Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Truth about Conservatives 2

posted by xscot mcknight

A second study in Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout’s study, The Truth about Conservative Christians, is about the politics of Conservative Christians (CCs). What do they think and practice? It might surprise you.
Here’s an opening claim: “Conservative Christians [CCs] are the center of attention when the [political] discussion turns to values. But their voting priorities and internal divisions are widely and wildly misunderstood” (39). At the bottom “economic interests sharply divide CCs” (39). “So-called values voting has not flattened the relationship between income and how people vote” (40). “Since the Reagan era began in 1980, incomes has influenced CPs’ votes even more than it affected other American votes” (40). But, “values and income both affect how CPs and other Americans vote” (40).
Now here’s a conclusion: “in party preferences they [CPs] are less partisan than most; a sizable minority think of themselves as politically independent and moderate” (41). Now to some numbers:
Conservative Protestants are “a modest 6.3 percentage points more Republican than Mainline Prots (51.7% vs. 45.4%). They offer some stats and say that it is only 1.6 %points in impact score and that therefore “claims that CPs have hijacked the nation’s politics are greatly exaggerated” (42). My own observation here is that both the Democrats fears and Evangelical claims may be off base.
Why the fuss? Because religion has come out of the closet for public and media debate. We talk about it more, but its impact is the same as it has always been (44). “Reporters who ask us [the authors] to comment on trends seem to have mistaken a trend in how they cover elections for a trend in how Americans actually vote” (44). Pretty good insight, don’t you think?
“CPs are somewhat more politically conservative than other Americans, but, first, only a minority of CPs identifies as politically conservative, and second, differences between CPs and Mainline Prots are marginal” (46-47).
More significantly for statistics: “family income and economic issues are far more significant than moral values for the trends in both voting and party identification” (48). “The Republicans’ real base is not the the religious right but the affluent” (50).
They do not believe evidence suggests that one’s view of evolution, prayer in schools and choosing to end life impacts elections. What about racism? “Are the CPs racist? The evidence here acquits them of the charge” (61). What about civil liberties?
“The US has a civil liberties problem; it is just a bigger problem among CPs” (64).
Conclusion: “almost anything that affected voting behavior in the past matters more for presidential politics in the current era than it did prior to the Regan era. These are partisan times” (65). “All groups defined by their religious affiliation … follow their pocketbooks these days, but the economic cleavage was deepest for CPs — the group most identified with values voting” (66).
“If you insult a real opponent you have to face his answer; if you insult a mythical opponent you get the floor all to yourself. Is that fairness to the values voter? Probably not” (66).
Next chp is on how evangelical theology shapes politics … and the authors explore the incredible difference between evangelical Afro-Americans and whites. CPs are made up of Cons white Prots and Cons Afr-Am Prots. Do they vote the same? Why or why not?



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Anonymous

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:01 am


Words – » Blogs in Review 3/27/07

[...] Scot McKnight (http://www.jesuscreed.org) continues his series Truth about Conversative, a look at Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout’s study, The Truth about Conservative Christians, with part two. [...]



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ron

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:18 am


“All groups defined by their religious affiliation … follow their pocketbooks these days, but the economic cleavage was deepest for CPs — the group most identified with values voting” — Perhaps all the talk about “values” allows us to defer the issue of “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.”



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John Frye

posted March 27, 2007 at 9:00 am


Scot,
This is an astounding statement: “They do not believe evidence suggests that one’s view of evolution, prayer in schools and choosing to end life impacts elections.” Is a lot of Christian politiking “a temptest in a teapot”?



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 9:33 am


John,
Kind makes you wonder, “Who controls the teapot?” doesn’t it?



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 9:34 am


John,
Kind makes you wonder, “Who controls the teapot?” doesn’t it??



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 9:46 am


(Sorry for the length. I hope the first half adds some helpful stats.)
From “Who Cares?: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism”
*****
“First imagine two people: One goes to church every week and strongly rejects the idea that it is the government’s responsibility to redistribute income between people who have a lot of money and people who don’t. The other person never attends a house of worship, and strongly believes that the government should reduce income differences. Knowing only these things, the data tell us that the first person will be roughly twice as likely as the second to give money to charities in a given year, and will give away more the one hundred times as much money per year (as well as fifty times more to explicitly nonreligious causes.)” (10)
Brooks highlights four polar groups for this study (Note that these four groups make up less than half the popluaiton.)
*The religious conservatives (RC) are the most charitable in giving money and time (19.1% of US population. Share characteristics in common with statistically average American except that they tend be a little older and married.)
*Religious liberals (RL) are only about 10% behind RCs in giving. (6.4% of US pop. Similar demographics to RCs except that about one quarter are ethnic minority and 21% are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher.)
*Secular conservatives (SC) are the least charitable (7.3% of US pop. They are disproportionately male, white, and low income.)
*Secular liberals are not far behind the SCs in giving (10.5 % of US pop. They are the wealthiest of the four groups and the most white.)
The poor are the most charitable and the least charitable. Take two families of the same income. One is part of the working poor and the other is on government assistance. Families in the first category are the most charitable of all groups. The second group is the least charitable. The poor tend to give away about 4-5% of income. The wealthy about 3-4%. The middle class gives the least. Half of all charitable giving comes from people making more than one million dollars (top 7%).
******
Scot wrote that “The Republicans’ real base is not the religious right but the affluent”, which is also to say that “The Democrats real base is the non-affluent.” Usually, this quickly becomes cast as greedy Republicans voting for policies that enrich themselves at the expense of the poor while Democrats are the champions of the poor. However, it could just as easily be said that the covetous and envious poor are using the coercive power of the state to appropriate the wealth created by hard-working economically successful people. I suggest that which caricature you most resonate with says more about you than it does about what is really going on with helping the poor.
The Brooks study points out that religious belief does have an impact on charitable giving. Most Christians I know of all stripes believe you should aid the family and individuals you know in need. Most Christians agree that they need to give of time and money to help the poor through organizations and ministries. Where we diverge is often at what role government plays in addressing these situations. I have been studying and working with poverty related issues since the early 1980s. While government assistance at some level is essential, I have come to the conclusion that making it the central focus is often ineffective and in some cases actually destructive.
Religious Left folks complain they have been “othered” by the Religious Right because they don’t hold a particular view on abortion or homosexuality. Yet this issue of the government’s role in solving social problems is the wedge issue the Religious Left uses to “other” those that disagree. (I speak from experience.) The issues are far more complex than this and the electorate is far more diverse.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 10:13 am


