Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Truth about Conservatives 3

posted by xscot mcknight

In chp 4 of A. Greeley and M. Hout’s The Truth about Conservative Christians [CCs] the authors explore the statistics about the difference between African Americans and white Conservative Protestants (CPs). Listen to this conclusion:
“There may be a link between CC religious convictions and political behavior but it is modest, even by social science standards” (69). Now what this conclusion — and we’ll get into this below — is suggesting is that the reason for CCs (white) being Republican may not be attributable to theological convictions but to other factors.
Now the incisive point of this chp, calling into question whether or not it is theology that shapes the evangelical (white) political leaning: “Any attempt to forge a link of logical or doctrinal consistency between cons rel belief and cons politcs falters when one considers African American CCs” (69). Why? Religious African Americans are the most liberal political voting block in the USA.
52% of lower-income, white, CPs vote Democrat; 90% lower-income, AfrAm Prots vote Democrat. Race reshapes the link between CC and cons politics.
Is the white proclivity for cons politics “a protest against their perceived loss of political power, a protest only marginally linked to their religious convictions?” (71).
Conclusion: “Literal interpretation of the Bible and frequent religious practice push AfrAms toward the Democrats and whites toward the Republicans” (72). Read that twice and think about it. It boggles.
Now here it is put even more potently: “the Gospel [sic, gospel] does correlate with political orientation: the direction of correlation depends on believers’ social contexts, which in this case mans their differing racial ancestries” (72). Is this suggesting that folks vote on the basis of income/economic status, regardless of their faith, or that their faith supports their perceived income needs, or that one of these groups is consistent and the other one not?
Now they point fingers: “Liberals who decry the militant political stands of CPs should beware of trying to have it both ways when they turn around to praise the militant stands of Afro-American Prots” (74).
What haunted my mind as I read this chp? Do we simply use our theology to prop up our economic status or economic desires? Are many white CCs simply finding passages that justify their economic status of wealth and are AfrAms simply finding passages that justify their desire to rise in the economic world? This chp makes me go back to the Bible — “What does it say?,” I kept asking myself. Well, I justify myself, it says what I think it does — but does that mean “it says what my context wants me to see?” Lord have mercy.



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Ted Gossard

posted March 29, 2007 at 4:23 am


This does remind me so much that we read subjectively (of course inherent for us and even God) and are impacted by what is going on around us.
I have a certain paradigm in mind when I think of Jesus and his proclamation of the kingdom and “the Sermon on the Mount” and the holy nation that we are in him, on the earth. And I have certain paradigms in mind when I think of the Democratic and Republican parties here in the United States. And I subjectively vote or think according to how this tracks with my understanding of the Jesus paradigm. So that I really don’t care for much of what I hear from Washington on either side. And I’m afraid we Christians have bought more into one of the two major political paradigms than we’ve bought into the Jesus paradigm in how we think and live.



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Greg Laughery

posted March 29, 2007 at 4:55 am


We might use our theology to prop up a variety of things that you mention, but I wonder if we are enslaved to having to do so. If the Scripture always and only says what ‘I’ think it does, I could never be right/wrong.
Yes, to some degree “it says what my context wants me to see”, but perhaps this is not fully deterministic. Seems our deepest identity is discovered in the biblical narrative and not ultimately from context. Could we say that the biblical is primary and the context secondary, and that both are important, just not equally so?



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Ted Gossard

posted March 29, 2007 at 5:23 am


One thing I want to make clear and not be misunderstood. Christians who vote on either side are not necessarily fallen prey to my generalizations. Someone like Michael Kruse thoughtfully engages the world with the Scriptural text and then draws conclusions about how he is going to act from that. Whereas what I’m referring to in the first comment is not that, but the failure of us to do so.



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Rich

posted March 29, 2007 at 6:30 am


Scott,
Doesn’t this correlate with your earlier post about Mark’s book talking about different readings of a passage of scripture? In that post you were talking about readings of the pastorate vs laiety, or Russians and Tanzanians, but do not the same cultural divides exist between black and white congregations.
What other divides would we find between rural and metropolitan, urban vs. suburban, midwestern vs. coastal? Are we not merely talking about seeing scripture and applying it through our own cultural lenses.

