Sunday, December 30, 2007

Right or Left .2

Not too long ago I posted about a news special that NBC did on the emerging church. You can find that blog and video here. I thought it was a great video that did a good job of showing some of the ramifications of the emerging church. I want to discuss some of the political changes that are happening in the church. For many years the church (all believers) has been considered a group of Republicans and part of the "Moral Majority". I do believe we can greatly thank Falwell for that (I still can't believe what he said about teletubbies). I would say the average American believes all Christians are Republican and are pro Bush and that they hate gays and immigration. Politically...the emerging church is an absolute rebellion from all of this.

The word Christian and church have all of these connotations and hardly anyone in the "emerging church" follows this thinking. When I decided to get into Christian church ministry, my goal was to change the perception of what church is. In the process of fighting for America to become a more moral nation, we have lost touch with the world we are trying to reach.
Obviously this is a HOT button issue. I'm sure just about everyone that reads this will at some point think that I am wrong.

Shane Claiborne said that he believes that most people believe the "moral majority" is neither moral nor the majority. In his book Irresistible Revolution he said, "Dualism has infected the church, a dualism in which folks separate the spiritual from the political or social, as if the political and social issues were of no spiritual significance, as if God had no better vision to offer this world."
I think he describes the emerging church quite well, by describing what is it rebelling from: dualism. It doesn't value war over abortion or republican over democrat or independent. Democrats aren't considered liberal and Republicans aren't necessarily conservative in the eyes of postmoderns. This video sums up a lot of this quite well.

Election 2008:
At least in this election I sincerely doubt a Republican can win, because now more than ever, we see a mass number of people rebelling from the previous leadership. Whether you like Bush or not, you have to admit that it has been a while since a President has more hated within the US and also worldwide. For this election, he has made it extremely difficult for every Republican nominee.

The Future:
So this changes things politically. The republican nominee running next year cannot expect the same number of Christian voters to give them their vote. I am a part of a generation of people who will endorse a person, but not a party. Moving forward, the ties to party lines will become more blurred and voting will never be the same.


deut-x said...

Good words Ty. The future holds some change for the church, some good, some bad ... either way the church needs to change, but towards God in a way that speaks "through" the culture instead of being pulled by culture (suttle difference)

GodSide said...

I still think the "right" has things most right.

Can you share with me what about what the Republican party stands for that you disagree with as a Christian man? Don't make the mistake of many and claim that the errors of someone within an organization color all others the same way. you know anyone who would say they "hate" Bush? I honestly don't. I wonder if Christians know that isn't very "Christian" to hate someone or to blindly follow what liberal media would tell you about our commander and chief. I actually think a lot of the hate that exists out there for this president is because he is one of the most outspoken Christian presidents in recent years. Does that bother you that he quotes the Bible or prays? That he says that he consults God Almighty when he makes decisions?

Does it bother you that Republicans are Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Pro-People working to make a living, Pro-Faith Based Initiatives, actually being born here or being willing to do what is required to become one? What are the Democrats PRO that excites you?

If you think the middle of the road is the place to be politically...just ask the squirrels how effective that is. Meanwhile I will stick with my brothers on the "right" side. While we are far from perfect...we are much closer to the way JESUS would vote than anyone on the left or somewhere in between.

HA! I can hear the comments coming....

deut-x said...

Hi godside, I enjoyed your comments.

Though I can't speak for Ty, I know I wouldn't take a side politically 100% of the time. I am a registered republican, and do vote that way mostly (especially with individual leaders) but I don't think they are always right in everything nor represent me in all my thoughts (seriously, who would ... especially if you know my mind!). However I also know that I am quite ignorant in all the issues and leaders.

I think more of how Christians would assume I was a bad Christian out if they knew that I chose not to vote a republican way on an issue or a candidate. As if being a Republican (and consequently voting) automatically meant you were a follower of Jesus (and vice versa).

Tyler said...

Lots of questions here...I never said that anything I wrote was my view. Rather it was how I think the landscape of society and postmodern Christians and politics is changing. To answer some of those I'll take the stance of someone who disagrees with the Republican platform. They would say (just like McLaren did in the video) that there are a lot more issues that matter than just the ones that are on the platform for Republicans. As far as pro-life, a lot of people would say that killing innocent people in Iraq but using bombs is no different than abortion. They are bothered by Bush that he says he consults God in his decisions and yet has done little to help people in Darfur and other poverty and war torn countries but puts billions of dollars into what they consider an unjust war.