Michael,
What do you make of the Religious person who resonates with neither political side?



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John Frye

posted March 27, 2007 at 11:19 am


Michael (#6),
I thought this was a catching comment: “However, it could just as easily be said that the covetous and envious poor are using the coercive power of the state to appropriate the wealth created by hard-working economically successful people.”



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 11:31 am


#6 Benjamin
That probably means you are in a large company of fellow travelers. :) And that is my point.
I don’t fully resonate with either side either, though tactically (for now) I tend to vote more conservative.



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Matthew

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:10 pm


Michael #6,
I enjoyed your comment. A friend recently heard someone say something to the effect that if we spent the amount of money that the Iraq war has cost so far, we could have eliminated world hunger. My friend made a good point about that sort of reasoning. If there were an easy answer to our hard problems, then someone would have done it by now. Poverty is a hard problem without neat, clean, easy answers. It is true that some conservatives are heartless. But it would be unfair to caricature all of them so.



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Matt K

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:30 pm


Ditto. All our stereotypes ought to be subject to scrutiny; be it the “evil greedy republican” or the mythological “welfare queen”.



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Matt R

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:42 pm


I, as expressed in several comments, think this shows that we put people in ‘boxes’ to our own detrement. However, voting on ‘economic’ (and thus also social statis) lines rings true for me. Example: Had a recent conversation with a CC friend… he said the government should stay out of helping people economically, however his economic situation is such that he might never be in a position to need that help.
Economic/social statis is more powerful in the USA than even values/religion.



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Marcia

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Just goes to show that you can’t put Baby, er, I mean, conservatives, in the corner.
I mean, the idea that every churchgoer and his or her denomination hold the exact same set of beliefs and values is ludicrous. No one is totally, completely *right* or *left*, at least, no one whose opinion I would value.
If I never, ever hear the term Relgious Right again, well, it will be far too soon.



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Marcia

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:54 pm


#8 I thought this was a catching comment: “However, it could just as easily be said that the covetous and envious poor are using the coercive power of the state to appropriate the wealth created by hard-working economically successful people.”
Catching, how? For its ring of truth?
I work with an almost entirely Medicaid-insured population. I wouldn’t say that they are covetous or envious, but they do, absolutely, appropriate the earning of hard-working folks.
Before anyone jumps on me, I care very deeply about my patients and their families; I’ve turned down opportunities to work at hospitals which attract a more affluent clientele.
But there is definitely a sense, in some of these folks, of getting everything they can without paying for it.
Here’s a comment I heard while packing up a baby to be discharged home: “Oh, and throw in a few extra pacifiers. Medicaid’s paying for it.”
And again, don’t let your heart start indignantly bleeding all over my comment. I don’t judge these people; God knows I wouldn’t want to live like a lot of them do. But there is absolutely a sense of entitlement out there.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 4:20 pm


John #8 and Matthew #10
Thanks. The issue for me is that sinfulness and evil are spread pretty evenly across the economic spectrum. Substantial numbers of people vote for policies in both major parties based on selfish benefit, not what will produce a more just society. Justice is a complex balancing act betwen a multitude of rights and obligations. The “corrective” action we take on one issue always has consequences for other rights and obligations.
Justice will not just say there are selfish wealthy people, so we need to redistribute their wealth. Justice will say there are selfish wealthy people AND there are selfish poor people who have children outside of forming families, engage in substance abuse, won’t complete a basic education, etc. It will also acknowledge that there are a great many wealthy people that have worked hard, saved, and played by the rules to amass wealth and that there are many poor who for any number of reasons find themselves in need despite their best efforts. Justice balances all of these. Calls of “Tax the rich!” and “Too bad for the poor!” don’t cut it.
Republicans tend to lean toward one set of realities regarding justice and Democrats toward another. That is not entirely unhealthy in itself. But in our polarized “take no prisioners” culture, finding the right mix that brings the greatest justice is next to impossible. One would hope we could be having these conversations within the Church but the Church just mirrors the cultural divides.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 4:30 pm