The other problem with trying to tie political party affinity to religious or spiritual or doctrinal positions is not that people use the scripture to support there political positions, they do. It is that political positions are defined more by the social or economic problems that are considered most important.
It is not necessarily that we disagree about what scripture says about an issue, but which issues we want government to solve for us, and with what priority.
Rich



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Dan

posted March 29, 2007 at 7:06 am


I can only speak for myself. I was raised by a less than well-to-do white farmer/rancher who remained a staunch democrat till the day he died. I have voted mostly Republican for the last 25 years and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my economic status, which is nothing to brag about. It has everything to do with the entire democratic party walking in absolute lock-step on abortion, refusing even to consider the medical, not religious, evidence that life begins at conception.
As for my views on economic policy, my only question to the democratic party is this: “Have you policies to diminish racism and to improve the plight of the poor worked?”
Scot wrote “Well, I justify myself, it says what I think it does — but does that mean “’it says what my context wants me to see?’ Lord have mercy.”
I respond, once again, though it will fall on deaf ears, scripture says much about caring for the poor, but simply does not tell us which government policy will be the best one to acheive that end. If any of us on the right or the left is looking to the Bible for a magic government solution – we’re wasting a lot of time and energy. On the other hand, I defy anyone who votes for the monolithically pro-abortion democrats to show me a single verse of scripture that can be used to justify killing the unborn.
Maybe the focus needs to be on why the African American CCs can’t bring themselves to face that issue instead of slandering white CCs for their alleged lack of compassion. I’ve had enough of that stereotype.



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Chase

posted March 29, 2007 at 7:17 am


I think on both sides of this issue, peolpe use the name of Jesus to argue their political bents.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 29, 2007 at 7:33 am


Dan,
I like your comment … it clearly illustrates the chapter. Many do vote Republican for just the reasons you say, but the same Scriptures are valued or sorted differently by others and lead them to vote Democrat. No one denies that our theology shapes our voting; what this chp concludes is that our economic conditions shape our voting more. I think the way to say is that there is a greater correlation between economic status and party than theology and party.



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Jacob

posted March 29, 2007 at 7:43 am


Both political parties whore themselves out to differing religious values – but neither holds much integrity to the values they proclaim for political advantage. With few things able to solidify a voting block as much as the “God says” factor, it’s not surprising that religion has become politicized.
I think the split between white protestant CC’s & african american CC’s is evidence that pastors and religious leaders (from both sides) have done a poor job of resisting the seduction of political power plays.



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Dan Brennan

posted March 29, 2007 at 8:05 am


Scot,
This post reminds me of when I first met my soon to be furture in-laws (“white”). I was on the conservative side both theologically and politically. They were theological conservatives but far to the left, politically. They grew up dirt poor during the depression and their poverty shaped their views of politics. We had some great discussions.



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John Frye

posted March 29, 2007 at 8:22 am


Without being reductionistic, I think the issue of privilege (whites with power) and the issue of minority status (blacks and powerless) shapes political values more than the Bible. These realities are mostly unconscious in whites (I found out by attending an eye-opening, even jolting racial reconciliation seminar). A black pastor who is a friend of mine moved to Grand Rapids, MI and in two years time was pulled over by the police 20 times for no apparent reason other than that he was black. I told him that I had been in Grand Rapids 20 years and have never been pulled over because I was white. My black brother certainly has a different concept of police power than I do. It’s no wonder his political views varied from mine.



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Anonymous

posted March 29, 2007 at 9:30 am


Words – » Blogs in Review 3/29/07

[…] Scot McKnight (http://www.jesuscreed.org) continues his series on the Truth About Conservatives with part three and discusses Women in Ministry with a look at Mary. […]



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Brian

posted March 29, 2007 at 10:24 am


All cultures and subcultures have defining values that must be propagated to promote their survival. Religion is a natural vehicle to be used to this end. It is therefore not surprising that the church takes on this role. Whether or not it should do so, and under what circumstances, is a big question.



