Being a Christian Citizen in 2020 (A Response from a “Beyond the Divisions” Reader)

by Joe Marlow

I am a follower of Christ, husband, father, grandfather, and citizen. These personal identifiers are the foundation of what David Brooks in his book The Road to Character calls the “eulogy virtues.” These identifiers are what I desire to be remembered for in the memories of my family members and friends after I depart this life.

For me, being a Christian is the foundation of all my other personal identifiers, including being a citizen. I also draw wisdom from the ancient Greeks in their view of citizenship- being a member of a polis (city-state) has the common expectation that a citizen is an informed participant in the political life of the polis. Granted, those Greeks were not perfect about who they allowed to be citizens; but, at least they possessed the basic concept of civic participation.

For readers, I want to identify myself more fully, realizing that they could box me in politically and then refuse to seriously engage me further. But I take that chance because I am a firm believer in thinking “inside the box” in more ways than one. Politically, I am independent of any political party and am registered as such. Ideologically, I am a social conservative in the Edmund Burke mold. Thus, I believe in thoughtful discussions, in using history and tradition as guides in making decisions for the future, and in placing myself into what Burke calls “little platoons of affection”- church, family, friendships, etc. I am also a limited government libertarian in that I believe the federal government has too much power that is corrupting the freedoms granted to us in our natural rights as humans and in the Constitution. I believe that the Tenth Amendment is the most violated part of our Bill of Rights.

Considering all I have written about my general perspective on citizenship, I now list some specific applications:

In closing, we Christians hold dual citizenship with both heaven and earth, and as such, despite our political differences, we seek the welfare of the nation, state, county, and community in which God has placed us (Jeremiah 29:7). Our active citizenship and positive contributions to our own “polis” are a vital part of our discipleship journeys as serious followers of Christ.

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written as a reader response to the “Beyond the Divisions” series. We invite other readers to submit perspectives of their own to ghunt@cbts.edu for possible inclusion in the blog series.

Joe Marlow, D.Min., is a retired elementary school principal who has also held staff positions in Baptist and Episcopal churches. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and holds graduate degrees from Boston University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Pittsburg State University. In his retirement Dr. Marlow is a consultant and writer.

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