Friday, August 04, 2006

Jesus and Politics (Part 2):
Granola Republicans and Conservative Democrats

In the last calendar year I've read two books that have injected me with new hope in the political debate in the United States--at least where Christian participation in politics is concerned.

I had become thoroughly soured to the way the Republican party had co-opted Christian faith for sake of a political agenda. And millions of Christians are again, thanks to books such as these and increasing dialogue, learning to critique and properly differentiate between political party, nation, and Christian faith. When we assume God, country, and political party are all one in the same, we ought to take a close look at which one of those is really driving the Humvee. I'm not a pacifist, so you'll not see me quoting Yoder and Hauerwas and the like often, and I have great respect for our military and friends in conflicts past and present, but I don't have to agree that the current administration has made good decisions in foreign policy and use of military might. I voted against George W. Bush precisely because his foreign policy likely has past presidents rolling in their graves: pre-emptive strikes, which has never been U.S. foreign policy before now, forced democratization of countries, unilateral action in the world without building significant base of allies.

So when people like my friend I spoke about in the last post speaks of the prophets as necessarily predicting recent events in Israel/Lebanon and then speaks glowingly of our foreign policy, I believe this allows politics to co-opt our faith and misuses prophecies in Scripture. Prophets spoke truth to the powers: Israel, Egypt, Babylon (Iraq), Assyria, Persia (Iran), Tyre (Lebanon), Sidon (Syria) and so forth . . . and if they spoke today, do you think the prophets would be standing by the violence or pronouncing judgment upon the United States? We ought not assume that our position is one that is immune to the prophets speaking against us.

Let me list the two books I mentioned (and one more) that have given me hope that Christians can be pro-life and not have to be pro-war or pro-capital punishment, that Republicans can care about the environment and want to slow consumerism. We can embrace a whole ethic of life, we can search Scripture and our own faith, and we don't have to choose between blue and red options that have been crammed down our throats by political ambitions of both Republican and Democratic parties.

God's Politics by Jim Wallis is about taking back the Christian faith from political powers that have co-opted a constituency for its own political ends and brings back the biblical prophetic call to the powers that be to change and see morality as standing against poverty, war, capital punishment, unjust treatment, in addition to pro-life and pro-marriage, which have become the only moral issues some seem to engage with but much because that's what has been used to polarize the political debate.

Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher is a refreshing book that gives me hope that converatives can truly be conservative of the earth, family, and our cities and natural resources. The title suggests--by crunchy--that a Republican can be, in the mocking words of one of my former co-workers in Houston, "tree huggers." Well, I happen to be a tree hugger. I don't sit in them much but my friend Mark Moore and I once bought a tree from Moses Kirya, my good Ugandan friend, so he wouldn't cut it down. I planted thirty trees on my thirtieth birthday. That was a few years ago! Need to get ready for forty!

Jesus and Politics by Alan Storkey "examines the politics of Jesus, reading out from the life and work of Jesus instead of reading into the New Testament with a preconceived agenda. With this work, Storkey presents a thorough narrative reading of the Gospels, moving into issues of political philosophy, principle, and practice. Unlike other authors who focus on political themes, Storkey provides a significant, unique contribution by focusing on politics itself."--from book description


At 2:10 PM, Anonymous belinda said...

Could it be? Have I found a christian who doesn't support the war or everything GWB does?

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Clark Coleman said...

I agree with most of this post. I oppose most of what has been done in Iraq, and questioned the invasion of Iraq before it happened. There was no need to set a new precedent in our foreign policy by invoking the right to engage in preemptive war, and it was unwise to disrespect our Judeo-Christian heritage by ignoring the Just War standards developed over centuries.

However, in the interests of truth, we need to be careful in our choice of words. The bone of contention here is the word unilateral. Unilateral means, literally, one-sided. To take unilateral action is to act alone.

Afghanistan was invaded with a coalition of more than 30 countries. Iraq was invaded with a coalition of "only" 20 countries. There were high-profile absences from the Iraq coalition, such as France and Germany, who were supportive in Afghanistan. That is cause for concern. However, is it accurate to call the acts of a 20-nation coalition unilateral action by the USA?

If we are to restore civil discussion in this country, words will have to have some meaning once again, not merely have propaganda value for the connotations they carry. "Unilateral" carries some negative connotations in this context, which makes it valuable for opponents of the war. Let's set a higher standard for our words as Christians.


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