Thursday, October 14, 2004

Politics and Faith

Earlier I posted a segment from last night's debate about politics and faith. Faith still matters in American politics. We are not, as some say many European countries are, post-Christian or secular in our politics.

One of my convictions I keep returning to in this election is that the church begin to be aware and actively refute the attempt by special interests/political parties to co-opt the church for the good of that particular organization. In this the church loses and the special interests win.

Let me give you two recent examples of how "the church" (universal) has allowed itself to be used by special interests:
  • The Passion. ICON and the partner distributers and publicists have used churches to market their movie, and few churches have balked at this. Christians have swallowed the movie whole and bristle at any suggestion that in part--or many parts--the movie is not "as it was." The propensity these days of churches buying into large marketing efforts should be a concern for us, as one recent "un-review" of The Passion points out, because the church gives itself to effort, at times, in place of the Lord himself and relating directly to people with lives that reflect Jesus.
  • The erstwhile Moral Majority. Though the name has fallen into disuse, the political idea is the same: "We can win if we get churches on our side." Over the last three decades, many Christians have been convinced that a particular political party is more moral than another. I don't agree. This depends on how one frames morality. What set of morality are we talking about? Republicans know their morally conservative base and frame morality as standing strong on issues such as stem-cell research and abortion. Many Christian Republicans do this with conviction that I respect very much. Others follow blindly the Republican line, and I'm more concerned about this, because I believe the church, again, can more easily get co-opted by party interests and power when we don't carefully consider how we support political parties. Democrats, meanwhile, frame morality as just war, appropriately restricting assault weapons, giving liberty to women and gay people, and seeking justice for the poor and disenfranchised minorities such as black and hispanic Americans and immigrants.

I am seeing a new reality in America: politics and religion are not off the table . . . at least right now during an election and in the post-denominational age when we are trying to reframe how we operate as Christian churches and how we approach non-Christians or searchers (I believe more people are on a faith journey than we give credit for). I think discussing faith and politics, particularly as they relate to one another, is very healthy.


At 9:28 PM, Blogger john alan turner said...

You're bringing up some very valid and thought-provoking points here. I wonder, though, what we are to make of the fact that left-leaning politicians are speaking more often and more loudly in churches (John Kerry in St. Louis last week -- Bill Clinton in New York at the end of August). Meanwhile, the idea that right-leaning politicians may speak in a church is viewed as bad form and a breach of ethics.

At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and I strongly disagree with churches sponsoring voting guides, etc. and in fact it's illegal to sponsor a candidate and keep non-profit status (well, I'm not an expert on this and really shouldn't say that since I'm sure there's pretty extensive code on that . . .) Basically, though, I understand that a church can get in trouble with IRS by endorsing candidates, etc. There is a piece in today's Tennessean about that, and I'll look for the name of the columnist.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger don said...

Greg, I am a republican. I read your thoughts through a republican lense, and I appreciate your mentioning that many Christians show allegiance to the republican party out of "conviction". I am one of those, due to two or three issues about which I hold strong opinions growing out of my Christian faith.

You also say that "Democrats, meanwhile, frame morality as just war, appropriately restricting assault weapons, giving liberty to women and gay people, and seeking justice for the poor and disenfranchised minorities such as black and hispanic Americans and immigrants."
While they have been able to do that, I think it automatically frames the republicans as being against those things, and I don't know one republican who is against any of those things. (Well, maybe one, but there is a crank in every family) Further, I don't know of any planks in the republican platform that negate any of those things, unless you want to say that restrictions against gay marriage equates to restricting liberty for gays.

But, those arguments are not on point as far as your main thought is on the blog, and I whole-heartedly agree that it is far too easy for a party to co-opt any movement, especially the church, where so many of us are cattle and just follow the leader. We need to be very careful about putting our faith in any political party or any human endeavor.

I think a bigger question than even the two or three issues I mentioned earlier is "which group is leading the country toward a relativist philosophy?" Euthanasia, gay marriage, abortion, are all only defensible if we state that there are no absolutes.
THIS question may very well be the defining movement in our culture today, and as such, MAY very well determine the eternal destination of souls who are influenced by the outcome. I know that party affiliation doesn't necessarily put you in one camp or the other on this point, but it seems to me it does play into the total mix. What you vote for tends to happen.



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