Prayer for Second Sunday in Lent
100th Post=Blog Contest

Religion, Politics, and Discourse...Oh My!

I'm afraid my blogging activity has dwindled from a co-blogger with Meg to a "cameo-blogger" who only shows up from time-to-time.  To my many fans (sense the exaggeration/sarcasm), I apologize, I don't see it getting much better.  But I will still try to make a cameo appearance now and then.

So, if my blogs will be few and far between, why not stir things up a little bit?  And what better way to stir things up than to discuss religion and politics?

I came across an interesting speech on religion's role in politics that I think made some points that are worth considering.  When it comes to politics I usually fall on the conservative side of the spectrum, although there are also a few issues I think liberals do a much better job.  Given my background, you will be surprised to learn that this keynote address at a conference was delivered by Barack Obama.  I encourage you to give it a read or even watch the video.  In this post, I will simply comment on a few quotes from this speech.

"And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse."


I may be rather uninformed, but this is the first time I've heard liberals refer to themselves as "progressives".  I am actually a little confused by the term because I would expect all Americans to categorize themselves as wanting to see progress in our country.  Perhaps a primary distinction between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are more aggressive to abandon ideals and principles held in the past for the latest and greatest values of the present time.  Meanwhile, conservatives hesitate to release such ideals until it is 100% clear (sometimes, to a fault).  One other comment I'd like to make about the concept of a progressive nation is a phrase I recall reading in C.S. Lewis' writings, chronological snobbery.  Wikipedia defines this as "describing the erroneous argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present."  While I believe in progress, I think that when it involves a change to our core values as a country we must be wary of falling prey to chronological snobbery.

"But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."


I felt that this was a great statement that is very difficult to come by in any political dialog.  More relating to this in the final quote…

"For one, they [conservative leaders] need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it." (My emphasis added).


This is a very important statement, but I have mixed feelings about it.  I am pleased to hear Mr. Obama state the true meaning of "separation of church and state" in his final sentence, but, this definition is rarely used by liberals in politics (this is the first time I have ever heard it).  On the contrary, the liberal definition is usually the same "check your faith at the door" policy he denounced earlier in this message.  I do concede, however, that in an increasingly religiously-pluralistic nation, these discussions do become more challenging, which brings me to my final quote.

"Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason…I have to explain why [fill in your conviction] violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."


This is where many Christians fail in politics, and probably why many avoid politics.  We need to learn to translate our values and views into the vernacular in order for them to be heard and discussed in political circles.  I am the first to admit that I am not good at this, and that the prospect is even scary.  But I think that it is a shift that needs to happen.  I think that it is also important to note that this principle doesn't only apply to Christians, or to the "religious", but also to atheists and agnostics.  Once people of faith learn to articulate their positions in politics, the challenge will also go to those with a godless faith.  The presupposition that there is no god also brings with it a vocabulary of its own that is not "accessible to people of all faiths".

I found this speech very refreshing and, as a Christian, very challenging.  Of course, when considering a political candidate, speeches should not hold as much weight as their voting record.  While I very much enjoyed Mr. Obama's speech, his voting does not appear to have been effected by these discussions much as of yet, his record is still far from being moderate.

What do you think?

Comments

[this is good] Matt, can you (or another reader), take a conviction you have and provide an example of wording that a Christian may typically use as his basis for debate and then using that same conviction, provide another example of what may be a successful use of the vernacular to use within the political arena?

Matt,

Regarding the term "progressive" as it applies to a political ideology, David Horowitz has an interesting take.  If you aren't familiar with Horowitz, he was a radical liberal (a self-described communist, in fact) in the 60's and is now a conservative author.  He has an interesting perspective on leftist politics.

The full article can be found here: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID={E2D1C5F9-AE2E-4033-B869-56DD58D2EC8C}

 

And "Progressive"? The term has today re-emerged to once again denote any person, organization, or idea left-of-moderate. It was the centrist liberalism of the Clinton administration -- e.g.,the (proposed) neo-progressive cartelization of medicine, the intervention in the Balkans, the North American Free Trade Agreement -- that brought forth self-designated "progressives" who opposed anything less than full socialization of medicine, the deployment of U.S. troops anywhere, and the rise of the global economy. The only real change in the term is how commodious it has become. It encompasses everyone from an ever-leftward social democrat to a Communist-without-a-Party to such relatively recent arrivals as the "radical feminist" (i.e., bourgeois female) fighting the Patriarchal Occupational Government, the [gay] activist fighting "hetero-normality," the multiculturalist fighting Western civilization, and the Deep Ecologist fighting all civilization. It even includes ideologically exhausted leftists-without-an-ism such as philosopher Richard Rorty, who allows that the "best we can hope for is more of the same experimental, hit-or-miss, two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back reforms that have been taking place in the industrial democracies since the French Revolution."

