They come from France. That was the explanation that the conehead family would offer (in the classic SNL sketch and the much less classic movie) when someone noticed that they were clearly aliens from outer space. The response they typically got was a puzzled shrug, that seemed to say “you seem like you are from outer space, but I guess you could be French.” Along with their consuming of “mass quantities,” their deflection “we come from France,” and its reception formed the satirical underpinnings of the sketch.
In this strangest of political seasons, we, as American Christians, could use an alien perspective. And that is just what we get in The Gospel & The Citizen: Essay on the Christian and the Church in Politics by Florent Varak and Philippe Viguier (also available on Amazon for the Kindle).
The authors are not from outer space, they are Master’s Seminary graduates who come from and minister in France. As such they offer a discussion of the role of the individual believer and the church in politics free from the partisan weirdness that seems to pollute most discussions we have in the U.S. Partisanship has so colored our discussion that we simultaneously have a well-respected theologian arguing that voting for Donald Trump is a morally good choice and a well-respected, nationally known pastor arguing that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to check unpredictable evil. Something is clearly wrong, and our discussion has been corrupted by convictions that have little to do with Scripture.
In this environment any discussion of the relationship of the believer and the church to the realm of politics free from this taint is welcome and this short (82 pages in the print edition) essay is a breath of fresh air.
Examining the issue through the lens of 1 Peter 2:11-17 the authors identify five models that can govern our interaction with government and the realm of politics; theocracy, lobbying, retreat, subjection, and being a witness. They then argue powerfully for the witness view with both biblical theology and examples from history where this approach has yielded fruit.
This is where I would normally interact with the text and point out the strengths (and I think there are many) and the weaknesses of their argument (I think there are a few) but I don’t as much want to review this book, as much as really, really, really recommend you get and read it for yourself.
It is a very rare thing for an essay like this to be translated from French (or any other language) into English. Although our culture is different and some of the issues we face may be different, the biblical principles that should govern our thoughts, actions and speech are the same. What Florent and Philippe have given us is a gift; an opportunity to have our thinking sharpened by two biblically grounded men, engaged in full time ministry, who have wrestled through the problems of politics with an eye toward practical ministry, who have no dog in our American political fights. I heartily recommend, and think you would do well to take advantage of this opportunity.