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David Klinghoffer: What Are God’s Real Politics?

posted by kham

Jim, I feel some frustration too because what you’ve done so far is speak mostly in generalities. The real pattern in Biblical politics only becomes clear when you look at an extended series of concrete practical issues from a Biblical perspective – say, the death penalty, immigration, Islamic terror, gun control, censorship, drug legalization, and so on. That’s what I do in my new book.
In your generalities, you are not considering the Bible as a whole, but only certain threads that interest you.
I’m glad we agree, however, that, in getting a perspective on God’s real politics, the prophets are the place to start. I agree with Norman Podhoretz who, in his fine book The Prophets, identifies the single issue that above all others preoccupied the Hebrew prophets. That issue is idolatry.


It is a word you’ve used loosely in your writing – for example, accusing George W. Bush of “a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.” (But not idolatry and blasphemy?) The President’s sin, in your telling, may be detected in a rhetorical gaffe. After 9/11, he spoke too sweepingly of an American mission of “ridding the world of evil.” Your contention is that he thereby “confuse[d] the role of God with that of the American nation.”
It seems to me that using the term idolatry to condemn a poor choice of words on Bush’s part is an abuse of a terribly important idea that the prophets took with deadly seriousness. What is idolatry, really? Manifesting itself in every age, and very much so in ours, its essence lies in setting up moral authorities in competition with, or to the negation, of God. Today, aggressive secularism, whose political home is the Democratic Party, possesses all the classic pagan hallmarks: relativism, nature worship, sexual corruption, and a willingness to sacrifice children for the cause. Jeremiah (9:11-14) is clear that idolatry was the great stumbling block of his time, that it directly lead to God’s abandoning the Jews to their Babylonian enemies.
Let’s look for common ground, shall we? Would you agree with me, following the model of the prophets, that we are compelled to say the chief crisis that any would-be political leader today needs to address is idolatry of this kind?
Jim, would you join me in condemning the California Supreme Court for overturning the will of the people and creating a governmental seal of approval for homosexual relationships? I can’t think of a clearer example of our leaders rejecting the American tradition of looking to God for the ultimate source of moral authority. That is indeed idolatry.
Ditto the regime of nearly unlimited access to abortion that was imposed on our nation with Roe v. Wade. Both these examples of judicial usurpation were gestures of contempt not only for democracy but for God. If I’ve misunderstood your view on abortion, then I assume you’ll agree with me that the main reason that any conscientious Jew or Christian should vote for John McCain is because he’s likelier than Obama to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe. I would be delighted to learn that I indeed misread you. Please clarify, Jim, in concrete terms please.
Now to your point about personal versus social responsibility. Again, let’s look for common ground. We can agree that there needs to be some kind of balance between letting the needs of the economically disadvantaged be addressed at the individual or communal level and directing that those needs be addressed by the government. You’ll agree too that there is a tension between personal and social responsibility. When too much responsibility is assumed by the government, that undercuts the personal responsibility of citizens to reach out and assist the needy. This is why Europeans, with their extensive government-funded social programs, give much less to charity than Americans do. That can’t be the future you want, Jim.
The question, to which we look to the Bible for guidance, is where the balance between social and person responsibility should be set. It’s a question of emphasis. You point out that the prophets address themselves to the powerful and the wealthy. Insofar as the prestige class in any society exercises disproportionate influence on the culture, that’s what you’d have to expect. But your observation doesn’t tell us what the prophets would have the powerful actually do.
Personally assist the powerless and needy? Absolutely.
Or use the power of government to compel the rest of us to hand over our money to the state, which then distributes it for us? I’m sorry, that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve come across in the Bible.
Speaking of money and its use or abuse by the government, you’re right that I owe you an answer about Iraq. You ask if I think that money has been well spent. My provisional answer is, certainly. War is a normal tool of statecraft in the Biblical worldview. That doesn’t mean, obviously, that every war that even a Biblically guided nation undertakes is a wise war. But it doesn’t seem very wise either to grouse about the cost of a conflict whose ultimate fruits we haven’t yet seen.
Someone could as well have complained, in 1943, about the lives and dollars America had expended on fighting Nazi Germany when, look, Hitler was still in power!
Now, Jim, please answer my own question that you’ve ignored. If you speak for the “moral center,” since we have no center party to speak of, I’d expect that means that over the past 35 years you’ve voted for about half Republicans and half Democrats. Or would I be wrong about that? Again, please tell me the last major Republican candidates you supported?



