Tonight, in a debate amongst friends, I asked the question towards the end: “what should the ultimate goal of society be?” The answer from the more conservative folks was “freedom.” I realized at that point that all of our arguments about politics, belief systems, religion and corporations are already destined to be ships crossing in the night. I’m spending my time in Moltmann on the trip and have been submerged in Yoder, Hauerwas, Newbigin and the sorts as of late. So my answer to the question of what the ultimate goal of society should be was “bringing the reign of God to fulfillment and redemption to all things.” You can see then, how a conversation about capitalism can go nowhere. If our goal is to give the most people in the world as possible as much opportunity (on paper) as possible , then of course capitalism is the best way we know so far. If our goal is freedom in that everyone can do anything that they want, then of course small government and and uncapped capitalism makes the most sense.
If freedom is the ultimate goal of humanity, then the West in a lot of ways might be heading in the right direction. However, I don’t think I interpret the end of humanity as absolute freedom. I see it has humanity being subject to a new kind of rule. Since that is the case, all systems fall short and are in need of redemption. The role of a Christian is not to then fight on behalf of “the best system that an exist given a corrupt humanity.” It is to subvert all systems and subject them to the reign of God. So this is why, as Christians, I don’t understand how we can fight for capitalism, or for socialism, or for corporate greed. I understand that some good may come somewhere within these systems (more jobs are created, some poor are taken care of etc.). But that’s not the point. Since when do we argue and promote a system and not subject that system to the values of the Kingdom?
This isn’t just the typical argument of forcing the hand of the public or non-Christians to do what we want as Christians. I’m not talking about voting more Christians into power so we can make rules that are more Christian. I’m talking about subverting every aspect of corrupt systems and changing them so they are no longer corrupt. Not through violence or force, but by modelling a better way and influence. I don’t see how Christians can simply accept systems that promote greed and oppression simply because they make the most people “free?” Our ultimate goal for society should be what we hope is coming through Christ. As we participate in the reconciling of all creation, and as we are being reconciled, may we not compromise our standards for anything else than full on redemption.
6 thoughts on “Politics, The Kingdom of God and Our Ultimate Goal”
I’d say the ultimate goal of society is to glorify God.
Of course, as you’ve noted, this will only fully happen at the eschaton when God once and for all set’s the world aright. So then, the church’s first task is not to transform society. You already know what Hauerwas says here, and I’m sympathetic to this, that the primary task of the church is to be the church and thus to make the world the world.
How then do we begin to “subvert all systems”? By engaging in the most radical act possible, by worshipping the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
I do however, think or wonder about Hauerwas’ model of us being the church and thus showing the world it is the world. I wonder what to do with it when you are unable to be separate or are stuck in a system where you almost can’t help but looking like the world. Like at the end of Philippians for “especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” What does that look like for them? Because I feel like many of Christians are in that camp.
Your sounding pretty annabaptist these days
Phil, do you know what that means and why I sound like that? Or did you just want to sound smart on the internet.
This reminded me of a quote from one of Dostoevsky’s characters, “I begin by proposing unlimited freedom, but end in absolute despotism.” The character adds that apart from his system there is no other. Sounds like a lot of proponents of unrestrained capitalism.
Dostoevsky’s take on freedom in Demons is a little bit different than Sartre’s take on freedom, eh? That we are absolutely free but that freedom terrifies us and so we flee to despots, gods, and moral codes to rule us (reading Being and Nothingness right now…).