Like I said, this isn't my stance, just trying to help us understand the new political landscape and how it has changed and will continue to change. Like Randy said, some of these changes are good, some bad.

GodSide said...

I hear you...

I just think we are swinging too far in the other direction. Personally I think this "new move" of Christians away from the Republican party and other established authority is the trendy thing to do these days. Its kind of like everyone selling their windows PCs for a spiffy new apple. Is it really I decision that is based upon what is BEST or what really honors our Savior? Or is it to fit in with mainstream culture and to be accepted into the liberal media. This is dangerous...and frankly scares me.

GodSide said...

BTW - You didn't answer any of my questions posed in my previous post.

What is SOOOO bad about what the Republicans stand for?

Tyler said...

i did partially answer that. I don't think the republican party stands for anything wrong, but clearly most people in the US think the war in Iraq is no longer warranted. This is the biggest problem most people have with republicans right now: Billions of dollars spent on the war. I think people see other environmental and other social issues that democrats and independents deal with better than republicans. whether it is trendy or not some of the issues mclaren said in the video are key factors in who someone votes for. that is why i say it is more than party lines for who someone will vote for.

GodSide said...


Has there been an terrorist attack on America since we went to war? Call me naive...but I am with BUSH that I would rather fight them over there than here. WHICH IS WHAT WE ARE DOING. Is war expensive? Of course...and only a president and the generals fighting this war have enough information to make the weighty decision to pay that price. Not McCaren, not the media...not you.

A friend of mine is a former Muslim...Dearborn is just miles from where I sit and write this...the largest concentration of Arabs outside of the middle east...she says that it IS as serious as Bush makes it out to be. They want America and every thing that we stand for DEAD...something of the past. What will environmental & social issues matter if our country is blown off the map? This war has grown unpopular because of how the media has portrayed it. If they showed the daily death count in the mid-forties like they do for this war I wonder what the outcome would have been for WW2.

We live in sad times when people sitting at Starbucks sipping their warm lattes think they know how to run a nation in a world like ours.

GodSide said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scott mackey... said...

Godside and Ty, I hope you guys don’t mind if I jump in here.

To start with, I want to try and answer the question Godside asked, “what, as a Christian man, do I disagree with in the Republican party?” But I will more than answer that question because to address this entire thing one must also ask, why are many of today’s young Christians seeking a new way of expressing themselves politically and spiritually. So, rather than just addressing republicanism, I will write about the synthesis of Faith and Politics that so many find odious and inaccurate. (Also, I am writing this in brief for my reply will be long and could be much longer if I more fully elaborated upon each point).

To address this, I first must outline who I believe Jesus was. The Jesus I see in scriptures preached a radical message of Love for “the Other,” told us that serving the poor was the same thing as serving Him, praised the peaceful, directly criticized the religious (as opposed to those who sought God in lieu of following religion), called us to follow the morality of God as opposed to the morality of our culture, and in general lived a life that rose above the traditions of his culture. Neither political party embodies these ideals.

How, as one who worships a God of love, peace, and generosity, do I disagree with the Republican party? For starters, I find it impossible to support the republican parties disdain for social programs aimed at assisting the poor. Terms like “the deserving (or undeserving) poor” seem to be obsolete when faced with the Love of Jesus. Along these lines, Republicans openly side with the wealthy on issues of taxation and they are generally unconcerned with domestic issues of inequality (education, wealth distribution, etc), areas that Jesus clearly addressed, calling on the wealthy to support the poor and openly saying that all are equal in Christ. The conservative belief is that the government shouldn’t take our money to support the poor, but that we should do it on our own privately. I agree with that in concept but the fact of the matter is that private institutions (such as the church) have failed to the support the poor, making it necessary for the government to do so. Though I strongly disagree, I can understand from an ideological perspective (trickle down economics, the free market will solve all problems, etc) where these views come from and even how a Christian would hold these views, and I have no problem with this though I find such beliefs biblically inconsistent.

I’ll choose just one more example though I could go on (and I’m intentionally avoiding Iraq because that is a much longer conversation). Republicans (and many democrats) tend to buy into “American Exceptionalism,” the belief that America and all she does is right, correct, and best. The correlative belief is that anything undertaken that we deem to be in our best interest is also in the best interest of the world, this view has been used to justify everything from innumerable wars (panama, Vietnam, iraq) to torture in our most recent war (think Guantanamo bay) to economic policies that take advantage of already poor nations while we gain more wealth. Like Republican views of the poor and taxation, I can understand from a nationalistic, American-centric view of the world why our nation believes and acts this way. In fact, until 3 or 4 years ago the preceding paragraphs would have described my views.

