The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Here’s Why We Want To Differentiate Between Faith And Politics

Posted on | April 6, 2011 | 9 Comments

by Smitty

NewsBusters has a post on Rev. Soong-Chan Rah in the Chicago Tribune. For some background on where I’m coming from, see my last August post, the main point of which was that morality is not strictly equal to ethics. That is, there are ethical questions, ethical/moral questions, and moral questions.

Loosening the terms helps to sort out the aspects of decisions that are ethical in nature, for example, ‘Road maintenance should be assigned to what level of government?’ from questions that have moral overtones, as in, say, death panels.

Rah says:

In the Old Testament, prophets held the responsibility of representing God’s truth to the powers that be. The prophets would often ask the difficult questions to call the powerful into account for how they treated the very least of these. In these times, faith leaders should continue to ask the difficult questions. The budget of our nation has the capacity to reflect the morality of our nation.

I’m good all the way to the end. The budget, especially the federal budget dominating the discourse of the day, is not a moral document. The 111th Congress couldn’t even be bothered to draft a budget document, yet there was no hue and cry about that moral vacuum. However, there was plenty of Tea Party action decrying how much that Congress sucked.

Rah goes on to point to Jim Wallis, who is busy decreasing the signal-to-noise ratio on Twitter:

If you have the chance, follow @jimwallis (one of the faith leaders participating in the fast) and #WWJC (What Would Jesus Cut?) on Twitter. The Twitter feeds raise questions appropriate for discussion in the public arena:

“Do we cut $2.5 bil for low income heating assistance or $2.5 bil in tax breaks for oil companies?”

“Do we cut $747 mil from WIC, a program that feeds about 25% of U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 4?”

“Do we sacrifice the lives of 70,000 children and keep tax breaks for the rich?”

“What would Jesus Cut?”

Asking these kinds of questions is exactly what people of faith should be doing.

What would Jesus Cut, he asks? Jesus would, I speculate wildly, not engage on ethical questions of government, beyond admonishing members of government to repent on an individual basis. That was not His task. In the wild thought-experiment of what He would do, I’d go further out on a limb and say he’d be the scourge of the Iron Law. My own personal Jesus would cut the federal government right back to the minimalist enumerated powers of the Constitution, and let all of the Progressive overreach fall back to the States where it belongs.  But that’s all silly counterfactual.

These bogus attempts to guilt people into false choices are not driven by any honest Christian spirit with which I’m familiar.  Christianity is what you, your family, and your church family do to spread the Gospel to your community.  Even supporting missionaries, while broader in scope, is still not politically driven.  At least, not in any flavor of Church with which I’m familiar.

Underscoring my point from an entirely different direction, I give you Nancy Pelosi. Please retain.

And there is this bit of knobbery: Bryan Fischer, of Rightly Concerned (a Project of the American Family Association): “Jesus groomed his apostles for political office”.

During the Last Supper, Jesus said to his chosen 12 (11 if you subtract Judas from the mix), “I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29).”

Now I don’t have a trained eye, but sitting on a throne is a political thing no matter how you slice it.

I don’t know what translation Fischer is using here, but the phrase “in my kingdom” would tend to sound a bit post-apocalyptic to my amateur eye. When the Sage spoke those words, recall, there had already been a division of the tribes into Israel and Judea, with the northern ten tribes not really existing. But why let, you know, context get in the way of argument?

In other words, Jesus’ entire discipleship program with his apostles was an academy designed to prepare them for service in the political arena.

So Christians just need to get over this debate about whether or not Christians ought to be involved in politics. Jesus has settled this question for us himself.

This assertion would be laughable if it was not so scary wrong. If someone who happens to to Christian feels led of God to enter public life, they should get right to work. Connecting these dots to say that Jesus settled personally the question of whether Christians should be in politics in the affirmative is simply not true. What He did command can be found in the Great Commission in Matthew 28, for the curious. Does Fischer know Terry Jones? While supporting and defending the right of these guys to spout off, it is really important to call them on the carpet for lousy exegesis.
Lord have mercy on you, Fischer.

Update: linked at The Camp of the Saints, where BB calls me “dead wrong”. Crazy talk. I haven’t been wrong in the last 20 minutes.


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