Article 09 | Resident Aliens
The main stimulus for the renewal of Christianity will come from the bottom and from the edge, from sectors of the Christian world that are on the margins.
Harvey Cox, Religion in the Secular City
What is God’s purpose with Israel and the Church?
How do we change the world?
The concept of an alternative polis originated for our team with Stanley Hauerwas and was the beginning of a path leading to John Howard Yoder who we think sums it up well in Politics of Jesus:
“There are thus about the community of disciples those sociological traits that most characteristic of those who set about to change society: a visible structured fellowship, a sober decision guaranteeing that the costs of commitment to the fellowship have been consciously accepted, and a clearly defined life-style distinct from that of the crowd. This life-style is different, not because of arbitrary rules separating the believer’s behavior from that of ‘normal people,’ but because of the exceptionally normal quality of humanness to which the community is committed. The distinctiveness is not a cultic or ritual separation (example: clothing with the Amish), but rather a non-conformed quality of involvement in the life of the world. It thereby constitutes an unavoidable challenge to the powers that be and the beginning of a new set of social alternatives (p. 39).”
This kind of Christian reality is largely missing in our experience despite many claims about changing the culture and world. That’s why we believe Hauerwas has it right when he says, “the first political task of the church is to be the church” as does the Apostle Paul when he lays out the goal for the Church – that we become “Children of Light”. Authentic and lasting transformation by God’s grace and our actions into the character of Jesus must be the foundation for everything.
Recommended Reading: The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard, Resident Aliens, by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, The Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder, The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Agenda For Biblical People, and Call to Conversion, by Jim Wallis.