 

What's left is a "progressive" Left that is too broad, too reactionary and too self-contradictory. In the desire to replace individuality with community, they have yet to pick a “community” into which they will be assimilated. So, in the end, the progressive movement could go in any number of directions – or none at all.

 

Which raises the question of just what progressive really tells us. Something that means everything, means nothing. Even as a synonym for all things leftist, can it logically include, for example, the Marxist crucifixion of Malthus and the Green resurrection of him? Or both pacifism and militarism (the “armed struggles” of socialist forces)? How can we speak of as “progressive” striving for a Communist future that is already past – or yearning to drive humanity “back to the Pleistocene” (an Earth First! slogan)? And exactly how long can a concept sit on the shelf until you can’t continue to market it as “progressive”? Presumably, labeling one’s position “progressive” endows it with the virtue of being forward-looking, relevant, while conversely rendering any opposing position “reactionary,” backward – all in all, a superficially more sophisticated alternative to “good” and “evil.”

ok, I don't know how political this entry is  but here are my thoughts on let's just call "Progressive Religion".

A Christian author once explained how people will often try to fit Jesus into their culture to make him aplicable to that culture, that time.  Jesus in the 60's, the 90's Jesus, Jesus of the Bible times...but the problem with changing Jesus to fit one time period or one culture is that he no longer fits any other culture or relevant to any other time periode.  That the thing that makes Christ so versital and so applicable across cultures and throughtout history from generation to generation is that He is counter cultural everywhere he is.  He is apart and distinctive in every culture.  He is in a sense extremely edgie, new age, radical, liberal and will apply to every past, present and future generation to come.

In my gospel class we discussed how Christ entered history to save us "through a new, deep structure or 'paradigm' that completely contradicts the way of the world....Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away.  In short, Jesus pulls off 'the great reversal'.  This pattern so contradicts the thinking and practice of the world that it creates an 'alternate kingdom', in which there is a complete reversal of the values of the world with regard to power, recognition, status, wealth.  The gospel reverses the place of the weak and the strong, the "outsider" and the "insider".  It is an advantage, spiritually speaking, to see one's weakness; it is a severe danger, spiritually speaking, to be successful and accomplished.  The gospel creates a people with a whole alternate way of being human.  Racial and class superiority, accrual of money and power at the expense of others, yearning for popularity and recognition-all these things are marks of living in the world, and are the opposite of the mindset of the kingdom."

This is not conservative, this is not old thinking, this is not outdated.  This is completely radical, totally beyond our comprehension and of a whole new world, a new kingdom, something so far beyond ahead of us that it doesn't make sense.

God is truly an earth-shattering, mind-blowing God.  He is not only the beginning, not only where everything starts, where everything comes from, not only the things of old, the things of the past, of ancient history, but at the same time, He is the end.  The Alpha and the Omega.  He is where we are going, he is always ahead of us, beyond us, he is the completion of all things, the ultimate finish and highest absolute, and  beyond our time.  

The gospel is so amazing in that it works the same way.  The gospel is not just the way people are justified, but also the way they are sanctified.  The gospel is not just the beginning of salvation, but it is how we progress in our sanctification, how we mature and grow.  "Luther, understood that the gospel is not only the way we are saved, but it is always the solution to every problem and the way to advance at every stage in the Christian life."  This is why the first of his 95 Theses were that "all of life is repentance." 

So when you look at society today and think about what is progressive.  You might look at fashion and see trends repeat themselves over and over again.  A friend of mine that studied fashion design looked at fashions from years and years ago and some of them look like they could walk right off that runway into society today and fit right in.  You might look at the generation earlier that wanted free-spirited praise and worship, creative upbeat music, guitar and drums which seemed like a progressive new style in church, but now when you look at young Christians today, many of them are returning to tradition, hymns and liturgy and formal styles.  They have an appreciation and longing to be connected with the past and are seeing the richness in hymns. Yes, these things do get set on the shelf for some time and then sooner or later skinny jeans, leggings, hymns or praise music comes right back off again.  So is that really progressive or trendy?  

In some ways maybe it is the absolute truths, the things that stand the test of time, that are never put up on the shelf because it's so complex that it's constantly expanding, transforming, working and always relevant in society, that are solid and continue to cause growth and development and movement in our lives, in our famlies, our marriages, our society...are the things that are the most progressive.  The truth or the message does not change but it continues to change us again and again throughout time across culture.  And that truth is Christ.  And He is the only way we progress or ever move forward.

oh, and hey cameo blogger...it's not the quanity, but the quality...I'm a fan and your blogging is worth the wait.

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