Saturday, August 23, 2008

Politics, Religion and Modern Life

A commenter to this blog found my political commentary oddly out of place for a blog calling itself "Pondering on a Faith Journey." My quick response was: politics is part of life, so I've chosen to comment on it. Now, I don't believe for one minute that politicians will solve all our problems. On the other hand, I do believe in the importance of good government, government that is compassionate and concerned about the people who make up the "Polis."

The commenter also suggested that Jesus steered clear of politics, but many contemporary biblical scholars, from Walter Wink to Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg to Tom Wright would disagree. There was a reason the man from Galilee went to the cross, and it wasn't simply because the hands of Pilate and Caiaphas were driven by God so that the sins of humanity might be washed away in a sea of divine-human blood. The Kingdom of God is very different from that of Caesar, but it still has political ramifications.

But, all that being said, Liberation Theologians long ago reminded us of the centrality of politics to human life. Even evading politics is in itself a political act. John Miguez Bonino wrote this about the "omnipresence of politics."

If for the moment we take "politics" in the most elemental meaning of the term, as the sum total of all the relations that go to make up life in a particular society, we can easily see that all the marked tendencies in modern life -- urbanization, science-technology, bureaucratization, communications -- tend to "politicize" our life, that is, to make every act a social or public act in which no only primary -- face to face -- relations but also complex secondary relations are involved. (Jose Miguez Bonino, Toward a Christian Political Ethics, Fortress Press, 1983, p. 11).

If Bonino is correct politics involves all of life -- including our faith professions. It is true, as Michael Westmoreland-White pointed out in earlier comments -- we must be aware of the trap of becoming obsessed with certain politically partisan issues. My own involvement with Barack Obama is pretty limited to the blog. I've tried to give my voice in support of his candidacy because I believe he offers us hope for a new way of being America. But, once again, neither he nor any politician will prove to be any one's savior!


Anonymous said...

First, thanks again for engaging the conversation. I believe a discussion like this is best had on an open deck, with a cold beer, and nice night to enjoy God's creation. A blog is too one sided and limited for my taste.. but here goes.

My definition of politics was really more limited to the US presidential race. Clicking other blogs off a blog I liked to read, I would say 60-80% all had US political posts on them, so I started to grow frustrated at this fascination on the presidential race. I couldn't help but think of the Jews demanding God for a king to lead them.

My strong belief is that James Dobson is a great example of why Christians shouldn't be overly involved in US politics. He has boiled the Christian position down to no gays and no abortion. Personally, I am more conservative and may agree with him on issues, HOWEVER I believe the life God has called us to is far to great for one party. On the flip side, much of the language like hope, changed life, new direction, etc.. are very strong ideas that require a very strong being to deliver. Personally, I don't believe sinful man can deliver on these ideas. What will happen is an issue you hold dear will be "don't ask, don't tell"'ed if that makes sense. There will be one party disappointed.. whether its the gay community, the black community, women, environmentalist, or even Christians... someone's agenda won't be advanced, b/c they simply conflict and can't be.

I do 100% agree that Jesus is VERY political in a very universal sense. He is calling us to the most radical position vs the world. In fact, it really should be laughable that a political party could encapsulate his message. Give to the poor on the other, put others first, strong language on marriage, divorce, anti-materialism...this language is completely opposite of the "American dream". So what do we do with this...

Well, I can't help but think in the most totalitarian governments, the Gospel spreads like wildfire while its marginalized in the US. We pray to God know He is in control of the government whether we love or hate the person in charge. We should still vote, but maybe we type less on who should win vs how we should live in light of who wins.

Thanks for letting me go on and on... :)

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

I appreciate the conversation. There needs to be a balance -- and sometime back Michael "chastised" me a bit about being overly focused on Obama and politics. I then backed off a bit, but as you can see the last week has offered us an opportunity to have the discussion.

Hopefully the difference between me and someone like James Dobson is that I understand (hopefully) that there is no one faith perspective in America. We are a pluralist nation. Faith plays an important role, obviously, but ultimately political decisions are made for many different reasons.

One of the reasons why I engage this topic is that I enjoy politics. But, while I may be strongly committed to my candidate and even my party, at the end of the day that cannot determine the nature of my relationships.

As a pastor, I'm pastor of the liberals and the conservatives, the Republicans, the Democrats,the Independents,and the 3rd Party folks. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Kudos for being AMAZINGLY fast in response.

I appreciate where you come from and I feel I am getting a better idea. American politics is just like football in my mind. We yell and scream for our team to win.. and when they don't well, we complain about the winner or what our team did wrong.

Yes, politics in a democracy is of course waged by the majority. The pick of Senator Biden is essentially like picking a liberal McCain. Long time senator, complete inside man, full of himself (he is a senator!!).. so sigh and say its business as usual. On the flip side.. I will wager that McCain picks a minority.. whether is a woman, minority race, or gasp... Lieberman.

The fun is in the guessing, like saying who should be quarterback. Personally, I hope its gridlocked like always so nothing gets done. Heaven helps us if they do...