How can we engage in politics without losing our souls? It’s a question that’s been weighing on my mind in this turbulent time. When the public square is rocked by deadly disease, racism, unrest, and party polarization, it might appear that the only way to stay sane and free of darkness and despair is to withdraw into the safety of one’s private life.
As Jesus commissioned a first group of disciples to bear the gospel message of peace and reconciliation into the public square, he instructed them, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16 NIV). In a moment of volatile civic discourse, political anger, and degradation of social institutions––all driven by factional strife––Jesus’ advice casts a vision for bewildered, weary Christians that are unsure of their responsibility to a fractured public life.
Unfortunately, economics as a discipline seems to wear a “Neutral Economist” hat unironically. In other words, the discipline focuses extensively on models, math, and measurements, and not enough on the intrinsic subjects of these models: people.
Democratic culture appears in decline. Voluntary associations recede in influence and number. Labor unions, civic groups, youth organizations, and religious communities struggle to gain members from younger generations.
The ideal of liberal education, learning for the sake of learning, might appear suspect in light of Christian theology. In his essay “On the Theology of the Intellectual Life,” the English theologian John Webster writes that all “created things, including created intellect, are to be understood in terms of the history of fellowship between God and creatures.”
If you have had any exposure to contemporary ideas surrounding international economic development, whether through for-profit social impact business models, nonprofit work, or government aid initiatives, you may have heard the phrase, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”
It’s time to rethink the widely accepted western approach to development that agencies utilize to combat global challenges. Sure, development practitioners have good intentions. However, good intentions are often not enough.
I didn’t know Marvel movies provided relevant commentary on American society until I watched Thor Ragnorok. After finishing “Renewing America’s Social Fabric: Faith, Community, and Public Policy,” a class taught by Dr. Ryan Streeter as part of AEI’s Summer Honors Program, I sat down with my family and watched another world’s troubles, only to have it frame my thoughts about ours.
For most of my life, I lived in a world where politics never came up at church, and the Church never came up in discussions of politics. Whenever the two did meet, I saw political leaders turning the Church from its prophetic ministry and making it a tool for partisan ends. Not until my participation in the AEI Summer Honors Program did I feel as though substantive policy discussion grounded in shared faith could even occur.