the political landscape of partisan
America … to shape our language," Roth said. "And so we haven’t
framed our political engagement from the perspective of the church….Not to avoid hard choices, but to gird them with discernment that is
often absent from yard signs, voting booths and political rallies…Christians should engage the (body politic)," he said, "and to that
extent, they’re political. What I chafe at is too narrow a definition
of what it means to be politically engaged."

Specifically, Roth wants Mennonites to abandon their activism around
the definition of marriage and focus on sustaining the marriages around

Or to stop their public advocacy about poverty, and feed and house the hungry and homeless.

Perhaps most centrally in a time of war, Roth hopes that Mennonites
put down their foreign policy placards and support Mennonite
organizations with an international focus.

I think all Christians would do well to take a sabbatical from partisanship…don’t you?  Why not?

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5 Responses to “A Call for a Non Partisan Sabbatical”

  1. blorge on June 6th, 2005 10:24 am

    I wonder if the reason the church has allowed itsself to become so politicized doesn’t have more to do with fear and sloth. We want to change things but we’re afraid to reach out to those in our midst and affect a change at the “grassroots level” in our own communities and contribute to the same efforts abroad. We’re afraid to step out beyond our comfort level and we’re too lazy to think creatively on how to affect a change that doesn’t involve the government.

  2. Van S on June 6th, 2005 10:55 am


    I think you’re on to something there. What do you think the church can do to address that?

  3. blorge on June 6th, 2005 11:24 am

    I don’t know how popular this will be with others, but I would say that we should try to develop an alternative infrastructure that would systematically address the problems in society. There are a lot of non-profits out there that we can and should support by partnering up with them in order to better understand what the needy are actually in need of. It could be as simple as having your church work with a soup kitchen once a month, or as involved as having everyone move into a particular neighborhood and get involved with neighborhood associations, etc.

    I also think that we need to hear about relational/lifestyle evangelism from the pulpit and over the christian radio airwaves.

  4. blorge on June 6th, 2005 11:26 am

    Also- I think we just need encouragement. We need to hear, “you can do it” enough until we internalize the message. We also need role models who had the same fears we did, but overcame them and can give us tips on how to do so as well.

    That is all to say that it has to be a systematic, community-wide effort.

  5. graham on June 7th, 2005 1:06 pm

    Great quote!

    I said to someone just recently that it feels like the more lower-case-p-political my faith becomes, the less upper-case-p-political I feel.

    But I think Roth puts it better! :-)

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