Marcia
What is lost in that statement from the study is the phrase “coercive power of the state.”
In the midst of all the rhetoric from every side lies the coercive power of the state.
Did these people with the sense of entitlement coerce the state to give benefits to them?
Or did the wealthy populace coerce the state to take the money from them and transfer it to those who applied for it?
I think you are left with the coercive state. I find it interesting that, regardless of which group is in power, the coercive state seems to march forward with its agenda, leaving others to argue the merits of the coercive policies of the state.
Are we left thinking that religious conservatives have made an impact on politics because President Bush started faith based initiatives for religious organizations to distribute federal funds? Has anything really changed? Does this study show anything of significance? Or does it simply provide a conversation starter?
So while we banter about welfare mentality or wealthy superiority, what has really taken place in the scenario? What encroachments have taken place. Who made them? Why? Does it matter?



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Mike Mangold

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:12 pm


Is this a “Dewey Defeats Truman” thing? Are those who have enough extra money for computers and internet access more conservative than those who do not?
I’m going to hang onto this next question until Scot hits me on the head with his intellectually subtle hammer: what right do we as Christians have to impose Christian values on others? Is that implicit in the Great Commission? Be careful: government “handouts” can be seen as a secular version of Christian charity; the drug war as a secular version of keeping our bodies sacred as the temples of God; while capital punishment and wars muddy up the picture. Is socialized medicine a grander scale of “healing the sick” and subsidized housing a larger version of “housing the homeless?” Just wondering.



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Dana Ames

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:13 pm


Well Ben,
today’s my day to be knocked over ;)
I think all your questions are very good ones and need to be seriously engaged.
BTW, I just finished reading David Kuo’s book “Tempting Faith” It was very eye-opening wrt the seductivity of raw power and how folks of all political stripes who go to DC with the best of intentions become desperate to hold onto that power- Kuo likens it to The One Ring in “Lord of the Rings”.
Coffee time-
Dana



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:31 pm


Mike #17
“what right do we as Christians have to impose Christian values on others?”
Where have you seen Christians “impose” their values on others? Laws are made by citizens who bring their values into the marketplace of ideas and persuade a majority to vote according to what they think is right. Christians are citizens. How are there efforts to assemble a majority any different from any other group assembling a majority? Why is it imposing when Christians do it?



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Mike Mangold

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:46 pm


Michael: blue laws; slavery, both sides; voting rights; death penalty; to name a few off the top of my head.
That’s why we have a Bill of Rights: to keep the “efforts to assembly a majority” from oppressing the minority in your “marketplace of ideas.” It’s imposing no matter who does it. But that’s not my point so don’t get caught up in that word: my questions still stand.



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Mike Mangold

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:59 pm


Oh yeah, and that whole gay marriage issue.



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Rob Dunbar

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:04 pm


Michael,
Regarding Mike’s post #17, my take on the current situation for the Democrats is that this is where they are going as they try to court that vast Evangelical vote. The rhetoric I hear is that, by voting Democrat, we vote for Christian compassion and Christian social justice. Same song, alternate chorus. Sorry if that sounds cynical.
My own thought is that we have let politics split us as believers rather than speaking to the church to be the body of Christ. Being missional ought to mean that we, as the Body of Christ in the world, accept OUR obligation to show the love of Jesus by feeding the poor, clothing the naked, comforting the fatherless. These are the works of the Church, done for the glory of Jesus Christ, and He made it plain that we would be judged by how well we personally fulfilled all these commands of His. The sheep and the goats–“I was sick, and you did not comfort Me.” Whatever govt. does, govt. does to create civil order rather than to build the Kingdom of God.
I have mixed feelings about the whole deal. I want a compassionate government that meets the needs of the poor but I’m cynical about the kingdoms of men building the Kingdom of God. Does anyone else feel that way? Does that explain our confusion, uncertainty, and political variants?



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:10 pm


Mike #20
I still don’t follow your question? In a democracy, the will of the majority is imposed on the minority (within the limitations provided in the Constitution)? Is your question, How can a Christian participate in a democracy?



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Mike Mangold

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:13 pm


Rob: good insights. I value Marcia’s mission most of all. By comforting sick children, she helps “the least of these.” She lives out her obligation.



