[synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day.]
It’s that time of year again. Even with me doing my level best to ignore the political diatribes that pass as dialogue, I am still awash in folks who conflate their religion with their politics. Too often we get it in our heads that one political party speaks for Christendom.
There are black churches that condemn Republicans as evil (and black Republicans as sell outs); and white churches that seem to proclaim that the Republican agenda is God’s agenda and anyone against it amoral, irreligious, or anti-God (I still find it curious that Evangelicals, after being so up in arms about President Obama *possibly* being Muslim, seem relatively quiet about Mitt Romney being a Mormon).
I think that Democrats take the black vote for granted and the Republicans have written off the black vote. I’ve been to Republican and Democratic meetings and found them both generally attended by people who love this country and seek its best interests (and both opened their meetings in prayer, but this is Indiana). And there are nuts on both sides. In other words, I’m not a big believer in demonizing either side.
I have no problem with our spirituality informing our politics, but have huge problems with our politics informing our spirituality. It’s difficult to be faithful to your own beliefs and convictions and still do what is best for everyone. It may be that I call myself a “black Republican” just to piss off every side in any political discussion, but I find that there is no place that I fully comfortably fit. Here’s where my faith and “politics” converge:
1) Pro-Life. Judging from the e-mails I get (I guess the comments feature on my blog is moot), my most controversial blog during the last election cycle was how I’m still consider myself pro-life and feel comfortable voting for President Obama: “I still believe life begins at conception, but being pro-life means that I don’t stop worrying about kids once they’re born. Being pro-life means I don’t get to move away from all “the problems” of the city and build personal compounds in the suburbs. It means that all life is valuable: the unborn, the underserved, the abandoned, the forgotten. Here’s the bottom line, mine is a nuanced position is hard to encapsulating into a bumper sticker.”
2) Pro-Environment. One of the lessons from the Genesis account of creation is that we were created to be stewards of creation. Yet, we’ve lost our connection with creation, continuing to develop new ways to either insulate ourselves from it or encroach our brand of civilization into it. Our souls are starved for God’s creation and all people should enjoy it, embracing it the way God intended for us. Maybe we need to recover the mystical part of spirituality, learning to exist in harmony with God and others as well as creation. So, for me, environmentalism should be a moral issue.
3) Social Justice. With verses like “’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40) and “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (I John 3:17), churches are charged to take care of the poor. There almost seems to be the perception in some camps that the poor want to live in poverty, like they are there because they are lazy or are there strictly as the result of their choices. The reality is that most have been let down, if not abandoned, by the system. How we treat the poor defines us as a culture and as a country. The government needs to assist those unable to take care of themselves. But that system needs to be checked because supporting dependency without accountability hurts any community, especially a community burdened by institutionalized racism.
Poverty and homelessness is such a multi-pronged problem covering a variety of physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs; and involves matters of economic development, health, and education. The strategies tend to be holistic in nature. Education is a “silver bullet”, which means that I have vested interest in having the best education system possible. God identifies with the poor and those in pain, liberating them from injustice. So I have a huge problem with “Evangelicals” talking about “the welfare state” since my position is that the government wouldn’t have to do so much if the church was doing its job (that sound you hear is crickets from our large, comfortable suburban churches).
4) Tax Cuts. There is no Biblical position on taxes beyond “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) and I’m willing to pay my fair share. I care about economic issues, like unemployment, because I have a family (my first/primary ministry) to take care of. I believe in personal responsibility and the community taking care of its poor. I’m a capitalist who believes that with great wealth comes great responsibility, and spending has to be tempered with compassion. I also don’t trust the government and like it shrunk as much as possible (yes, it sounds like another nuanced position, but I want the government as small as possible while it does the things it has to do).
No, that isn’t an exhaustive list of all my positions, but those are several issues I think about when it comes to my faith impacting my politics. And I try to listen to the diverse voices around me to further inform me. I try to keep in mind that the Bible is not a political treatise. In fact, I doubt that the people who espouse political views from the Bible would like the kind of politics that the Bible would endorse, because Jesus’ message wasn’t pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
Christians need to bear witness to the biblical story within a cultural context, however, we are to do so without being co-opted by the culture. Let’s not confuse a “civil religion with Jesus flavored rhetoric” (American Christianity) with a Jesus-shaped Gospel. As I’ve said before, I don’t ask “What Would Republican Jesus Do?” because in the final analysis, the American government is not my Lord. The Republican Party is not my God. Politics is not my call to worship. Jesus didn’t die for lower taxes, smaller government, pro-business policies, and an individualistic worldview. If your religion is to mean anything, then be about the poor, the “least of these”, and then get back to me. Until then, spare me your rallies and rhetoric.