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Matthew

posted March 29, 2007 at 10:43 am


We are all prisoners of our culture. That is part of the hermeneutical spiral. We come to the text with questions and presuppositions that are culturally conditioned. We keep trying to obey what we read, and we keep modifying our understanding of what we read. As we apply our interpretation of Scripture within our culture, we begin to have new and better questions and updated presupposition to bring to the text. And so it spirals. This is true within world cultures, say American vs. African. It also is true within different cultures even in the same country.
I believe this is the cause of Scot’s cry, “…but does that mean “it says what my context wants me to see?” Lord have mercy.”



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Matthew

posted March 29, 2007 at 10:50 am


follow-up to #12: the end result is that each person in each culture ought to walk more and more in the Spirit. Different people within different cultures may vote different parties and such, but each individual believer (and community of believers) ought to be more and more Spirit-led and less and less flesh-led.



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Bob

posted March 29, 2007 at 11:36 am


following #13; I believe that much would be “solved” by following the Spirit too but am still afraid my white, middle-class paradigm follows me even there. I have the Word and prayer to lead me but sin is still a powerful enemy that shapes my views.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm


I think we have to look at perceptions of how justice is achieved. Some history review.
The Republican Party has a reputation for being the party of industry and enterprise. From the Civil War up until the 1920s Republicans were the party of business AND labor. Democrats were the party of agricultural. Republicans were perceived as the party of emancipation and Democrats as the party of segregation until the 1960s.
Democrats became the party of labor unions in the early 20th Century at the same time Blacks in the South were migrating to the North for blue collar employment in industrial centers. The New Deal programs of the 1930s to help the poor pealed off some of the monolithic Black support for Republicans. However, as late as 1956, Eisenhower got 39% of the Black vote and Nixon got 32% in 1960. The turning point was the Civil Rights movement over the next decade or so. After Democrats thoroughly embraced the Civil Rights movement, the Black vote has been nearly 90% Democrat in national elections.
The claim is made that the affluent more inclined to vote Republican. I think some segmentation is required. Studies I have read over the years show that the majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are Democrats. Donations by corporate charitable trusts and trusts by top industry leaders are given to Left leaning causes to a much greater degree. Also, an important competitive advantage for businesses is creating barriers to potential competitors entering the market. Large corporations very often like and prefer regulation. Regulation is costly to comply with. Regulation costs them earnings but the trade off is that it makes the barrier very high for any entity wanting to enter their market. You have to look at this industry by industry but this is often the case. Furthermore, most top execs. and board members are part of an incestuous cadre of folks from elite institutions whose values have been anything but conservative for many decades.
The Republican Party of the last thirty years (at least) has become the party of the entrepreneurial class and the new wealthy. As I commented earlier in this thread of posts, the majority of millionaires (top 7% of the population) are folks who live in modest homes, drive used cars, and are frugal with their many. Half have taken the risk and devoted the hard work to starting their own businesses. People like this, and people who aspire to be like them, are a major base of the Republican Party.
Now compare this Republican base with the Black political base. The Republican entrepreneurial base sees justice in terms of being freed from oppressive interference of big government (who is often seen as being in cahoots with big business) so that they can amass wealth and grow their businesses. Personal freedom is guaranteed by reducing government restraint and intervention.
For Black Americans, personal freedom has come from solidarity with the group influencing government to increase government restraint and intervention on their behalf against oppressive forces. To split the Black vote is often viewed as leaving the community vulnerable to exploitation by the majority (Based on history, is this surprising?) The Black vote is diluted. What we have are two groups, White CPs and Black CPs, who have polar opposite perceptions of how justice is secured.
Sorry for the length. These are not the only issues by far. I just wanted to make the case that while the surface stats may indicate a correlation between affluence and voting, correlation does not always translate directly into causation. I think the underlying dynamics are much much more complex.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 29, 2007 at 2:44 pm


Ted #3
BTW, thanks for your kind affirmation.