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Mike Mangold

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:19 pm


Michael (#23): no, my questions have to do with defining our values and missions for ourselves. I think that a person can justify just about ANYTHING by claiming it is God’s will and referring to scripture to back it up. And then convincing others that he or she is right. Maybe I’ve been in Wisconsin too long but that attitude remains a clear and present danger.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:42 pm


Mike,
If Marcia is doing what Christ told her to do, “Helping the least of these,” then she does so in this case only with the permission and authority of Caesar. It is not done strictly in obedience to His command.
Of course, this has nothing to do with the personal motives of Marcia. They are not at question.
But your question deals with the possibilities of how the will of God may or may not be accomplished in this world. But in spite of the answers one may give, the spiritial dichotomy of the people on this earth remains. There are only two distinct groups and those distinctions remain.
The problem comes when those distinctions are not recognized or they are abandoned to reach some goal deemed to be higher than the distinctions. This causes one group to leave their politics and enter the politics of the other realm, all for a noble goal. The result is a mishmash of conflict, which is what we have today in this country. Two diametrically opposite realms with distinct authority and responsibility before God, yet one is not content enough to remain where God has placed Her. She must attempt to coopt the authority of the other, all without the mandate or blessing of God. Frustrating, indeed, which describes the state of modern Christians and their forays into secular politics.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:50 pm


#22 Rob
I think of the New Creation (i.e., Kingdom of God) in our age as being both the gathered (ekklesia) in a community and the scattered (diaspora) throughout the world. As ekklesia, I think we need to talk about the core ethical values of the New Creation. We need to show great restraint in “baptizing” specific policies and strategies for political agendas. I like what you wrote. We need to be about fulfilling our missional obligation as the Church.
However, we are also the Church in diaspora, scattered throughout the world in our daily obligations. One of the ways we participate in that world is as citizens and policy shapers. We need to bring our New Creation values into that arena. We may join up with others, Christian or otherwise, who share our policy passions and organize for democratic change. That is our work in diaspora but our work as ekklesia needs to stay at a distance from this. It should be a place where we can bring our public policy concerns and discuss them within our missional community but it should be a place where people of diverse public policy positions can worship Christ together.
The diverse experience we bring from our work in diaspora into the ekklesia is what helps shape the community as it learns from varied individuals. But again, the ekklesia needs to be a equipper/facilitator/integrator, not a political policy club.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:51 pm


Dana,
Maybe a good questions would be:
Is Secular political power meant for God’s people to hold and exercise?



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:20 pm


Mike #25
“I think that a person can justify just about ANYTHING by claiming it is God’s will and referring to scripture to back it up. And then convincing others that he or she is right.”
True, but this would true for ANY position that someone advocates. They could justify their postion by bad statistics, prejudice toward a particular group, or because Elvis told them it was so at the WalMart. If they get enough people to go along, they will win.
Boneheaded Christians are just one variety of boneheadedness. The underlying assumption in democracy is that an occasional boneheaded act will happen but that the will of the public will usually give the best guidance. I am not disagreeing with you that Christians do a lot of boneheaded things. What I am not sure of is why boneheadedness by Christians merits special censor.
As Christians we are to participate in the debate in the public square and bring our values to bear on the issues of the day. There are tactful respectful ways to do this and some boneheaded ways to do this. That some Christian act like boneheads does not disqualify Christian participation altogether. That is my take.



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Diane

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:23 pm


I appreciate the comments that the poor can be as greedy and covetous as the rich, and I have seen this too I am sorry to say, but I am leery of equating the two groups. There’s a huge power disparity between the two groups. I don’t want to idealize poor people or demonize the wealthy, but my observation has been that the greedy poor are grasping for necessities or just a little bit more of something for nothing — maybe a bike or a TV– and that the greedy rich are grasping for millions and millions of dollars beyond what they need. And I do think that much more is expected of those to whom much is given, so I would tend to hold the rich to a higher standard. The actions of some of the very wealthy do set a tone of excess, I think. I was shocked to read several years ago that the new Dutch owner of Bethlehem Steel gave his daughter a $55 million wedding. Not a $5.5 million wedding, which I would also have found excessive, but $55 million on a wedding at Versailles. The company he owns had prior to the wedding managed to ditch their health care responsibilites to their Baltimore retirees, but even had they not, $55 million for a wedding sets a tone that says “hey we’re all entitled to whatever we can get.” The key is, how do we resist this no matter where we are on the economic ladder and start envisioning something better?



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Rob Dunbar

posted March 27, 2007 at 8:02 pm


Diane,
I think you’re right; that is the key question: “How do we resist this no matter where we are on the economic ladder and start envisioning something better?” I’m sure the president of Bethlehem Steel is scrupulous about paying whatever taxes he, and his company, absolutely must pay. Putting a high tax obligation on someone doesn’t end greed, though. Did you know that when Rich Mullins was one of the top CCM artists in the country, he made a deal with his record company? The deal was that he’d be paid what the average American worker made at the time and the rest of his take would go to charities he designated. He didn’t even want to know the amounts he donated.
What I think I think (and that isn’t a typo) is that we as the Body of Christ need to first agree on our Biblical obligations and the best way to live them out before we take to the political field. If we could speak with a truly united voice about greed, money, sexual immorality, violence, racism, and the whole gamut of social evil–and, perhaps, if we addressed this with the term “social evil” rather than “social justice”–we would be more effective. And perhaps we’d be less likely to be pawns at war with each other, fully convinced that we are doing the work of Christ while we tear at each other’s throats.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 8:03 pm


