Word of the day: Civitas

1. the body of citizens who constitute a state, especially a city-state, commonwealth or the like
2. citizenship, especially as imparting shared responsibility, a common purpose and sense of community
Have you noticed that the Religious Right isn’t the only faith-based view getting news coverage this election cycle? It seems the values conversation is broader this time around.
This fall, Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds bookstore in Dallastown is leading a nonpartisan course about faith and politics on Sunday mornings during the adult education hour (10 a.m.) at First Presbyterian Church of York.
Borger is taking the class through aspects of Christian citizenship, discussing how best to relate biblical world, social and political views. He’s asking how best to serve your neighbor by working for good governance and public justice.

Here’s his syllabus for the rest of the fall:

Oct. 5: What is the task of the State?

If we are hoping to develop a biblically informed and distinctively Christian framework for our citizenship, we must ask what the Bible teaches about the task, calling and role of the state. This is not an easy question, but we will examine a few key Biblical passages which suggest certain responsibilities and limits. This will help us formulate a comprehensive political philosophy, rather than being focused only on “hot-button” causes or being moralistic in our concerns about selective issues.

Oct. 12: National defense: Violence, pacifism and the just war theory

Although we can only scratch the surface we will offer an brief overview of the two primary views held throughout church history, the nonviolence of Biblical pacifism and the limited warfare approach of the “just war” tradition. Our denomination, although not pacifist, has spent much energy helping us learn about peacemaking as a Biblical imperative.
Oct. 19: A biblically-balanced Agenda: Key Issues
We will make the case that the Bible offers insight about a number of important issues and that several theological themes indicate a handful of binding principles. Unlike “single issue” voters of the left or right, we will offer theological justification for a multi-faceted approach, striving to be faithful to the whole witness of Scripture, even if that transcends typical partisan habits.
Oct. 26: Weighing the Issues: One person’s view
Sooner or later, hopefully informed by biblical teaching, a rather comprehensive and intentionally Christian political philosophy, from which emerge principles for the common good, we must make prudential judgments, wisely and faithfully, to weigh the various issues. We must study the best data on the issues, and discern what is policy considerations are most urgent in these times. Then, we must determine how these judgments might shape a citizen’s voting tendencies. Join a guest speaker who will share one Christian’s considered opinion.
Nov. 2: Weighing the Issues: One person’s different view
Again, we will host a guest speaker, hearing and discussing with one person who has thought through Christian conviction as it impacts citizenship, public policy and today’s political debates. Even if we agree on the Biblical mandates, and share a common framework, and voice utter commitment to the common good, we may discern the data and the times differently, so there can be various good-faith efforts of pursing a Christian perspective and we must allow gracious room for disagreement..
Nov. 9: Three case studies
We will (briefly) explore three complex public policy issues that may illuminate a sense of biblical balance, nonpartisan thinking, how to approach even controversial topics in light of a more comprehensive framework and commitments to public justice for all. Perhaps we will meet outside of class for further conversation and viewpoints …
Nov. 16: Ongoing citizenship obligations for the civitas
Responsible Christian citizenship is not exhausted as we show up to vote once every four years, but is an on-going process of learning to love our community and God’s world, seeking to work for the common good, nurturing a heart for justice and skills of being an informed citizen. How can we sustain this kind of on-going work? How can our church assist us in being agents of God’s kingdom in public life for the common good?

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