What I can’t understand and what many are reacting against is the claim made by “the Christian right” that God supports such views. I can understand the claim being made that God opposes abortion (I think this is murder too). I can understand claims made in God’s name concerning pornography, family values, or the value of faith based initiatives, and I am all for these things. But such values that I agree with also coexist along side the aforementioned values that seem wholly antithetical to the life and message of Jesus.

And yet, for the past 15-30 years religious and political conservatives have been making the claim that all the beliefs of the Republican Party coincide with the Values of Jesus. In this, legitimate struggles on behalf of valuable moral issues became fused and eventually confused with political issues that have little to do with faith (for example, support of the free market or low taxes has become a religious issue when it is truly an ideological issue). I believe the phenomenon Ty was blogging about is the attempt of many to separate Jesus from a political party, to find clarity in the confusion between politics and God, and also a reaction against those who claim to have a monopoly on Jesus’ truth (as the “right” has more or less claimed for some time). It is much more than simply a reaction against Iraq or a “liberal trend.”

My desire is that this is not just a pendulum swing. The second Christians on the left begin saying that “we are much closer to the way JESUS would vote than anyone on the right or somewhere in between” they have participated in a pendulum swing and are making the exact same mistake that the Christian Right has made.

The truth of the matter is that Jesus transcends our politics. We surely can’t venture to say which political party he would support because both parties fall terribly short of projecting an image and supporting values that are similar to Jesus’. I feel confident we can look at certain issues and judging by scripture more or less know how Jesus would act. I’m quite certain Jesus would not have supported abortion (but he would have loved those who did, never demonizing them but always accepting them). He would have supported any number of programs aimed at supporting the poor both domestically and internationally (because supporting the poor or opposing death through war are also pro-life issues). He, I think, would have cringed to know that God’s name (whether invoked in the U.S. or in the name of Jihad) was used to help justify a decision to go to war, especially when approximately 90% of the casualties in modern war are civilians.

And that’s the thing, Jesus’ values transcend our politics. Its fine to support a given party or candidate, we just shouldn’t try to make the claim that our party or candidate is Jesus’ party or candidate. It is that claim among other things that has produced such a widespread reaction against the religious right.

In writing, I don’t mean to claim that my views are, necessarily, THE Christian views. This is what I think and believe and I’m sure I’m wrong in places and I will probably disagree with parts of what I wrote several years from now if not tomorrow. I hope we can have more dialogue.

Changing the subject, Godside, there is an interesting book out that I think might give you a new perspective on how under 30’s view the Christianity peddled by the “right.” It’s called UnChristian and was done by the Barna group, and it lends numbers (and good analysis) to the ideas men like Brian McClaren while also providing a partial explanation for why the church is viewed so negatively by youth. Also, this is really long, sorry.

Tyler said...

thanks for sharing scott. long or not you had a lot of good things to say.

GodSide said...

Scott welcome to the discussion,

I agree with you that Jesus transcends politics...and think that He really never spoke to the issue explicitly. I think its necessary then to look at the entire Bible to frame our understanding of what matters to God when it comes to politics.

I think you paint the picture of Jesus being a "one issue" voter. You make the strong claim that serving the poor was MOST important to Him;

"The Jesus I see in scriptures preached a radical message of Love for “the Other,” told us that serving the poor was the same thing as serving Him, praised the peaceful, directly criticized the religious (as opposed to those who sought God in lieu of following religion), called us to follow the morality of God as opposed to the morality of our culture, and in general lived a life that rose above the traditions of his culture."

I totally agree with you that Jesus taught us to think of "the other..." but we disagree greatly on what really helps "the other" and that physical impoverishment is worse than spiritual impoverishment.