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Matt Stephens

posted March 29, 2007 at 10:33 pm


Michael K,
Praise God for some sound input amidst our gropings (No offense, others, myself included).
Scot,
This one’s touchy. I mean, so touchy that we probably can’t explore it too deeply without all hell breaking loose.
Let me just mention this (I’ll leave it intentionally very vague). But before I mention anything, let me be clear that when I refer to “African American (AA) culture”, I’m not making a blanket statement about all “people of color” who happen to live in America. There are plenty of African Americans who aren’t, culturally speaking, very “black” (and AA’s know what I mean here). Think Tiger Woods vs. Juvenile. Enough said on that.
I’ve spent some significant, quality time with African American friends at college, in ministry with them very closely, and ministering to them (mostly inner city). And all I can say is that AA “family values” are night-and-day different from middle-class, white “family values”. Even at different socio-economic levels, AA’s on the whole identify more with one another than do whites of differing socio-economic positions. In the AA community, there’s more of a sense of empathy, of connectedness across the board. In other words, lower, middle, and upper class AAs have a lot more in common than do lower, middle, and upper class whites. Has anyone here read much by Ruby Payne (A Framework for Understanding Poverty)? Someone more educated on the subject (and more gutsy) than I can explain the family values bit. Trust me, it will shed a lot of light on AA politics, especially the abortion issue.
(By the way, will one of my AA brothers and sisters in Christ let me know if “black” is an ok term, because several folks I know prefer that to “AA”. Just wondering if there’s a consensus on that.)
Now to the whole theology issue, I think it’s a lot simpler than we make it out to be. In my view, most of us struggle with severity to reduce the color or thickness of our “lens” to a point where we can approach the Bible openly. Most of us here would agree that approaching it 100% objectively is impossible. It’s been said, and I concur. And God’s not hitting himself upside the head because of it. He wired us that way, and He inspired the Bible taking this into account. However, it would do Right and Left-wingers a great deal of good to do a scrupulous critique of their lenses from time to time. Heck, it would do us all good (and I think a lot of it goes on on blogs like this). What I see as the biggest problem related to our lenses is not our tendency to interpret one scripture or another a certain way, but to prooftext, i.e. pick and choose which ones fit our preconceived theology (the one that rubs us the best) and ignore the rest. I’m sorry to have to say it, but in my experience, Lefties are guilty of this to a greater extent than Righties. It’s sort of in their epistemological DNA. And they would not argue with this. So I see the biggest interpretive issue being our tendency to argue away (or just plain ignore) whatever the Bible says that doesn’t fit into our neat little theological box. And to me, that happens an awful lot when it comes to social politics.
Again, forgive me for being vague. I wish I could say more. Maybe a better opportunity will present itself later on in the discussion.



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James MacMillan

posted March 30, 2007 at 1:54 am


Good morning,
Two years ago I moved to the Netherlands – I am American, white, Christian, and lefty. (I came here for personal, not political reasons.)
In the Netherlands I am a member of a Dutch church that is the closest thing that I have found to the church that I attended in the US. Theologically it is almost an exact match. But there are profound differences between the way that the Dutch members of our church view and interact with our church and society and the way that I do.
I now live somewhat in the same culture as my Dutch sisters and brothers – I eat the same food, I read the same papers, in the same language, I have the same problems in our neighborhood, and we worship together and share the discussion of how to work out the gospel in our lives. We agree on what the gospel is, but frequently, the way we would apply the gospel is quite different.
After two years, I am still occasionally surprised at how things that to me are so fundamentally one way, can be so obviously another way for my Dutch friends. And politically, what is considered to be in the center here is in some ways considerably to the left of where my heart is. But no matter what issue we are discussing, we can always find a meeting point in the gospel. The very deed of acknowledging it brings about a softening, and a unity of purpose that allows us to live together in respect and love.
Q. (Scot) Do we simply use our theology to prop up our economic status or economic desires?
A. Often. When we do, we are using theology to affirm ideas and situations that separate us by defining our differences from the people around us, rather than grasping ahold of what brings us together.
Q 1. (me) 1. How can we keep the gospel as part of the conversation of how we as Christians interact with our government(s) (voting, obedience, etc.)?
Q 2. How can we keep the gospel as part of the conversation of how we as Christians interact with Christians from other cultures, which vary widely within the US?



