Campus News

God doesn’t vote

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David R. Swartz, Ph.D. and assistant professor of history at Asbury University, spoke to a small group of students and faculty at Bethel College concerning “The Kingdom of God and the Limits of Evangelical Politics” on the afternoon of Feb. 12. “He talked a lot about reaching out globally and locally, and I really agreed with what he had to say about the different levels of social engagement,” sophomore Kim Minnich said. Many others from the audience picked up on this theme of social engagement and Christian involvement. “What I remember the most was when he talked about how the church should take part in recovering the world . . . how we should take care of people,” junior Edoarda Perez said. “I really liked that he thoroughly explained history and background to some of his points. “He knew what he was talking about; he wasn’t just throwing out ideology. He based his beliefs based on historical observations.” Sophomore Brandon Gerig, too, enjoyed the history of the Evangelical Left’s movement toward a “consistent life ethic” and the description of Peace Pentecost in the 1980’s, when a group of Christians confronted Washington with their desires to value all life. “The Christian march on Washington wasn’t anti-abortion or anything; it was just about helping the poor,” said Gerig. “I think it’s interesting that movements like that haven’t really taken off in Christian circles even though they’re for really good causes.” Gerig was further surprised by the content of the lecture. What Gerig anticipated to be a controversial lecture in which Swartz tried to convince his audience to adopt more liberal political perspectives was actually much more descriptive. “I expected more of him telling us what he believes and why we should believe that way, and instead it was an overview of a more left-wing Christian way of thinking, I guess,” said Gerig. “He didn’t really say why we should believe that.” “Even when I grew up in Russia, a lot of my relatives were pretty conservative, Republican Americans,” Gerig said. “I was hoping to hear why a Christian should have a different perspective. I wanted it to be more overt in saying ‘This is what you should believe,’ even though I didn’t know if I’d agree with him.” Some of the faculty members in attendance at the colloquium had a little more background knowledge concerning Swartz and his beliefs. Director of Peer Tutoring Services and Instructor of Writing Joel Boehner has known Swartz since Swartz was a Notre Dame graduate student. Boehner and Swartz have both been published in “Reflections,” and Swartz edited the edition in which Boehner was published. Dr. Eric Oglesbee, assistant professor of linguistics and director of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages programs, remembered  more personal information about Swartz. “David is an incredible ultimate Frisbee player,” Oglesbee said. “I unfortunately had to guard him one time, and he ate my lunch.” Both Boehner and Oglesbee were impressed with the fact that Swartz did not pretend that either Republicans or Democrats perfectly mirrored Christ’s vision for his followers, even though the majority of Swartz’s information centered on a description of a more left-wing Christian ideology. “I think he had an even-handed critique of American politics,” Boehner said. “You normally see someone go one way or another. He showed how each side doesn’t fully reflect the kingdom of God.” Swartz’s lecture was more descriptive than prescriptive, but Bethel’s response to his suggestions for Christians to think out of the box when it comes to politics was overall very positive. “I think a key point that he made was that we should look to operate on the margins of politics as opposed to the tendency over the last twenty plus years to try to change the world from the top down,” Oglesbee said. “We shouldn’t abandon political discourse, but we shouldn’t deceive ourselves to think that bringing about the kingdom of God happens best in the political sphere as opposed to the relationships we have with the people right in front of us.”    
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