The Cooperative Program is political.
This one fact, more than any other, has hindered its growth. I think our distaste for the political aspects of the CP is wrongful on our part. I’m writing to convince you of that.
It is undeniably true that denominational politics can become evil. This is equally true, however, for anything that sinful human beings touch. If you tell me that you don’t like corrupt politics, that makes me admire you. If you tell me that you don’t like politics at all, I consider you to be a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution. Whether your disavowal of politics represents your naiveté or your demagoguery I’ll leave for you to sort out.
Politics is simply this: The system by which multiple people decide what to do. The “Cooperative” in “Cooperative Program” is simply another word for politics.
What is the alternative to politics? It is neither more nor less than, “I will not be bothered by the opinions of others. I will not negotiate. I will not build consensus. I will not labor toward agreement. Rather, having the means to do what I wish without regard for others, I choose fiat dictatorship over my smaller, less effective realm rather than politics by which we accomplish something greater together.” The demagogue will rapidly embrace this approach and dress up his aloofness from politics as something noble.
The naïve person declares that he dislikes politics and then replaces one political system with another. He dumps the Cooperative Program and builds a network in its place. His new politics may be better—more tranquil, less corrupt—if for no other reason by virtue of its being newer. Eventually, however, his network will face a decision that will reveal profound disagreement among its members. The descent into politics is inexorable for groups of human beings trying to work together.
I want to offer another idea: POLITICS IS LOVE.
Or, at the very least, love is political. It is political for a number of reasons.
- Loving sister churches disposes us to work in cooperation with them. Love relishes the community of politics over the autonomy of independence.
- When we see ways to improve the work, loving sister churches motivates us to accomplish the improvements not for ourselves alone, but for all of the churches. Love embraces the interdependence of politics.
- Love is patient, we are reminded. Loving sister churches means giving them time and space to consider our proposed improvements. Love endures the process of politics.
- Love is not arrogant. It acknowledges that sister churches might educate us, rather than vice-versa. Love commits to the give-and-take of politics.
When we love our sister churches and love the work of the gospel, we will deign to be involved with them in decision-making. At its essence this is what the Cooperative Program is. That’s why the Cooperative Program cannot be identified with the status quo. The Cooperative Program is not the end decision; it is the process by which we arrived at it. Most serious arguments against the Cooperative Program boil down to impatience or indifference with regard to sister churches, in my opinion. To reject the Cooperative Program is not merely to say, “The budget doesn’t reflect the right priorities.” Rather, it is to say, “The budget doesn’t reflect MY priorities, and I reject the system by which I should try to lead you to see why.”
Don’t eschew politics. Embrace love instead. Get involved in the process. Enter dialogue with sister churches and work to make the Cooperative Program better and stronger.