Monday, November 19, 2012

At the Intersection of Faith and Politics - 11-19-2012

Intersection of Faith and Politics is a new edition to this blog and one I hope to write on weekly. 

I  read this quote on Facebook  this morning -"Absolute liberty is absence of restraint; responsibility is restraint; therefore, the ideally free individual is responsible to himself." - Henry B. Adams

This quote speaks to why I am rethinking Conservativism today. You can't live in this nation without being influenced to some degree by the two dominant ideologies of the day - Modern Liberalism and 21st Century Conservativism, unless you can find a cave somewhere to dwell. To some extent, our lives are shaped by politics and religion because they are meta-ideas - ideas about ideas important for societal life.Let me state right up front I have long thought of myself as a conservative when it comes to politics and liberal only with respect to grace and I'm working on love. Maybe the former because as Ronald Reagan once said, "if you're not a Liberal before your 25 you have no heart, if you're not conservative after you're 25 you have no brains" and the later because Jesus does tell us to love God with all our minds.

But what does this have to do with living sent today and being a Christ follower in the 21st Century? Well much actually since Christians today are represented on both sides of this ideological divide. Many Christians voted in the recent election and voted differently, placing importance on different issues, or maybe as a protest vote like mine has been in recent Presidential elections. Tens of millions of Christians participate in the political discourse of our nation. I think that's a good thing, unless perhaps you are an Anabaptist, because we are called to live in the world not of it (John 15:19). Yes, we must fight our battles differently than the world (2 Corinthians 10:3), but I find no command to dismiss ourselves from the political process in Scripture. Rather there are numerous Biblical examples of political leaders from Genesis forward. But if we are going to participate in this unalienable right we best do so from a solidly Biblical foundation, as Christians. 

Now with respect to the quote -- the central idea being expressed by Henry B. Adams is that my life is  all about my freedom to live responsible to me. Adams, from the Adams family - no that not that Adams family but the family of one of our Founding Fathers- was an historian and author and I am unaware of his personal faith position. I share this quote because it was posted by someone I know to be a Christian Conservative leader and an elected official. Adams expresses a couple of idea that are firmly established in 21st Century Conservativism today. One narrative that emerges from this past election cycle is that it's all about my personal liberty to live anyway I chose (which is actually a Liberal idea) and I am responsible to no one but me (another Liberal idea). But is there any Biblical basis for this thinking, as it has come to represent, at least in some large degree, American Christian Conservativism today? The indictment I hear, right or wrong, and read often from those on the political Left is that Christan Conservatives are only interested in what's in it for them and this quote speaks to that underlying philosophy The end result of this kind of thinking is that government is thought of as evil in any attempt to regulate their social contract but do we really want to say that's the case (Romans 13:1-7)? I think too many Christians Conservatives are operating outside of clear Biblical principles when they express the kind of thinking that Adams does in the above quote

That it why I am rethinking where I stand politically since the election which has been a time for many to do some serious soul searching. That's a good thing or you just flow with the status quo. First, let me say that I think we have a social responsibility as "salt and light" to be part of the political process, if that simply means voting. But when we do so we need to avoid cognitive dissonance - holding two or more conflicting beliefs. And, while I find little common ground with Modern Liberalism, as it seems the State is their god, I have been uncomfortable with what Conservativism has become, hijacked as it has been by Libertarianism, at least to some extent. So that's why I am starting this Intersection of Faith and Politics blog section of Living Sent Today.

My honest appraisal has led me to a number of issues with Conservativism today. First, I cannot find a basis for the fierce independence that is expressed by the movement in the Word of God and I think it is antithetical to the Bible's emphasis on community. Second, I do not find much socially redemptive working in the platform with an exception to a staunch opposition of abortion and same-sex marriage which isn't working. Both need to be rethought as our arguments to do not resonate in today's culture. But isn't it at least somewhat inconsistent to enthusiastically support government intervention through social policy and adamantly resist it in fiscal policy? And I certainly cannot agree with the ideal that we must keep taxes low because I don't want to give "my hard earned money" to the government or to think a few point tax increase for the richest 1% equates to the "evils of socialism." Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying government isn't part of the problem but maybe we need to rethink the reasons that it is. 

Our politics do shape our worldview as one component of how we see our world, they can also tinge our Christian witness in the world. That doesn't mean we withdrawn into a cloistered community but rather as Christians our politics need to be informed by a solidly Biblical worldview. We cannot hold two opposing worldviews or try to fit two dichotomous ideas inside another to justify our personal ideals, and remain Biblical.  Francis Schaeffer thought that the only livable worldview is Biblical Christianity and that all other worldviews are not livable in a consistent fashion. We need to weigh our ideas about what a Conservative Christian is in light of this. Schaeffer said that for a worldview to be livable it needs to be cogent (reasonable and convincing; based on evidence.), coherent (true to what it is) and consistent (no contradiction logically). So our political life needs to fit into a whole life concept shaped by a Biblical worldview and faith in Christ.  

In my search to make sense of my own political thinking, one that lines up with Scripture - cogently, coherently, and consistently - I came across this information concerning Progressive Conservativism: 

 "The outlines of a modern progressive conservative reform agenda includes tax reform that benefits working families and ends the special treatment of income from dividends and capital gains, preferences for domestic manufacturing, securing the social contract, classic Theodore Roosevelt-style trust-busting, enhanced regulatory oversight of the financial sector, a return to the old Glass-Steagall Act restrictions separating commercial banking and securities trading, measures to control the spiraling costs of post-secondary education, strategic investments in public infrastructure, action on climate change (my edit: I prefer to couch this in the language of sensible Creation Care as a responsibility to the Lord), campaign finance reform, and the tireless defense of both civil and religious liberty.

Taken as a whole, progressive conservatism offers a positive vision of a limited, but vigorous, federal government promoting the interests of America’s working families and communities."

I want to start unpacking this quote and blog weekly on the intersection of faith and politics for living sent today.  Your comments are welcome if civil and I welcome a discussion. Blessings.


  1. I think politics are great (if you're into that sort of thing - I do it out of regard for the neighbor, mostly)...
    and I believe religion (faith in Christ) is great - greater than politics.

    I do believe, though, that there ought not be political gospels. The gospel for the forgiveness of sins ought never be tied to any political ideas or platform. To do so would water it down and restrict it to certain groups who are doing things 'right'.

    The gospel is far too important for that and it is for all people, no matter their political leanings.

    My 2 cents. Thanks.

  2. Hi Steve, thank you for your comment. I wholeheartedly agree that the main thing is the Gospel and we must keep the main thing the main thing. But that main thing - the whole Gospel - is I think more than what you allow for in your comment. Please see my post on the "Whole Gospel" here ( and you will get a better idea of where I am coming from.

    God bless and shalom!

  3. Thanks, Brian.

    I will check it out.