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Ted Gossard

posted March 30, 2007 at 2:09 am


Matt and others, I think we do engage in involuntary selective reading when we read Scripture. But we have to keep working at it, continuing to read Scripture and others who do to try to more and more take in the whole with the details.
That being said, I think there’s plenty of problems on all political sides of where Christians stand. I’m not enthusiastic about either party. And as many Christians think, when voting, we often feel we’re trying to vote for the lesser of two evils. For me neither party is pro-life. And I have to weigh everything as much as possible in light of Scripture and of God’s kingdom come in Jesus.
In the end I’m less than sanguine and optimistic about it. Except that God is at work. I take it all with plenty of reservations except that God is bigger.



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Matt Stephens

posted March 30, 2007 at 10:59 am


The most frustrating thing to me about the whole predicament is that there are really only 2 legitimate options, so we’re stuck with one or the other. Unless America as a whole gets fed up with bipartisanship altogether, enough to vote alternative party presidents and top officials into office, I don’t see much hope of my ever being able to support the Rep’s or Dem’s with any degree of faithfulness. Dem’s think it’s the government’s job to solve the evils of society (It’s not, it’s the Church’s), and Rep’s esteem free market capitalism above all else (including “family values”). Neither of these platforms are consistent with the Gospel as I see it.
Interesting note that I forgot to mention last night, but in a lot of ways, the Dem and Rep parties switched roles in the mid-late 1900s, did they not? (I confess, as Scot pointed out on another post, that my grasp of historical specifics is embarrassingly weak.) This would explain people my grandparents’ age who stuck with the Dem. party even through the changes. In many ways, retired and elderly folks find it overwhelming, often impossible, to keep up with the exponential plethora of knowledge that is necessary to stay abreast of modern societal issues. Heck, I find it overwhelming. I find it exceedingly difficult to find time for family, friends, God, ministering to others, holding down the fort at home, and staying up to speed on all the latest news. There was a time when one could “know it all” (wasn’t Aristotle considered a literal “know it all”? Or was that Plato? Or…), but not anymore. With all of the freedoms and conveniences of the information age comes an utter helplessness to know anything, relatively speaking. Our school systems are not preparing kids for the real world, much less for the realm of politics. There’s a reason we elect someone else to make decisions for us. There isn’t enough time in a day to remain savvy of the numerous, diverse, and complex issues which effect and are affected by the political sphere. Various news media give us just enough to convince us that we’re “educated” enough to make reasonable judgments. I’m afraid we’re fooling ourselves.



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Doug Allen

posted March 30, 2007 at 5:03 pm


Interesting topic. My impression is that most select and/or interpret Biblical verse to justify their political beliefs which showcases why blogs like this one are so important.
James McMilan in the Netherlands alludes to something that I’ve read a number of times- In Europe, the more religious you are, as measured by self-declaration or church attendance, the more left of center you are as a voter. Thus, Europeans (race undefined) are more like African Americans than white Americans.
Matt Stephens-
Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced the role of solving “the evils of society.” For example, the Republicans gradually became the party of emancipation during the mid-1800’s. I’ll grant you that the parties indeed did change somewhat, and it was the Democrats who embraced the civil rights revolution of the mid-1900’s. If political parties had waited for the church to solve these “evils of society,” we might still have slavery or, at least, segregation. Today, many Republicans see the “homosexual agenda” as an societal evil whereas many Democrats see homophobia as a societal evil, and the churches, too, (and many within the churches) are divided on this issue.
Dan-
If I am not mistaken, the number of abortions have been lower during Democratic administrations than during Republican administrations because Democrats provide more money for Medicaid and other social programs and also raise the minimum wage so that poor people are better able to afford children (and perhaps more hopeful about their future).
Doug Allen



