It’s common to hear Christians say things like “Christianity is neither right nor left, but a completely different kind of thing,” and “Both the far-right and far-left are two sides of the same coin: fundamentalist extremes with different beliefs,” and “The problem is polarization: we can’t talk with each other anymore.”
These phrases are often employed toward a Christian “third way” politics that seeks to affirm the truth that the church is not bound by the left/right binary of US politics, but this way of talking about how the church relates to politics doesn’t actually work on the ground, and usually ends up being a kind of “centrism” that serves to keep the status quo in place.
Pastors Melissa Florer-Bixler and Shawn McCain Tirres join us to talk about why Christian centrism is attractive, and unpack the problems of pursuing Christian centrist/third way politics, and we discuss more helpful ways of framing the church’s relationship to politics and living our faithful lives of discipleship to Jesus in the world.
Melissa Florer-Bixler is the pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church, and a graduate of Duke University and Princeton Theological Seminary. She spent times studying in Israel/Palestine, Kenya, and England. Much of her formation took place in the L’Arche community of Portland, OR and she now the chair of L’Arche North Carolina and a steering committee member in broad-based organizing in her county. Melissa’s writing has appeared in Christian Century, Sojourners, Geez, Anabaptist Witness, The Bias, Faith&Leadership, and Anabaptist Vision. She’s the author of Fire by Night: Finding God in the Pages of the Old Testament, and How to Have an Enemy: Righteous Anger and the Work of Peace, which we’ve talked about with her on this podcast.
Shawn McCain Tirres is the founding rector of Resurrection Anglican Church in South Austin, Texas. Before that he helped plant Redeemer Anglican Church in Santa Cruz, California. His doctoral work focused on a practical sacramental missiology, and he currently serves on the Revelation 7:9 Task Force for Justice and Inclusion for the Diocese of Churches for the Sake of Others.
- The Adam Joyce article we reference: If there is a “third way”, this isn’t it: How Christian centrists acquiesce to America’s broken political system
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