MWC General Secretary Says, ‘Politics Matters’

By MCC UN/MWC

What Is God’s Kingdom and What Does Citizenship Look Like? Mennonite World Conference general secretary César García explored these questions in a book in the “The Jesus Way: Small Books of Radical Faith” series by Herald Press in February 2021.
Mennonite Central Committee’s United Nations Office asked him questions about the subject. This is a shortened version of an interview originally published in the May 2021 UN Office Global Briefing.

MCC UN Office: As a church leader, why did you decide to write this book? Why a book about politics at this time?

César García: In my homeland of Colombia, our churches were so divided by partisan politics it was a nightmare. We were not able to speak about the ongoing peace process in our country because it was so divisive. On social media, we found varying comments and even lies spreading and affecting our church members. We lacked material to speak about political engagement in a very simple yet deep way.

In the book, you say Jesus’ message was political. Many people would be surprised to hear that. What do you mean?

Many people confuse politics with partisan politics. Politics matters because it is concerned with how our society is organized. It has to do with the way we think about money, how we relate to people who are different, and to marginalized people and injustice in society.

The message of Jesus was deeply political because he was speaking about a new way of organizing a society. When Jesus uses the term “kingdom of God,” he is using political language. He’s speaking about a political reality, our way of organizing our society, our values, and the way we relate to each other.

In your book, you mention “exile politics” as your preferred model of political engagement. Can you speak to that?

When I was growing up in Colombia, some Christian churches were not legally recognized, and not allowed to meet freely. People even attacked church buildings and threatened church leaders. Now that Christian churches are legally recognized, some churches have become the oppressors, demanding laws that don’t take into account the freedom of minorities. But there is another alternative.

In the Old Testament, there are voices that critique the Israelite monarchies, and see that form of government as an unfortunate stage in the people of God. In the end, ancient Israelites found themselves in exile. It is in that context that leaders like Daniel, for instance, were influencing society from a perspective of vulnerability.

This is the type of politics Jesus identified with—wise leadership in a context of oppressive empire rather than top-down power. What we are called to do is to invite people in a voluntary way to adopt good values.

Much of the church has not talked about issues of social structure and how to engage with them. Do you think structures can be sinful?

Sin is more than individual behaviour. Sin has to do with the environment in which we live. Our societies naturally create structures of domination.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to recognize these structures because we were raised in them. We are like fish swimming in a big ocean, unable to recognize the waters, the structures our society creates, until we are taken out of the water.

That is what living into God’s kingdom means. God’s Spirit empowers us to live a different kind of society. We can then influence the societies of this world again in a way that is coherent with our values.

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