Public Square

How Christians Can Model Faithful Political Engagement

Find fresh motivation in a beautiful new film.
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We have experienced a rough-and-tumble political season with raucous debates, feisty accusations, and precipitous partisan politics. Once the final votes are counted and the dust settles, how do we move forward? Is it possible for Christians to be a brighter light and make a genuine difference in the post-election landscape?

Absolutely yes, argues the new film For Love Of Neighbor: Politics for the Common Good. This creative documentary, produced by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), gives meaningful insight on both why and how Christians can engage in better, brighter ways.

The film shines the spotlight on the vibrant work of three influencers: Sarah Imboden, a town councilperson in Red Hook, New York; Tim Scott, a U.S. Senator from South Carolina, and Justin Giboney, the founder of The AND Campaign, a nonprofit that seeks to educate and organize Christians in healthier civic and cultural engagement. Their amazing stories of public influence are captured with beautiful cinematography, compelling content, and an engaging pace accented by moving music. Insights from additional politicians and activists are interwoven with masterful composition.

I had the joy of watching the premiere screening, and five conceptual threads stood out for me. Please consider these five thematic highlights as your own invitation to watch and ponder this new film.

Our Meaningful Call to Politics

One of the ways Christians can show genuine love of neighbor is by engaging in the political realm with Christ-honoring wisdom. Politics can be a powerful tool toward human flourishing. It’s essential, though, that we set aside politics of self-interest, those twisted motives that so often crowd the platform. We aim instead to serve others’ real needs based on wonderfully subversive, graciously selfless, Christ-like love (Phil. 2:1-11).

Think Local

Imboden, the town councilperson from Red Hook, New York, shares compelling insight into how local leaders have opportunities to establish laws, set tax rates, pursue grants, interface with constituents, and make a vibrant difference by intentionally staying local. No doubt about it: Such work is challenging. But it is so very good to cultivate shared space with neighbors. We can find places of common ground, even when we disagree with people on many issues. Local leaders pursue justice and help affect shalom as they work toward the common public good of the very communities in which they live. Post-election, all of us can more deeply pursue local impact.

The Need for Courageous Conversations

Arthur Brooks, president emeritus of AEI, insists we adopt the posture that those on the other side of the political aisle are not the enemy. Robust, civil disagreement is actually the secret to a vibrant democracy. Brooks argues that both Democrats and Republicans need voices of change for better conversations. This side of heaven, there are no perfect institutions—and that includes political parties and governing bodies. It’s crucial we engage without demonizing the other side. Our political opponent is not our enemy. Instead, we must adopt the mindset that they also want to pursue the common good; they just have a different way of accomplishing that aim. Christians need to be vibrantly, peaceably working to be real difference makers on either side of the aisle by engaging those on the other side of the aisle.

Politics: A Way to Put Faith into Action

The Civil Rights Movement is a powerful example of political action that flowed out of a Christian theology of love, even for those who could be called “enemies.” In the face of ideological differences, we should indeed fight for what’s noble, true, and right. As we do, we must show personal restraint and engage in a nonviolent pursuit of peace. The greater goal in such political engagement is collaboration and healing instead of obtaining greater power. We demonstrate Christian politics when we engage in a way marked by true decency, non-hatred, and love, even for people we can’t stand. Christians can serve out of a transcendent theology, the strong underpinnings that will make a brighter difference in the political realm. Jesus Christ’s new covenant requires us to “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:43-48) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). His command includes our political opponents.

Hold Fast to Our Foundation

The film explains how distracted and distressed we become because we are constantly searching for a savior. We put presidents, senators, and governors up on pedestals, but to no lasting avail. It’s vital we recall Jesus’ bigger story. In the flow of history, his is the ultimate story. It’s good to engage wisely in the political realm for the sake of the common good, but we must remember that we don’t elect a savior. We dare not jump toward the short-range thrill of power and control. Our ultimate Savior is Jesus Christ. True power is shown via Jesus’ model of emptying himself out of love for the sake of others. Our political involvement should be grounded in the same love-based attitudes and actions. 

After Election Day is over, it’s inevitable that there will be short-game winners and losers. But as followers of Christ, we need to consider how we engage the long game and work toward political goals that outlast a given election cycle. For Love of Neighbor aims to spark further discussion and inspire our vision for Christian involvement in meaningful political life for the months and years to come. With fresh motivation, we can move forward in ways that encourage human flourishing, reconciliation, and greater momentum for the common good.

This new documentary will capture your imagination, fill you with hope, and stir you to loving action. To see a film trailer, excerpts, and to watch the full film, visit https://faithandpubliclife.com/flon/.

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