Sorry, I thought I would have reviewed this chapter long before now. Just a reminder, I’m reviewing the book, God’s Politics: A New Vision for Faith and Politics by Jim Wallis of Sojourners. The subtitle of this chapter is “Co-opted by the Right, Dismissed by the Left”. In this chapter Wallis encourages us to take back our faith from what he sees as the hijacking of the Christian faith by the Republican Party and the ignoring at best or being hostile to the Christian faith at worst by the Democratic Party.
It’s time to reassert and reclaim the gospel faith – especially in our public life. When we do, we discover that faith challenges the powers that be to do justice for the poor, instead of preaching a “prosperity gospel” and supporting politicians who further enrich the wealthy. We remember that faith hates violence and tries to reduce it and exerts a fundamental presumption against war, instead of trying to justify it in God’s name. We see that faith creates community from racial, class, and gender divisions and prefers international community over nationalist religion, and we see that “God bless America” is found nowhere in the Bible. And we are reminded that faith regards matters such as the sacredness of life and family bonds as so important that they should never be used as ideological symbols or mere political pawns in partisan warfare.
The media like to say, “Oh, then you must be the religious Left,” No, not at all, and the very question is the problem. Just because a religious Right has fashioned itself for political power in one utterly predictable ideological guise does not mean that those who question this political seduction must be their opposite political counterpart. The best public contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or a loyal partisan. To always raise the moral issues of human rights, for example, will challenge both left and right-wing governments that put power above principles. Religious action is rooted in a much deeper place than “rights” – the place being the image of God in every human being, (pg. 3-4).
I do not disagree with Wallis’ assertion that there are other issues that we as Christians need to look at. His two main thrusts throughout the book will be dealing mainly about how Christians should approach war and how Christians should view poverty. He asks a question at the beginning of this chapter that bothers me, “How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American?” My answer – who sees it that way? Full disclosure, I would be considered to be part of the “religious right”. It do not see myself being “pro-rich”, my faith does not inform me to be so. Jesus had much to say about the poor. I’m not ignoring that. I am not “anti-rich” though, and neither is Jesus. The love of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. I too am against the preaching of a “prosperity gospel” I think that is antiblbical, just because we know Christ does not mean that we are going to be healthy and wealthy. I’m living proof of that! I don’t believe that is preached in most churches that make up what Wallis would consider to be the religious right. Also, my support for the war in Iraq does not mean I’m “pro-war”. I plan to address this more in detail, and I will admit that I am teachable in this area. Also I don’t know of any respected theologian who believes that biblical faith is only pro-American.
He also states:
But recovering the faith of the biblical prophets and Jesus is not just about politics; it also shapes the way we live our personal and communal lives. How do we live a faith whose social manifestation is compassion and whose public expression is justice? And how do we raise our children by those values? That may be the most important battle of spiritual formation in our times, as I am personally discovering as a new father. Our religious congregations are not meant to be social organizations that merely reflect the wider culture’s values, but dynamic countercultural communities whose purpose is to reshape both lives and societies. That realization perhaps has the most capacity to transform both religion and politics.
Amen to that. I agree with him completely there, though we likely will draw different conclusions as to how that is done.
The rest of the chapter he discusses the 2004 elections about how the GOP targeted evangelicals. Yep, they did. Democrats largely ignored evangelicals. I must admit that I didn’t care for the campaign strategy of collecting church membership lists over to different GOP parties. In this chapter I don’t feel Wallis speaks out enough about the downright hostility that is shown by some members of the Democratic party toward evangelicals. He simply says the Democrats, “understepped in the their effort to be more religion friendly than they have in the recent past.” Wallis “understepped” in his assessment of the Democratic party. He talks about the GOP’s outrageous behavior. His criticism of President Bush is rather sharp, and quite frankly is disrespectful (basically calls him a liar on the Iraq war).
He says, “the Democrats should be much more willing to use moral and religious language in defense of economic fairness and justice.” The point isn’t using language as it is that many of their policies are just hostile to authentic, biblical faith and clearly contradicts scripture. Also, being in favor of tax cuts and welfare reform does not make one anti-poor!
Religious and political conservatives often raise the issues of abortion and gay marriage. I have clearly disagreed with the Democrats on abortion, believing that Christians can be both progressive and pro-life. I’ve urged the Democrats to be much more respectful and welcoming of pro-life Democrats. Someday, a smart Democrat will figure out how both pro-choice and pro-life people could join together in concrete measures to dramatically reduce the abortion rate by focusing on teen pregnancy, adoption reform, and real support of low-income women. That would be so much better than both sides using the issue as a political football and political litmus test during elections, and then doing little about it afterward. I also have strongly affirmed the critical importance of strengthening marriage and family and of supporting parents in the most difficult and important task in our society, but have supported gay civil rights and legal protection for same-sex couples.
I think he has some good thoughts on abortion, but again it isn’t just a “political football” it is the murder of innocent human life. It should be made illegal. Speaking out on behalf of the unborn is justice as well. I agree there are other avenues to take – reducing teen pregnancy through abstinence – I wonder if he thinks the “safe sex” plan Democrats like is biblical. I think that adoption reform would be a great thing – let’s start by not allowing children to be adopted by same sex couples. He is right that there needs to be adoption reform, right now there is soooo much red tape. I’ll end this post by also sharing concern about his view on homosexuals. Homosexuals already have civil rights, what they want is special rights. They already have the right to be married – to a person of the opposite sex. I’ve said before that I do not want to see homosexuals barred from employment or housing due to their sexual preference (I emphasize preference, this is the only group that wants to be a protected class based on a behavior), I just don’t want my rights trampled on in the process (like&
nbsp;being forced to accept a homosexual volunteer or hire a homosexual employee for a Christian ministry).
Chapter Two – “Lack of Vision: Too Narrow or None at All” is the next chapter that I’ll review. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and I also would encourage you to read the book for yourself.