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Matt Stephens

posted March 31, 2007 at 10:54 am


Doug,
I certainly overstated (or perhaps understated) myself with regard to distinguishing factors between D & R parties. What I meant was that they go about solving societal problems (for what else do governments exist?) in rather different ways–D’s by way of social programs, R’s by way of feeding the economy in order to “bring everyone up” and also by way of legislating morality. D’s take a more direct approach, whereas R’s rely pretty heavily on assumptions about the benefits of capitalism for all.
As far as racial inequality, I’m not so quick to conclude that the Church got it all wrong and that the government stepped in and saved the day. I think that Christians were under beneath the surface pushing civil rights up into the public eye and on up into government. However, I am certainly not above questioning whether Christians should even be involved in government leadership. In my view, the Church ought to be a counterculture for good–one that is exemplary for institutions such as government to learn from. If certain congregations or individual Christians fail at the second great commandment, the Church at large is not to blame. The Church is the agent of God’s redemptive work in the world, period, exclamation point. If certain Christians are not carrying out this work, then they are ceasing to “be the Church”. The true Church will always be synonymous with redemption, hope, and love. Anything counter to that cannot be attributed to “Church” but to apostate disciples and assemblies. I know this sounds a bit knit-picky, but it’s a very important distinction.



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Rob Decker

posted March 31, 2007 at 12:41 pm


Doug: In your response to Dan you wrote, “If I am not mistaken, the number of abortions have been lower during Democratic administrations than during Republican administrations because Democrats provide more money for Medicaid and other social programs and also raise the minimum wage so that poor people are better able to afford children (and perhaps more hopeful about their future).”
Though a recent study claimed to show this, looking at abortion numbers, rates and “ratio” since abortion has been legalized in the US show this not to be the case, and possibly just the opposite.
It’s difficult to find good statistics, but the best are most likely from the Guttmacher Institute, an organization “advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide….” Their agenda is not anti-abortion so seemingly one can assume no anti-abortion bias in the numbers.
You can find their study at http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/08/03/ab_incidence.pdf. The number of abortions, rate (abortions per 1000 women of child-bearing age) and ratio of number of abortions per live births each year show a peak in the early 1980s, and a gradual decline since then, seemingly even into the 2000s.
Regarding the relationship to government financial assistance to the poor, note that they observe, “while the abortion rate declined among most groups between 1994 and 2000, it increased among poor women and women on Medicaid.”
I’ve found that reading the conclusions of new studies as published in newspapers today is problematic since the study details and data are rarely given. As Michael Kruse observed above regarding the larger topic of faith and voting, I think the reasons for the drop are much more complicated than the party of the president any given year.



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Doug Allen

posted March 31, 2007 at 8:28 pm


Hi Rob,
Thank you for your reply. I agree that statistics are difficult to obtain and that the most reliable ones are probably from Guttmacher Institute. You and Michaek Kruse are certainly correct that the reasons for rate of abortion are complicated, although they do track well with unintended pregnancies according to Guttmacher. Because the issue is complicated, the sound bites from politicians (and religious leaders) are usually not helpful. I’m familiar with the report above and have this comment about the statement you quote. Quite possibly the income trend these past couple decades which has seen a growing disparity between the income of the rich and poor, including a larger percentage of poor below the poverty line, partially explains that. My wife has been a Head Start and kindergarten teacher (and Democrat) and feels the reductions in school lunch programs, day care, Medicaid, and other social programs for the poor, that often occur under Republican administrations, play an important role in many social phenomena. As to abortion, Guttmacher Institute reports between 200,00 and 1.2 abortions in the U.S. before Roe during the 50’s and 60’s and 1.36 million in 1996 and 1.29 million in 2002. The rate of per capita abortion in the U.S. appears to have changed little during that period. Here’s my quote from Guttamacher- “Evidence from around the world shows that placing restrictions on abortion to make it harder to obtain has much more to do with making it less safe than making it rarer, ” says Susan Cohen, director of government affairs at the Guttmacher Institute. “Yet in the United States, abortion opponents take credit for the mounting state and federal restrictions on abortion, rather than working to reduce unintended pregnancy to begin with.” I try to base my political activity on facts and on WWJD. There’s not always a clear cut answer.
Doug Allen