The problem with modern Christians is that we can’t even hold our own people to a higher standard. We’re just like the world we look down our long pious noses at. While looking to the world and their infrastructure to accomplish what they have been designed by God to do, we waste the holy gifts and abilities the Holy Spirit has endowed us with. Instead, we want what the world has. And we’re not content until we get it. The only problem is that once we get it, We don’t handle it any better then the world. We suffer the same fate as the world.
We are the most powerful people on earth. Yet we think we need the political structures of the world in order for the world to understand our power. We don’t like to be laughed at, so we want to be like the world and be accepted by them, when in fact they hate us and will never give up their power. That’s the reason so many are confused and frustrated and warped.
We don’t realize that we’ve traded our birthright for a mess of political pottage. And we are impotent because of it. And we will remain so until we get back to operating the way God designed us to.
Until we do, we are open to the lure and deception of power not intended for us, at least not yet



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Scot McKnight

posted March 27, 2007 at 8:07 pm


Ben,
Now I’m thinking you are both Libertarian politically and Anabaptist in Church-State relations — that is, government leave everyone alone and leave it to the individuals to care for the poor and Church take care of Church/gospel stuff and let the State take care of the State.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 27, 2007 at 8:22 pm


Scot,
Be careful. You might be applying labels when you have no business doing so. :-)
Those tags have implications which might not come into play in what I’m saying. If you go back to conversations over the last couple of days, these false dichotomies and extremes may come into play, as well as certain Scripture taken out of context. That’s the problem with labels, as you’ve pointed out before.
Truth be told, politically speaking, I’m Ekklesia, all the way, with Ambassadorial duties of the highest order. Libertarians and Anabaptists don’t reflect the proper political order of Scripture as reflected by Christ and His Apostles. Neither do modern American Christians.
Take a long swig before you respond. ;-)



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Michael Kruse

posted March 27, 2007 at 8:50 pm


Diane #30
Diane, I hear your concerns. Yes, there are some outrageous examples of excesses by the wealthy. But consider that 7% of the population has a net value of one million dollars or more. Eighty percent of millionaires were not born that way. They live in homes of about median value. They buy mundane domestic cars used and drive them for years. They don’t go into excessive debt. Half took the risk of starting and running their own business. They are frugal with their money and invest it carefully. They also account for half of all charitable giving. The top 10% of all earners pay 66% of federal income taxes.
You are right that the wealthy have a higher obligation. These stats suggest that they are shouldering a large responsibility and are reasonably responsible with their wealth, anecdotes of eccentric individuals notwithstanding. How much is enough? Because the issues are a complex balance of rights and obligations we have very faithful believers coming down in different places. What I am concerned about is that the Church be driven by achieving a vision of biblical justice and not by ideologies of the various political factions.



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Diane

posted March 28, 2007 at 6:36 am


I’m probably too late for this thread. I don’t think political solutions are necessarily the best, especially if they breed resentment and divide people. As a Christian, I’m talking about a heart change: a heart change where no rich person would have an excessive wedding because it would seem disgusting. Not enviable but sickening, just as now having a gladiator tournament to entertain wedding guests would not be done. This is more prophetic dream than reality, I realize … But I think Christians can start changing the world… if you are in church where people are going to accord you higher status and more respect for giving to the poor than driving a fancy car … people will tend to respond in their behavior. It’s not about being judgmental. And I don’t want to seem to attack the many wealthy people who are good stewards of their money and do good works. However, what stands out are the bad apples, and I think this trickles through the economy. I do think CEOs who make mind-boggling huge compensations put the idea in people’s minds, at least subtly: well, my $250K, $500K salary, though really quite a lot, is paltry.



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Marcia

posted March 28, 2007 at 7:03 am


Wow. What an awesome discussion. Instead of pointing fingers and shrieking at others for having different views, as I’ve often witnessed in other places, y’all are actually listening to each other and trying to figure out a solution.
No one answered me in the other thread about if it is okay to address several comments in one of my own, so I guess I’ll continue to do so until I am told to stop.
Mike #24: Thanks for valuing what I do. But don’t be so quick to assign altruistic motives to me; as an immature college student choosing a major, I didn’t have too many of those. As time has gone on I have tried to view my job as service to Christ, but I think that everyone can do that in whatever field they may be in.
Benjamin, all of your comments: They sort of go over my head; however, I would like to understand what you are saying. Is there a book or some articles you would recommend?
Scot #33: There are certainly things to be valued in both the Libertarian (man, I have trouble typing that word, for some reason) and Anabaptist views in the area of poverty and wealth.
Michael Kruse and Diane both: Your comments are real food for thought. Thanks for taking the time to articulate them.
I’ve been reading Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and it leaves me so confused. I feel privileged to be able to discuss this stuff with such insightful, intelligent folks. Thank you, Scot, for providing a forum.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 28, 2007 at 8:49 am


Marcia #37
Hi Marcia, I read Rich Christians in college about ’78 or ’79. It is has had many revisions since. It was an important book for me in framing a number of questions, even though I eventually came down in a different place than Sider does in a number of cases. I had Dr. Sider for a class in the late ’88, while a grad student at Eastern University, and I served on the board of JustLife with him in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is an exceptional person for whom I have great respect.
I am told that some Christian colleges have classes where Sider’s Rich Christians is read along with a more recent book called The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth by John R. Schneider. (While getting the link for this at Amazon, Sider’s book pops up in the “Better Together” section where they try to get you to buy two books instead of one.) Schneider is writing with Sider in mind. He gives a strong counterpoint to some of Sider’s views.
If you like web videos, Ron Sider and Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute debated each other last fall at Calvin Theological Seminary. I did a brief post with a link to the video of the 1.5 hour debate: Ronald Sider and Robert Sirico Debate Wealth and Poverty
Also, if you want some help in thinking about public policy in a way that transcends narrow partisanship, I would highly recommend Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation. It was edited by Sider and the late Diane Knippers, who I had the privilege of working with on a number of issues. (It was sort of a left/right collaboration.) Last year I summarized all sixteen essays: Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Index
Sider is one of the pioneers in getting Evangelicals re-engaged with the world after their mid-twentieth century retreat. For whatever disagreements I have with Rich Christians, it was a major catalyst for change.



