I recently enjoyed reading Stephen Bush’s proposal for a middle-way “between Hauerwas and Constantine” (what he calls “a stereoscopic political theology”, as opposed to the “monosocopic” vision of those who see the church as the only legitimate political enterprise). Bush’s paper did a wonderful job of giving expression to the gastronomic tension which has characterized my contact with the “radical orthodoxy” of neo-traditionalism. The initial enchantment that comes from beholding the magnificent, towering ideology of Yoder’s ecclesiology soon plummets into saddened disbelief at the church that actually exists in our world today. When one’s eyes are open to the extent to which powers and principalities dominate the institutional realities where we live and minister, a conscientious first response is to form apocalyptic communities in the desert rather than face the hopeless task of reform in the church, much less the state. But Bush perceptively points out that while we bear the ethical responsibility of picturing the coming kingdom, our hope is that Jesus will not only make things right in the world, but that he will transform the body of Christ to resemble its ideologue: “to be theologically accurate, we must start by noting that it is the eschaton that is the true political alternative to both nation-state and the church (emphasis mine).” That is to say the church doesn’t merely triumphantly mirror kingdom life in hopes of drawing sinners into our communities, we draw sinners into a shared groaning for God to bring the kingdom in which he establishes justice. Therefore our confession and transparent neediness forms the platform upon which meaningful political cooperation can occur without idolatrous culpability. With this tension between church and state eased (though not finally resolved), it is easier to see how one can act on the inevitable urge to support, pursue and endorse those public policies that manifest neighbor love while not engaging in idolatrous collaboration with alternative kingdoms; and that is a freeing consideration. Christian virtue is free to act outside of the singular desire to simply display Christian virtue – acts of justice, kindness and sacrificial charity can be conducted without fear of distorting ideological baggage being inadvertently attached to such actions. In other words, the desire to communicate Christian ideology doesn’t trump the actual enactment of that ideology for the benefit of those served by it. As far as I understand, Bush isn’t endorsing the Constantinian compromise to effect structural change under detached moral principles for the benefit of all – rather, he’s pointing out the moral responsibility of those who have the power to act justly to act justly even if their actions may not be construed as acts of biblical faithfulness. This, of course, doesn’t collapse the distinctions between the moral pursuits of the church versus those of the state. The church must take special care to not compromise its message in order “to help people”, not least by refusing to divorce its pursuit of particular policies from the storied ethics that drive our concern; but on the other hand we should take seriously the moral responsibility of being de-facto constituents of a participatory (albeit pagan) system.