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Michael Kruse

posted March 31, 2007 at 9:37 pm


I don’t want to turn these comments into a political debate. At the end of the end of the year I did my American Social Indicators, 2006 series. If you go to Family Formation and Sexuality (Part 1) and click on the fourth graph you will see the abortion rate per 100 births.
Abortions were 19.3 per 100 births in 1973, rising to 30.0 in 1980 and staying at about that level until 1983 when they topped out at 30.4. They declined from 1984-1989 before flattening at about the 27.5 range 1990-1993. Then they steadily declined from 1993-2000. They flattened out at about the 24.2-24.5 level through 2002, which is the last year for which Guttmacher reports data.
So the rate has been declining except for three brief plateaus: 1980-1983, 1990-1993, 2000-2002. What do all of these have in common? Economic recessions. I don’t see any correlation to politics or policies but I would be open to the evidence.



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Doug Allen

posted March 31, 2007 at 9:41 pm


Hi Matt,
I agree with your second post more than the original. I’m going and try not to be so off topic this post. Scot asks, almost laments, that two conservative Christian groups, one white and one black, with similar orthodox Christian theologies, but very different voting profiles and asks if they are using theology to bolster their ideology rather finding similar appropriate political values from a shared scripture (hope that’s an accurate paraphrase). I pointed out before that the European religious have a very different voting profile from the white conservative religious here, with the most religious Europeans being the most left of center politically. Both juxtapositions make you wonder, don’t they? My own view is that we all select and interpret scripture (history and everything else that affords interpretation) to support our core beliefs and therefore we should be aware of that and somewhat modest, somewhat skeptical of out “truths” when they conflict with the “truths” of others. Here’s an analogy used many times, but possibly never with regard to scripture (maybe for good reasons!). When Scot reports seeing Scaup on his lake are they Greater Scaup or Lessor Scaup or are they just ducks? When liberals read or refer to the Bible they usually appear to be lumpers. When religious conservatives read or refer to the Bible, they usually seem to be splitters. As to biblical scripture, it’s no secret that religious liberals (and people like me who just call themselves followers of Jesus) select large themes (we are lumpers), like the Jesus creed, and pay little attention to many parts of the old testament (and some parts of the new testament) where you can find justification for slavery, stoning your daughter or wife and most anything else. IMHO, many religious conservatives select specific parts of scripture (rather than major themes like the Jesus creed) and idolize some law or passage as being critically important. So, yes, both try to be faithful to scripture, but from two very different perspectives- that of the lumper and that of the splitter.
Doug Allen



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Scot McKnight

posted March 31, 2007 at 9:45 pm


Doug,
It was a Greater, but if I wasn’t sure I’d just “lump” them all into “scaup”; when I am sure, I “split” them into Lesser and Greater.