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Marcia

posted March 28, 2007 at 12:42 pm


Michael, thank you for all of those resources. I am watching the debate right now; good stuff.
Benjamin, thank you for taking the time to come by and comment at my blog. You were the only one who really got what I was trying to say with that post.
I am multi-tasking around the house right now and will respond later when I can spend the time concentrating on what you said.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 28, 2007 at 12:47 pm


I have to really wonder.
Where in the Word of God are we told to change the world?
Why do we keep trying to reform the world system and its citizens when Christ has told us He came to save the World and transform them into new political citizens.
Paul told us that “our politics” is in Heaven. Jesus spoke of distinctly different realms for His People when He referred to that which was Caesar’s and that which was God’s.
Do we gloss over such distinctions in our holy zeal to offer sacrificial service to God on behalf of any political party? Are we actually offering “strange fire”, something not meant to be offered to Him, something He has not called for?
It seems that we keep trying to re-make that which continues to fail. We keep expecting something to change because of our honorable intentions. As Kings and Priest of God, we should be more in tune with what God’s Word actually says. But modern Christians keep realizing the same type of dethronement experienced by King Saul because of his rebellious sacrifice to God. We’ve lost our ruling influence and powerful witness and will continue to do so unless and until we get back to a plain understanding of Scripture.
We can talk all day, we can philosophize, we can come to a consensus. But until we allow the Word of God to determine the parameters of our actions, all we do is spit into the wind, all pious intentions notwithstanding.



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Dana Ames

posted March 28, 2007 at 3:07 pm


I do agree that the bible has to be what we look to first. After we do that, though, Ben, we tend to fall into the same old trap of arguing about whose interpretation of the bible is “Correct”. I’m so very tired of that.
But here is something I find in the bible, that Jesus said:
“As the father sent me, so I send you.”
That has really given me pause lately, as I consider how exactly the father sent Jesus, and why.
What did Jesus do? Broadly, he proclaimed the Kingdom, he taught about the Kingdom, and he manifested the Kingdom through healing (D. Willard). Various groups of Christians usually emphasize one of those things- and that’s where they stop. I think we are supposed to do all three, wherever we are in life and however that works out in hearing from God in our own situatedness. (I have not found any place in the gospels where Jesus said that salvation/redemption/restoration of right relationship with God is the result merely of assenting to correct doctrine. The word for “belief” in Greek also means Trust, and I think the two meanings must be held together as we consider the word “pistis” throughout the NT.)
But there’s more. Then Jesus was crucified. Yes, he was resurrected, but not before he was crucified.
I believe that we are also called to suffering and death as part of God’s purposes for the church. Perhaps literal untimely death before old age, perhaps not. But we don’t hear this idea preached from pulpits. (Please understand that I’m not talking about replacing what Jesus has done in *any* way, or about any kind of “works-righteousness”.)
I am so risk-averse to crucifixion. But I can’t get past it if I take seriously what Jesus said.
Dana



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Michael Kruse

posted March 28, 2007 at 3:10 pm


Benjamin #40
Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I don’t take that as a command to set passively by, hoping it will come. I take it as a call to engage the world, always recognizing that the Kingdom will not fully come until Christ returns. We are to be an image of the future New Creation living in the present, giving witness of what is to come.
I wrote a post sometime back called Paul’s Subversion of the Empire. There were no police forces in Greco-Roman. Government entities and voluntary organizations for addressing the needs of the common people did not exist. The fundamental institution for keeping the social order was the household. The paterfamilias (male householder) was to rule over his household and compel order. He theoretically had the power of life and death over the members of the household (though this was changing by NT times.)
Paul introduces a new ethic. There is no longer the slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, or male and female. We are made one body in Christ. He subverts the Greco-Roman model of order by domination with an ethic other-centered love and mutual submission (see my analysis of Ephesians 5 and 6 in the linked post.) Were this ethic to spread from household to household, the entire political and social power structure of the Empire would have been transformed. Regrettably, initial gains were reversed as the Church allowed itself to become re-infused with the power hierarchies of the age. But the initial implication of Paul’s teaching was deeply subversive and deeply political.
In our present context, we have the opportunity to have direct input into governance that Paul would not have dreamed of. Generally speaking, I think the role of the Church, with regard to the state, is not to compel Christian behavior (regardless of whether that compulsion is from the right or the left.) There is a legitimate role for state use of power. I think it is to restrain evil enough that it “creates room for good things to run wild.” (A little Chesterton there.) The changing of people’s hearts and minds needs to come from the other-centered love of Christians giving birth to more other-centered believers. Eventually society is transformed but never to the utopia that the world will be upon Christ’s return. That is how I see it.