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Steven Kippel

posted June 17, 2008 at 8:29 pm


Godwin’s Law is in full effect! You lose!
Again with the personal attacks!
I don’t know if anyone told you, but you don’t actually win an argument by throwing dirt at the opponent. That’s what Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck might do, but it doesn’t actually work in real life.
But let’s look at these other issues you bring up. 1) gay marriage, 2) abortion
Gay Marriage: Tell me one place in scripture that it is the government’s job to regulate marriage.
Abortion: Tell me one place in scripture that it is the government’s job to regulate pregnancy.
Since you’re asking Jim to point to scripture showing what the prophets asked of rulers, so why don’t you point to scripture showing these two things.
If it’s the government’s job to “protect our borders” and “stay out of our business,” why is it the government’s job to regulate marriage and science.
Science, yes, science, for it is science that answers when a fetus is human and when it’s simply two cells.
I know the facts about abortion, but I also know my Bible, and it never tells me – a Christian – to try to run other people’s lives.



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Steven Kippel

posted June 17, 2008 at 8:33 pm


By the way, what’s the point of being a conservative and voting for the pro-life candidate when they do absolutely nothing about the issue in office? Can you answer me that one?
It’s like craps with loaded dice. You’re using a hot-button issue to get people elected over an issue they are powerless to correct.



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John Hill

posted June 18, 2008 at 12:42 am


The truth about the Republican party is that they are not pro-life, they just get the pro-life vote. For the first six years of the Bush Administration, the republicans had a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, a republican in the White house and a majority of the Supreme Court Justices appointed by republican presidents.
What did they do to overturn RvW or stem the tide of abortions in the country?
I’ll give you a clue……nothing.
They just lie to get your vote and because we’ve been told to vote republican because they are the Christians, we continue to put these liars into office. Obviously that isn’t happening anymore, at least not for a large block of conservatives that have seen the light and recognize that politicians will say anything to get elected.
Unfortunately, we are not electing God. We are electing greedy, power hungry, corrupt men and women that each have their own personal agendas that rarely include God.



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Donna Vogelpohl

posted June 18, 2008 at 8:00 am


Why is being pro-life always anti-abortion? Why isn’t it about poverty, being anti-war, healthcare for all, or an education for our youth? Keeping a fetus in the womb seems to be more important than what happens to that child once it is born. Autism almost automatically makes a child ineligible for healthcare. Fathers and mothers are sent into battlezones and allowed to use depleted uranium on nations causing birth defects. Education prices keep soaring. Pro-life shouldn’t force a 14 year old to sacrifice her body just to birth a child and sometimes a 40 year old women finds herself recently divorced and alone carrying a child from the very man who beat and raped her. Women are not property as Pro-Lifers would suggest but real human beings who must live with their choices. Seems to me if you truly beleive it is sin, then let God handle it.
But once a child is born, most Pro-Lifers disappear – they don’t even want to foot the bill on the delivery. And it is true – the recent Republican party only speaks against it – open your eyes and look at the reality of it all, excessive borrowing from China and Japan, higher gas prices, manufacturing shipped overseas, a war of choice, NAFTA – our government as a whole isn’t for the people but for Corporations only. We are all being . . . shreik . . . everytime, everyday by our own politians.



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Rick

posted June 18, 2008 at 8:54 am


Today, aggressive secularism, whose political home is the Democratic Party, possesses all the classic pagan hallmarks: relativism, nature worship, sexual corruption, and a willingness to sacrifice children for the cause.
With all due respect, Klinghoffer blew his entire argument with this phrase. Secularists do what they do because they don’t know God; His people who place their security in “systems” — even theological systems — are at greater risk of idolatry precisely because they’re supposed to know better. That’s whom the prophets spoke to and why.
Jim, would you join me in condemning the California Supreme Court for overturning the will of the people …
Overturning segregation, which the U.S. Supreme Court did, wasn’t “the will of the people” either, and some so-called Christians to this day deeply resent the civil-rights movement. I’m sure Klinghoffer doesn’t want to make that parallel, because gay-rights activists sure do.



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Elizabeth Daniele

posted June 18, 2008 at 12:37 pm


“In your generalities, you are not considering the Bible as a whole, but only certain threads that interest you.”