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Michael Kruse

posted March 31, 2007 at 10:44 pm


I am more than half way through the book now and I have a post for my blog formulating in my mind based on the book and this discussion. To borrow from McLaren, we ask “What story do I find myself in?” The Bible contains a narrative with many sub-narratives. Liberal and conservative Christians, still heavily under the influence of Modernism, do not approach the scripture narratively. What narrative work they do engage in usually consists of latching on to those sub-narratives that most resonate with the story the find themselves in rather than bring their story to THE story and having it reshaped by the narrative and its author. Thus, CP African-Americans buy heavily into the people in exile under the oppression of Pharaoh narrative. That is very biblical. White CPs buy the “Be holy as I am holy” narrative as they see decay in key institutions. That is very biblical too. But what about the larger narrative?
Economics affects how we see the story we find ourselves in but I am not sure it is the policies promoted by differing groups that sways people. It is the narrative implied by, and attached to those policies that people vote for. My analysis of the year is that left or right, policies are advocated that have no impact on the issue they are alleged to address and even can be counterproductive, but the advocacy of the policy reinforces the narrative. Therefore, I think if we are truly concerned about justice we have to rigorously test our narratives against THE narrative and rigorously ask if the policies we promote actually accomplish as advertised, even when the policy may be seen by many as invigorating the group’s narrative.
Also, the focus has become less about promoting and emphasizing our narrative. It has become, in recent years, an epic battle to trivialize, demonize, or in some other way destroy competing narratives and their proponents.
Don’t know if this makes sense. I’m still processing.



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Matt Stephens

posted March 31, 2007 at 10:56 pm


I read in The Church as Counterculture that Christians ought not adhere to Exodus theology, because we are called to something quite different than Exodus, or escaping persecution. We’re called to lay down our lives for our oppressors in the midst of the oppression, fighting their evil with love, in the hope of participating in their redemption. It’s what Christ modeled for us. The authors pointed out that Exodus theology is inappropriately touted by groups who have been oppressed through the ages. Not saying I agree or disagree (I lent the book to a friend who has never returned it, so I can’t go back and review it), just tossing that out there.



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Bryan Riley

posted April 1, 2007 at 7:49 am


This is why we shouldn’t stop with a “proper” hermeneutic and must look to the Holy Spirit.



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Michael Kruse

posted April 1, 2007 at 8:03 am


Matt S #30
I don’t know what this author had in mind by “Exodus theology” but I think it is a “both/and” deal. We are in exile in a hostile world where God is bring us home. We are called to imitate Christ as the suffering servant laying ourselves down for the world. We are called to be a separate and holy people, but we are sent into the world. I think the danger is to latch on to the sub-narrative that most justifies the story we think we find ourselves in and then elevate it above all others.



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Scott Watson

posted April 3, 2007 at 3:32 am


#29-To assert that the exilic/exodus and holiness concepts can be played off, in our understanding of currents in politcal discourse as below a narrative understanding of teh Bible is quizzical.Theologically,the exodus is the theological center of the OT (and one can say of the Bible!).It shows us who YHWH is by what YHWH does in the world of human communities,his chosen community,for this to be an everlasting testimony to the world of who YHWH is–teh point of the Exodus as a witness to the nations.(Note:this underlies how YHWH desires the Israelites to treat resident aliensm knowing what they were subjected to and YHWH would to them if they did the same. The Levitical Holiness Codes fit in with this in that is defines a community under this god with social/ethical boundaries which reflect YHWH’s justice.The portriat of YHWH as protector of the weak,the widows,the fatherless,the poor and the oppressed is not one theme among many but THE “portrait” we have of YHWH in many different strands of the OT,the Law,Prophets and the Writings.And this is at the core of Jesus’ ministry and self-understanding (Isa. 61)to Paul’e critique of Greco-Roman social norms,the critiques of Roman power(Babylon)in Revelation to the ethic of James and the Catholic Epistles.It’s ubiquitous!
From all this talk about God and theology,in a sense,much of the discourse here does not take the GOd of teh OT and Jesus serious:God cannot be abstracted from who YHWH has revealed himself to be once for all to be,the God of the Exodus.In fact,most Semitic grammarians interpret the idem per idem construct YHWH to mean divine saving presence (I AM really present [to save]–in the context of the Exodus narrative.)Thus when Africam American slaves heard white preachers give them a theology of approving slavery,they said it was a lie. Why? Many of the slave narratives tell us that they said the Holy Spirit told them this.The myth of objectivity is another lie;obedience, humility and an openess appeal to the god of the Bible on GOd’s terms can open doors for greater understanding.



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