Saturday, November 08, 2008

Politicized Christianity

As someone who grew up in conservative Evangelicalism and in a politically conservative home, I took it for granted that a basically conservative Republican perspective on voting was synonymous with a Christian one. As I got older, especially into my twenties, I began to question this due to a number of factors. After many years of wrestling with these issues I have come back around to a reclaimed conservatism with some leaning towards what might be called Christian anarchy. I do not think any earthly political party has a monopoly on Christ or is synonymous with Christ's kingdom or agenda in the world, though I do think it possible that one or another political party may be more closely aligned with a Christian perspective on things or more correct on issues of fundamental import.

In recent years, there has been a movement of many evangelicals, especially younger ones, towards the political left. I suspect that there are a number of reasons for this move, some of them better than others. One of the reasons, which seems to me to be a good one, is that many Christians have grown tired of the over-politicized Christianity of what is called "The Religious Right," and the narrowness, ugliness, and shrillness sometimes associated with it. Many of us have grown tired of seeing God's name too closely associated with a particular political party or agenda, and the often angry, defensive spirit that seems to accompany that association. We have been concerned about the way in which this politicized Christianity has been a turn off for many that has prevented them from seeing Jesus and which has made it more difficult for many Christians to love their neighbors, whoever they may be.

This brings me to the point of this article, however, which is the fact that a swing to the political left is not really a move away from a politicized Christianity. It is simply exchanging one set of issues or agendas for another, and then aligning our Christianity with them. The shape of the container remains the same, only the contents have changed. I fail to see how this is an improvement.

With the election of President Obama, there is much talk in the air of "change." While, on one level, I can understand the hope and excitement this has generated, I am, for the most part, extremely skeptical about this talk and wonder what it really means at a substantial level. I am particularly concerned about the life issues and the extremely liberal position Obama takes on abortion, which I view as fundamental to many other issues. If the weakest, most helpless and innocent among us are are not protected, and perhaps the most fundamental human relationship of dependence among us is viewed as essentially expendable, then on what basis can we argue for human obligations towards anyone else? This is just one example of how a swing to the political left among Christians does not seem to me to be an improvement over a too close association with the political right.

My point here, is that despite all the talk of "change," a swing to the political left, does not really strike me as a substantial change in any way. It still leaves us just as vulnerable to the dangers of a politicized Christianity, perhaps even more so, because there is the dangerous illusion that, having moved away from the politicized Christianity of the past we have somehow escaped it, when in fact all we have done is trade one task-master for another. Furthermore, as the abortion issue illustrates, it still leaves us just as vulnerable, again, maybe more so, to the dehumanizing forces at work in late modern Western culture. It can also become just as much of a constricting legalism and a possible hindrance to loving our neighbors as the Religious Right did.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Milosz flips the script

“Religion, opium for the people. To those suffering pain, humiliation, illness, and serfdom, it promised a reward in an afterlife. And now we are witnessing a transformation. A true opium for the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.”

Czesław Miłosz
Winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for literature

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Dark Knight reviewed by First Things

Here is a link to the First Things webpage where there is an excellent discussion, by Thomas Hibbs, of the movie The Dark Knight.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Neuhaus says it better

Though it has been awhile since I made my last post here, I was inspired to post while reading from the latest issue of First Things. The following quote from Richard John Neuhaus says succinctly in a single sentence what I was trying to say in my last post here. It was too good not to share.

One of the great achievements of Western civilization over the centuries is the establishment of the moral and legal principle that the child is not an object for the use of others but a subject with rights to be respected.

This is why conservative Christians, and many others as well, are against such things as stem cell research and human cloning. A human being is not a means to some utilitarian end, no matter how great a good we might deem said end to be. Any medical advances or knowledge attained by creating human lives solely for the purpose of using them for research is purchased at too high a price. The price is that of undermining the value of every human life by accepting the notion that, in principal, some human beings are expendable for the sake of increasing the well being of others. This is not only morally dangerous, it is inherently contradictory, as it ultimately undermines the very thing it supposedly sets out to increase, which is human well being.

P.S. For those who might be interested, I have started two other blogs, which I also hope to post on regularly in the coming weeks and months. One is a music blog, where I review and discuss music that I like, the other is a book blog, where I review books, and talk about what I am reading at any given time and any thoughts or ideas it inspires in me. You can get to these other blogs through my profile link.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A short response

This post isn't anything big, but it's something to get things rolling again. It's short response I wrote to something I read on that was so wrongheaded that I felt I had to respond to it. Below is the original statement, in quotes, followed by my short response.

"Many conservative Christians also oppose stem cell research fearing this murders potential babies. With this logic, every time you scratch your nose, you have potentially killed human beings since all cells have potential for human life."

The above statement reveals that you either know nothing about stem cell research or else you are being intellectually dishonest. Stem cell research does not involve "potential" babies, it involves creating human embryos, which are actual babies, for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells for research purposes. Human embryos are human beings. If their development is uninterupted or unimpeded they mature into adult human beings someday. Therefore, conservatives object to stem-cell research because 1.) It creates a human life, which, if allowed to develop to full maturity will indeed become a fully functioning adult human being, and then kills that human life, and 2.) because it treats that human life as a means to an end rather than as an end in and of itself.