Matthew 5:3, Matthew 5:5, Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:7, Matthew 5:9, Matthew 5:10, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 26:52, Matthew 5:37-39, Matthew 5:42-46, Matthew 13:15, Matthew 19:24, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Mark 8:18, Mark 10:25, Luke 6:20, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:29,
Luke 6:32, Luke 6:41, Luke 16:13, Luke 18:25, Luke 20:46, John 3:19, John 14:21, John 15:17
“Self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism, has been more plausibly substituted as the basis of morality.” Thomas Jefferson
“We have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side; one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach.” Bertrand Russell
“But your observation doesn’t tell us what the prophets would have the powerful actually do.”
In that, the prophets were clear:
Exodus 32:11-13, 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Kings 8:46-48, Jeremiah 8:6, Ezekiel 18:30, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15, Mark 6:12…
Peace,
Elizabeth Daniele
author of Proof of God



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Paul

posted June 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm


If God wants to take sides right now, every body better watch out! The GOP has given lip service to Him. I’m reminded of the lesson Jesus told that related the to sons; one who said he would obey his father, but didn’t and the one who said he would not obey but relented and did as his father asked. Which of these son is the GOP and which is now acting as the current Democratic Party? The California Supreme Court was a 5/4 vote and the majority of this Democratic State will vote to preserve the word of Marriage. Even several gays think marriage is between a man and a woman.
Can you now talk about the real differences between the two parties? And yes I would like to have a viable third choice but all the so called “third” parties are all fringe lunatics. What we need is a common ground party that believes in empowering the people while protecting them from corporate greed and extortion. Our real enemy is the idol/gods self-righteous, indifference and personal greed.



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Anthony Deringer

posted June 18, 2008 at 1:34 pm


I am a bit disappointed in the discussion so far. It seems that instead of meeting each others points head on, you both seem to side step the questions try to make easy points. I would love to see two very knowledgeable men from different perspectives actually have a conversation that we can all learn from by constructively debating specific topics that are of relevance to voters. I do appreciate both blogs and the array of insight that I get from both authors.
Anthony



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Andy

posted June 18, 2008 at 3:54 pm


“Now, Jim, please answer my own question that you’ve ignored. …Again, please tell me the last major Republican candidates you supported?”
That’s it, David, if you can’t win your argument by logic, win by childish hectoring. I hope Jim doesn’t answer that question. I hope that instead of answering that stupid and irrelevant question he says something like, “No, David, I won’t answer that question because it’s irrelevant and it proves that you don’t get it.” As I said in an earlier comment, Jim seems to be trying very hard to keep partisan politics out of the discussion, and David is trying very hard to keep them in it. Kinda sad, really, that David seems totally lost unless he knows if you’re blue or red.
“Someone could as well have complained, in 1943, about the lives and dollars America had expended on fighting Nazi Germany when, look, Hitler was still in power!”
Is there some sort of class that Republicans/neo-cons take to learn how to bring up an emotionally-charged Hitler/Nazi Germany reference, in spite of the fact that it has nothing to do with the discussion? Sheesh!



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LAURA MUSHKAT

posted June 18, 2008 at 7:42 pm


G-d votes???? Since when did G-d decide to become a citizen of one country over another?
G-d is all knowing so voting would not be fair!
Have you forgetten that the Almighty was kind enough to give us free will so we can make up our own minds?
(sigh) Makes it just a little harder for us humans!



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Ex-Republican

posted June 19, 2008 at 7:23 am


Give us a break. Klinghoffer describes a “paganism” that never existed. The only accurate statement he makes about paganism is that it involved nature worship. The pagans were not relativists in the modern sense of the word; they merely weren’t religious absolutists who insisted that their religion owned the copyright on truth. The original meaning of the word heresy was “choice” and that is how pagans saw the practice of other religions, not as some grievous theological error or an affront to God. The Democrats don’t worship nature, they just don’t want our resources squandered. And I don’t see how they “sacrifice children for the cause” as he claims. As a Democrat, I don’t like abortion, but I don’t want to see it criminalized either. There are far too many abortions in this country, but there are other ways of reducing abortions besides having the police arrest doctors who perform them.
Personally, I’ll take secularism over Christian fundamentalism any day. To assert that the morality of the Bible is relevant to every moral dilemma this country faces in 2008 is the height of foolishness. If we are to believe the Bible, God wants you to follow 613 laws that regulate every aspect of your daily life. If there is a God, I really don’t think he cares about homosexual sex, or if you choose to eat pork or not.



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windyblue

posted June 19, 2008 at 8:02 am


God would not vote for either party. They both are terrible.
he would want a man who was a born again christian and who followed his laws ( the ten commandments) and followed him. Just like in the bible. And I wonder if we have any people in office that are born again
christians. Especially in the white house, and other parts.