I lived in Michigan for 24 years before moving to Oregon three years ago. The Detroit area is a union town, where hardworking blue collar Republicans that drive American automobiles and go to church each Sunday are the majority. While there are many things I have noticed different living in liberal Portland, the one the stands out the most is how people serve the poor. Nearly every major street corner in Portland has a "homeless" person holding a sign...asking for money. The signs are all very similar; need a break, God Bless, anything will help, disabled vet, hungry family at home etc. In Detroit you never see this...never. Its not to say we don't have our fair share of homeless people...a depressed city of close to 1 million people...while I don't have the numbers I think its a safe bet to say we have more. So where are they? Why isn't anyone out asking for money? Well because it's against the law to panhandle. You see there are many in our nation (including myself) that believe that you cannot throw money and resources at a problem like poverty and think it will go away. (young and old) As a Christian in fact, I think its a sinful thing to do so. Do you really think Jesus would give money to a person holding a sign like that? Have you looked at the studies out there regarding the Welfare system? Remember the Katrina "victims" that walked into the damage zone to grab their $1000 debit card? The democratic party is definitely "talking the talk" right now AND many young Christians are listening. They say care deeply about the environment and the poor...but to me talk is very cheap in politics. It is far better to look at voting records and a candidates past to see what they really value and support.(with Obama this is tough to do because he doesnt have much experience) I do think the Republican party cares for the poor...they just believe fundamentally like I do that it will happen more effectively if the government keeps their mitts off it. Our government doesn't manage money well...that is just a fact. What kind of deficit do we have these days?

Jesus instructs us in Matthew 7:6;
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." In other words; we are responsible with how we spend our money and resources. If I think my hard earned money given to a homeless guy holding a sign is going to equal a pint of whiskey and keep him in a perpetual state of poverty...that isn't radical love that is just radical stupidity. Now this is on the micro level, but I think it applies to the macro as well. Government programs that just throw money at the poor in the end don't help them at all is foolish...this has been proven through many failed liberal government programs. I wonder how many of the democrats could point to a specific person they have helped out.

Good discussion...don't think we are going to change each others views on seem like you did your research, and I hope you feel I have done mine. It is going to be an interesting year to be sure. I don't think I will be replying to future replies...however I will read your response.

"Live simply so that others might simply live.

GodSide said...

and for those still undecided out there that might checkout this discussion...I found this site to be very helpful in deciding where candidates are at with the issues.

scott mackey... said...

Godside, you’re right, this is an interesting conversation.

There are a couple points from your last post I would like to respond to.

To start with, you expounded at length concerning your views concerning poverty and the treatment of those who are poor. While I disagree with most of what you say, that is understandable and beside the point. What is relevant is that you correctly noted that your views concerning poverty or other political issues are ideologically and/or politically driven; especially your views on poverty which fall exactly into line with common, conservative viewpoints. I would venture to say that your views are shared by a large percentage of conservative Americans, both Christian and non.

I mentioned in my last note that the real issue was not liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, but the way God’s name was invoked in politics. The views you espouse are ideological views formed at the foot of capitalism, the free market, and the independence bred of those who are well off financially, whether you recognize this or not is beside the point. The point is that these views are not in any way “Christian” or, necessarily, “non-christian.” My problem is that conservative political or economic views such as you spoke of have been dressed up in religious language by the “religious right.”

It is natural for the church or for Christians to speak of religious matters in religious language, but what has happened is that the line has become so blurred between the church and the policies of the republican party that said line ceased to exist. Whether you intend for this happen to even believe it has happend I don’t know, but when republican and Christian values are spoken of with language that is equally coated in “Jesus speak” they become co-equal in the eyes and ears of all who observe this. It is this phenomenon that I would argue is inappropriate and that many are turning away from now. In this, casual observers who exist outside of the church hear the religious right claiming with equal sincerity that God is against abortion, that God is for low taxes, that God supports pre-emptive war-fare, and that God is pro American. I don’t know if you agree with the preceding sentence or would claim it to be ludicrous, but that is the message heard clearly the world over.

I agree with you that Jesus is not a “one issue voter” but would argue that his spiritual message is one of grace, love, and forgiveness, ideas that are at odds with the individualistic, merit based ideas so dominant within conservative political arenas. Moreover, it really isn’t the governments job (not that you said it was) to address people’s spiritual problems. Hopefully, Christians will be doing that. You say that you don’t believe in just throwing money at the poor, and I agree with this, but SOMETHING must be done to feed and provide for the poor but since Christians, along with general secular society, failed miserably in the past to stand up for injustice and help the poor, the government was forced to step in.

A few other notes. Our current national debt was run up by republicans funding war and cutting taxes, not liberals pushing social programs. Also, I understand conservative thinking and recognize its merits well. I grew up with a dad who listened to rush Limbaugh in rural East Texas. Hard work and republican ideology is not foreign to me. There are MANY democrats (as well as republicans) who have individually helped people. Statistically, the group of people who give the most of their personal money towards charitable causes are liberal evangelicals (there aren’t to many of these). Second on the list are conservative evangelicals. In this, you can fairly criticize liberals who push for government oriented responses to poverty but are unwilling to give of their own accord.

Also, I understand if you don’t respond, writing these things takes a bit of time.