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 28, 2007 at 8:00 pm


Michael,
First of all, Jesus said to pray “Thy Kingdom come.” It is a prayer for God to do something, not a command from God to go and bring the kingdom to fruition.
When Jesus said, “The kingdom is among/within you,” He’s telling us the kingdom was already present. He also dealt with the present reality of the Kingdom when He spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 21:24 saying, “….The Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
This new nation is nothing more than the distinct dichotmy established with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Those who have chosen to obey God in faith have been at odds with those who have chosen to live outside the Presence of YHWH. The standards of both groups have been different and remain so today. I believe it is a mistake to give the impression that what Paul was saying was completely new and, because of its newness, it was subversive. It wasn’t. It was a continuation of the way of God for His People, a way which sinful rebellious man has always found to be contrary to what man wants to do. What is revealed in the NT is no different than what is revealed in the OT. Paul makes that clear with his numerous references to OT Scripture.
It is true that Paul dealt with scenarios in the Greco-Roman world of his day, which we essentially have today, scenarios which needed clarifying in the way they should be dealt with and lived out. But, for the most part, what Paul said was basic OT.
This is true also when Paul deals with the household structure. Your article deals only with one aspect of household relationships in isolation of the remainder of NT passages dealing with the same issues. (I simply point this out, not as a negative. You may deal with it elsewhere.)
You point out that Roman society had worship and voluntary organizations. Though you mentioned none specifically (maybe the synagogue), one was the Ekklesia. Interestingly enough, this was an assembly which called out the men to conduct the official business of the assembly. Though the household relationships of Romans were different (as you mentioned), this particuar Greco-Roman political entity fit perfectly God’s structure of the household as well as government on a large scale for His Body. Once again see, see OT.
You also mentioned the exemptions the Jews had under Roman rule from the requirements of these organizations. That’s true, but more interestingly, when they reorganized under the captivity from Babylon, they possess the ability to rule themselves, including the execution of sentances against criminal conduct, something they didn’t possess under Roman rule. They could try a person, one of their own, then they must deliver that person up to Roman authorities for either the execution of the sentence or the determination & execution of the sentence. This is what happens to Jesus and Paul alludes to this process in 1 Cor. 5, dealing with the man committing fornication.
Most people don’t realize that this has not changed in modern times. American Law gives these exact same exemptions to the true Ekklesia as well as the ability to govern themselves according to God’s law, even in matters of criminal behavior among their own. Most of God’s people are ignorant of this reality. I wonder why Christian Attorneys don’t mention this?
The availability of God’s people to live with their distinctives intact is there for us. As Christ said, the World and its citizens will always hate us because they hated Christ first. We are not called to change their society. We are called to live and preach to world citizens the message of reconciliation to a God whose political society is completely different. The most their society will have is reformation, the temporary reformation of sinners. Our political society is one of complete newness in The Eternal Lord of Lords. This is the narrow way of Christ. It does no mix with the world. It never has.
Do we choose that narrow way….or……do we choose the broad way of the World?



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Michael Kruse

posted March 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm


Benjamin #43
I familiar with the Anabaptist tradition and its separation of the church from the world. I am also familiar with the Lutheran ethics of two Kingdoms. What you are describing sounds very much like what I have heard in Lutheran conversations. I don’t find the hard distinctions these two traditions make between the two worlds or in the case you are making.
I understand the Lord’s prayer to be both a call for God’s action and an assent to be a part of bringing it about. I see the message of Scripture being one that calls us to be images of God at work in the world in every realm of human existence. We have the call to creation stewardship (working the earth) and the call to fill the world with Gods icons given in the first two chapters of Genesis. That “stewardship” and “filling” includes participation in all the structures that facilitate that. (Family, community, voluntary associations and government.) The fall did not negate God’s call for us to be involved in this exercise of dominion. We have the call of Christ as his body to carry on the works he started within the context of exercising our creation stewardship functions in the world. The Spirit empowers us for service in the world and in ekklesia.
The eschatology I read in the Bible is not one of inevitable decline into darkness and then Jesus comes. It is one of the world becoming more and more infused with images of the coming Kingdom. Evil will grow as well but God will unfold an ever clearer picture (in ebbs and flows) of his intentions for the world by the witness of his icons as they participate in every realm of human creation. At some point Christ steps in and completes the transformation into the New Creation. I don’t see either passive pietism or utopian optimism toward the structures of the world in the Word.
There is much in your post I would take issue with but we would be at this for days. This conversation goes well beyond the topic of this post except in that it highlights the diversity present in the term “conservative Christians.”



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Michael Kruse

posted March 28, 2007 at 8:57 pm


#44 correction
Hit return to quick last sentence of the first paragraph should have said:
“I don’t find the hard distinctions these two traditions make between the two worlds, or in the case you are making, presented in the Word.”