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Ann

posted June 19, 2008 at 10:38 am


When Pastors start saying derogatory messages from the pulpit, i.e. swearing, etc., I will not vote for that canidate at all, I do not think Pastors should say anything about politics. The Pastor of Senator Obama’s church is self-centered and thinks he is making a name for himself, oh he is making a name for himself and not for the good.



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Janet

posted June 19, 2008 at 10:55 am


About 25 years ago, when I was 18-20 years old, I was active in the pro-life movement. As such, I started voting for Republicans as soon as I could vote, because I believed that was the path to overturning Roe v. Wade. I was young and naive. As someone said in an earlier post, the Republicans have done nothing on this issue, except exploit it for votes. Even if there was a repeal of Roe v. Wade, it would likely just get kicked back to the states to decide. I’m betting that most states would not pass a ban on abortions. I no longer believe that legislation is the way for Christians to combat abortion. We need to be much more involved in affecting our culture through individual relationships and serving our communities. And we definitely need to be helping and supporting mothers who choose to have their babies. Most will not be able to afford health insurance. I can’t say how disappointed I was in Bush’s veto of the SCHIP program increase.



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George Donald

posted June 19, 2008 at 11:01 am


homosexual-(romans-1) read the chapter, it’s in his word!!he really cares.God has voted 46 yrs ago when he created president Obama, he was ordain to be at this very time to do what he’s doing;just as god did with Abramham,(moses),Paul,Peter,Joshua,John,even ,Noah- after the great flood etc.-;it’s many others God has ordain throughout the Bible YOU MUST READ IT,IT’S IN THERE!!. He also put you’ll where you are as you speak. We all want God to bless America or In God we trust (on the currentcy),But we are’nt trusting God at all-we are just telling God to step aside, forget about your Bible I got this I’ll do it all by my self- so he allows us to make our choices,now comes curruption worldwide in just about every corner of his earth, those who are taking total advanage of his poor people, in which you’ll KNOW can’t afford the way things are being done.God’s WILL is going to showup very soon-where all those currurpt people;and /or companies will see who this world really belongs to, who created it (thereof).President Obama will be guided by God’s Will our morden day Biblical (MOSES).Bush had to fullfill his part to begin to bring the people together, along with all the desisaters thoughout our nation,(Romans13) says it’s time for president Obama.If you love God you must be with who he will put in government, his WORD don’t LIE or CHANGE!!. Thank,You.G.Donald,(GIC).



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toddh

posted June 19, 2008 at 1:28 pm


Yeah, Janet is right on. The abortion issue has been exploited by Republicans with no real results to show from it. They are addressing it entirely the wrong way – which Wallis effectively points out in God’s Politics with his idea of a consistent ethic of life.
Reading Klinghoffer is absolutely painful. It’s clear that he is absolutely trapped in an ideology that is more interested in labeling and categorizing others and their beliefs instead of trying to solve real issues. I get the sense from Republicans too (and as an ex-Republican maybe I can see this better) that the demand for small government (whatever that is) really trumps pretty much everything else. When it comes to the idea of actually helping others, Klinghoffer falls apart in his argument when he gives his knee-jerk negative reaction to giving the government some kind of place in that process and instead falls back on the idea of personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is absolutely where it should start, but government in and of itself needn’t be rejected in and out of hand simply because it’s “government.” That’s where conservatives consistently go wrong. People are not just isolated individuals, and they can work together through government as well as private sector corporations, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits.



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Corey Nathan

posted June 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm


I was really looking forward to an intelligent debate between two people with different points of view. I’m saddened to see Mr. Klinghoffer epitomize Gandhi’s statement: “I like your Christ. I just don’t like your Christian.” His selective theology seems incredibly disingenuous and procedurally backwards. What seems clear is that he starts with his political preferences and backs his theology into them, almost as if he’s using Scripture as a weapon. At worst this is the problem of colonialism. At best this is reflective of one of Jesus’ well-meaning followers in the garden who cut the ear off of one of His adversaries. Note the significance of that action and what follows. While we might be well-meaning in what we think should be the trajectory of the Kingdom of God and how we “defend” it, we mistakenly cut the ears off of the very ones we’d like to hear our message. Prophetically, Jesus heals the wound (thus returning the hearing) of the assumed adversary and willingly submits to their course of action – a radical subversion of most people’s idea of a conquering king.



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Catte

posted June 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm


Janet has the right approach, especially in her last sentence.
” I no longer believe that legislation is the way for Christians to combat abortion. We need to be much more involved in affecting our culture through individual relationships and serving our communities. And we definitely need to be helping and supporting mothers who choose to have their babies”
And it’s not just SCHIP or other health care issues. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is a great place to start reducing demand for abortions. Abstinence only programs are wishful thinking, for one thing; as is available birth control. Butwhat if a young woman has an unplanned pregancy? What would make it possible for her to choose to have that child. A living wage would certainly help. Assistance with child care. And yes, health coverage for herself and the child.
So if abortion is truly someone’s key issue it would stand to reason they would be taking a stand on many other issues that would be defined by some as quite liberal or progressive.



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Gregory Wonderwheel

posted June 20, 2008 at 8:34 pm


Klinghoffer says, “In your generalities, you are not considering the Bible as a whole, but only certain threads that interest you.”
This is the key to how he bamboozles the poor suckers who buy his snakeoil. Only he can see “the Bible as a whole” and if anyone disagrees with his claims by pointing out point by point how he is wrong he simply says “You don’t see the Bible as a whole and I do.”
Is that even an argument at all? I don’t think so.



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James

posted June 21, 2008 at 6:09 am


It is the attitude displayed by the likes of Mr. Klinghoffer that has caused me to reject much of conservative, “orthodox” Christianity to the point where many would not classify me as Christian at all. That’s ok because if heaven is filled with people like that, I prefer the alternative, whatever that might be.



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Don Sullivan

posted June 23, 2008 at 2:39 pm


To answer the initial question, “How would God vote?”, I believe he would vote for himself as a write-in. Not very many others would do the same, because they are too caught up in their own agenda–primarily becoming better than everybody else. “Love thy neighbor as Thyself” would be His platform as it has been for billions of years, or 6000 years if you are a creationist. “Love thy neighbor as Thyself”. This is one of the principles of ALL belief sets or (not to taint it, but…) religions. If we were to just look around us and take care of and Love our neighbors we would find the solutions to the strife of the world.
Love in the form of self respect for young women would reduce the assumed validation of pregnancy and motherhood when it is too early in the young woman’s life; equality for men of all ages would reduce the power struggle which manifests often in rape, and therefore, potential unplanned pregnancy. That’s an option for addressing abortion. How many other issues are there?
It takes more muscles to frown than to smile and yet smiling is more attractive. God smiles on us as he has for….an immeasureably long time. There is no better campaign promise than a genuine smile.
This response may seem simple, but the answers to it all are actually quite simple. We merely complicate it all with our worldly desires, self-serving interpretations of ancient texts, etc., boiling down to simple greed.
“Love thy neighbor as Thyself.” God for President, and not someone who just thinks he is.



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Adam

posted June 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm


Mr. Klinghoffer says that he is looking for common ground but then demands precisely the sort of allegiance to right-wing hot-button issues that has made common ground impossible since the Southern Strategy (if not Roe).
“Jim, would you join me in condemning the California Supreme Court for overturning the will of the people and creating a governmental seal of approval for homosexual relationships? I can’t think of a clearer example of our leaders rejecting the American tradition of looking to God for the ultimate source of moral authority. That is indeed idolatry.
“Ditto the regime of nearly unlimited access to abortion that was imposed on our nation with Roe v. Wade. Both these examples of judicial usurpation were gestures of contempt not only for democracy but for God. If I’ve misunderstood your view on abortion, then I assume you’ll agree with me that the main reason that any conscientious Jew or Christian should vote for John McCain is because he’s likelier than Obama to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe. I would be delighted to learn that I indeed misread you. Please clarify, Jim, in concrete terms please.”
It seems to me that common ground in an argument about “how would (the Christian) God vote” would be Bible. Mr. Klinghoffer has made no effort, in this or his previous posts, to explain from the Bible why he believe that overturning Roe v. Wade and preventing gay marriage are priorities for God’s children. He has made no effort to defend by scripture or doctrine the Republican disregard for poverty. Frankly, this “debate” has been a waste of time: it is difficult to believe that Mr. Klinghoffer has been arguing in earnest, given his failure to speak coherently to the question at hand.



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Barry Westbrook

posted July 7, 2008 at 10:18 pm


“Nature worship”? Are you referring to taking care of the environment, this world that we all live in and have a responsibility for? What exactly is nature worship and who does it?



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