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Benjamin Bush Jr

posted March 29, 2007 at 8:38 pm


Michael,
I’m not really interested in the details of the Anabaptist or Lutheran tradition when it comes to politics. What the Word actually says is another matter.
You don’t find “hard distinctions”?
How about Jesus telling Pilate, when queried about his Kingship, that “my kingdom is not of this world.”?
How about Jesus refusing the offer of Satan to give Him the kingdoms of the world in excange for worship?
How about Paul in Philippians that “our politics is in Heaven.”?
How about Paul instructing Timothy to pray for all in authority because……….God would have all to be saved.
How about Paul reproving the Corinthian believers for taking one another to court before “the unbelievers.”
How about Paul earlier instructing these same believers to deliver the unrepentant brother “to Satan,” if he remained unrepentant.
How about Paul telling us that we are Ambassadors to the world.
How about Peter telling us that we are “Now the people of God”?
And John detiled too many distinctives to list.
These distinctives are not to be taken as either a “passive pitism or utopian optimism.” Far from it, the distinctives have deen ordained by God for our good. We should not shrink from the world in fear and isolation when it comes to reaching out to them in gospel love.
Nor does it mean that we adopt their ways and methodologies as our own, since the ways and thoughts of the God we serve are far above the world He came to save.
And yes, Scripture is very clear about His children not allowing themselves to be immersed in certain thoughts and actions which are detrimental to their souls.
As far as the Structures of this world, Jesus has some enlighteing things to say in that regard. Upon His death and resurrection, this World system and its Prince are judged and convicted, judgment issued. What has yet to take place is the execution of that Judgment against Satan and the World system.
Once this Writ of Execution is issued, the Second Adam, having reconciled all things to Himself, executes this judgment and sets Himself up to Rule over all the Earth as King.
And the original dominion mandate is fulfilled through the Kingship of the Second Adam.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 29, 2007 at 10:19 pm


Benjamin #46
Benjamin, by hard distinctions I was attempting to get at the idea that there is an earthly kingdom and heavenly Kingdom. What I am hearing you say is that there are two Kingdoms existing side by side. The Kingdom of God stays separate from the Kingdom of earth and tries to snatch people out of the Kingdom of Earth. After God has saved enough souls, he sounds the buzzer, Jesus Returns, wipes out the Kingdom of Earth and sets up his throne. That is what I am picking up.
I believe that God is not only redeeming human beings redeeming all of the created order including human institutions. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. It is in the hearts and minds of men and women who have become disciples. The disciples are sent into the world, into every realm of human existence to be God’s icons. Yes, that includes telling the good news. But it also includes doing bookkeeping, welding rivets, changing diapers and running for office in ways that reflect the character of God. Every aspect of life becomes part of our daily sacrifices to God; acts of worship. As we do these things we transform those institutions into reflections (yet still shadows) of the New Creation that is to come.
You mentioned Cain (#43) as the dividing point between the two kingdoms. Indeed. Cain departs God’s presence and attempts to create meaning for himself apart from God. He goes to settle in Nod, “the land of wandering.” He builds a city and starts a family. He names the city and his first son “Enoch” meaning “to initiate.” Cain is initiating civilization apart from God. Things deteriorate, humanity is destroyed, God starts over and humanity goes right to building Babel, the archetypical expression of defiance against God.
God eventually establishes a covenant with Abraham and sends him to occupy the land Baal worshipers. After his descendants spend a few hundred years wandering around, they finally take that land. Within that land was a city and region called Shalem. It was named after the local Baal god, which in turn was named after the evening star, Venus. It symbolized completeness or fullness, because the onset of nightfall is the completion of the day. The place was also called urushalem, “uru” meaning “foundation” or “city.” When David decided to set up a throne he chose this city. He altered the name by adding the first syllable of God’s name “Je” (Jehovah) and the name became “Jerusalem,” God’s city of completeness and fulfillment. What do we have at the end of the story? The New Jerusalem. God takes that which humanity intended as the ultimate human defiance, the city, and adds his name to it. He brings his people into it and then makes “the city” his eternal dwelling place. God is not just saving souls but redeeming all of creation.
Christopher Wright in “The Mission of God,” has a simple but wonderful diagram. There is a large triangle.
At the top of the triangle is “God.”
At bottom left is “humanity.”
At the bottom right is “the Earth.”
Inside that triangle, Wright places another smaller triangle with its top point touching the top point of the larger triangle. They both touch at God. With this triangle:
At the top of the triangle is “God.”
At bottom left is “Israel.”
At the bottom right is “the land.”
The smaller triangle is God’s Kingdom. He suggests that the mission of God in the world is to breath into that smaller triangle, expanding it ever outward to the point Israel becomes one in the same with humanity and “the land” becomes “the earth.” (The land would symbolize our material existence and the institutions that support it.)
It is my position that we because our identity is another kingdom, we are free from the trappings of this world. But it is also true that we are free to this world. We are free to be sent into the world to be God’s transforming instruments for humanity and all creation.
I don’t expect that I am going to convince you of anything but I hope this brings clarity to what I am suggesting. I am saying there are two distinct Kingdoms but the role of the Kingdom of God is not isolation. It is incarnation, infusion, and transformation until Christ returns to consummate the New Creation.



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