Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Evangelicalism’s Radical Diversity 8

posted by Scot McKnight

Choir.jpgPart 2 for today….

Here’s one of the most important observations that Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen make in their new book, Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities .

Not all Evangelicals are Republicans.
And in this chp the authors map the difference between Republicans and Democrats along four principles.
Which of these is the most important in public debates today? How would you rank them in significance?
1. Governments are authorized by God to punish wrongdoers and provide for the common good.
Repubs: govts are to do what individuals, families and communities can’t do, so this principle must be restricted. National defense and federal highways.
Dems: interpret the common good more expansively; govt needs to be more involved in distributive justice.


2. Governments inevitably abuse their powers and extend them beyond roles authorized by God.

Repubs: Always be wary of investing powers in govt; avoid centralization.
Dems: When we focus on individuals, selfishness obtains; centralized structures take the edge off of individual selfishness.
3. Salvation occurs through Jesus alone.
Repubs: salvation is not mediated by laws, but the majority has a right to vote its moral views into law.
Dems: we live in a pluralistic society so we should craft laws that protect [the minority from] the tyranny of the majority and that protect the rights of the minority.
4. Christians should work for the benefit of the society in which they live.
Repubs: individual, family, community or church efforts are closest to home and do the most good for families and society.
Dems: social problems are systemic in nature; Christians should engage in broad-based approaches that resolve underlying causes rather than just treat symptoms.


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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 8:22 am


Scot,
I think this is a really good stab at trying to map out politics and religion. However, I really wish we could have a better definition of “Evangelical” before heading into posts like these.
I think most people would degree that a very high degree of “biblicism” (I think you even used this characterization once) is characteristic of Evangelicalism as a whole. However, there is a very close link between “biblicism” and fundamentalism – and I have yet to meet a Christian fundamentalist Democrat.
So you say that not all Evangelicals are Republicans, but that doesn’t really mean a whole lot. I mean, there are millions and millions of Evangelicals in this country, and for that statement to be true just one of them could be an independent or democrat and you’d be good. For me, virtually everyone on both sides of my family are both Evangelical and Republican. That doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but let’s face it, Evangelicalism as a movement has tied its star to the Republican political party as the “party of values.”
I think to try to speak against a characterization of a group because not ALL individuals in that group fit the characterization would mean that one could almost never say anything about groups at all. However, to evaluate whether or not a characterization of Evangelicals as “heavily disposed to a Republican orientation” is justified, we really NEED A GOOD DEFINITION OF WHAT AN EVANGELICAL IS. (Not shouting on that last bit – just emphasis) Thanks!



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Scot McKnight

posted August 18, 2010 at 8:35 am


Tim, I’ve done that about fifty times on this blog:
Evangelicalism is committed to four themes/doctrines/ideas:
1. Biblicism: authority of the Bible alone.
2. Conversionism: need for a personal experience of faith.
3. Crucicentrism: a focus on the cross as God’s place of atonement for sins.
4. Activism: need for the person to be active in living out one’s faith.



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T

posted August 18, 2010 at 8:43 am


Scot,
Under 3, I hope you meant Dems want to “protect AGAINST the tyranny of the majority . . .” though I’m sure some will take that as a providential mistake.



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nick gill

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:17 am


Curious… does anyone else see the tension between points 2 and 4 on the Democrat side?
“centralized structures take the edge off of individual selfishness”
but
“social problems are systemic in nature; Christians should engage in broad-based approaches that resolve underlying causes rather than just treat symptoms.”
Thus, the very thing that is expected to “take the edge off of individual selfishness” is in fact at the heart of the social problems.
Also, these are OLD definitions of Republican – since Reagan entered office, Republicans have honored them more in the breach than in the practice.



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Jason

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:21 am


What? No Libertarian category? Seems to me that with the explosion of interest in the third party, especially among younger Americans today, that Steve and Don are missing out on an important socio-political shift in America today. I would be interested in what they had to say about younger Evangelicals drifting away from the traditional Republican/Democrat ideals and towards more Libertarian ideals.



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Pat

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:28 am


“Not all Evangelicals are Republicans.”
AMEN and AMEN! One of my biggest pet peeves is when people (Evangelicals in particular) insist on trying to put us all into the same mold. We are uniquely created human beings. We come in all stripes politically, socially and culturally. There’s just something about human nature that wants to squeeze everyone into the same mold and then it’s felt that all is right with the world once we all believe the same thing and in the same way. That’s easy. We don’t have to try to have difficult dialogue or put any effort into understanding another point of view. Well, I got news for you, I’m in independent thinker who does not believe in group think.



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Fish

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:29 am


I don’t see any conflict between “centralized structures that take the edge off of individual selfishness” and “social problems are systemic in nature” unless you assume that the centralized structure is the system, and thus the problem. I don’t. The system is much broader, and includes things like human psychology and culture, the ‘free’ market, the church, and so on.



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Travis Mamone

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:33 am


I used to think that in order to be a Christian, you had to be a Republican. Now, thanks be to God, I know He is much bigger than any political philosophy.



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Fish

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:36 am


Hopefully not too many young evangelicals are moving to libertarianism, for objectivism, the idea that fulfilling my own personal wants and needs is the highest form of morality, is in direct opposition to the Gospel. If I live my life in a manner where it is all about me, then I am not living a life that is about loving God and neighbor.



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:37 am


Scot,
I want to sincerely apologize for missing that. But I always thought that Biblicism meant a rather “to the letter” interpretation of the Bible – as opposed to just a general “sola scriptura” (though this would be included in it) approach. Wikipedia identifies Biblicism with Biblical Fundamentalism.
So would it be then more accurate to characterize Evangelicalism as:
1. Sola Scriptura: authority of the Bible alone.
2. Conversionism: need for a personal experience of faith.
3. Crucicentrism: a focus on the cross as God’s place of atonement for sins.
4. Activism: need for the person to be active in living out one’s faith.
If this is how Evangelicalism is applied, then wouldn’t most, say Methodists, be Evangelical? I’ve always distinguished them – is this inappropriate? Would we consider Duke Divinity School to be an Evangelical institution then?



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sonja

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:46 am


Well … there you go.
According to Scot’s definition, I’m an evangelical (tho slippy and shoddy) and a Democrat. I used to be a better evangelical, but still a Democrat. Before the Republican party got so shrill and fearful of everything (back in Reagan’s day and even Bush I) I was an occasional independent. I even spent a summer working for my state’s Republican US Senator (Robert T. Stafford – R, VT) in 1982.
If I were to rank those issues according to what we are currently facing in our country and the world today (and remember I am speaking as a Democrat) here is the priority structure I would give them -
4 would become 1 – Christians should work for the benefit of the society in which they live (Dem ideal is – social problems are systemic in nature; Christians should engage in broad-based approaches that resolve underlying causes rather than just treat symptoms.
2 would still be 2 but it would be entwined with 1 – because I am quite sure that a large part of our financial crisis has occurred because of greed on many levels. Government’s role is to restrain evil and nothing is more evil than greed run rampant throughout a society. We are now reaping those results.
1 becomes 3 … once again I believe that the government’s role is to restrain evil and the description of an expanded idea of public good as well as the notion of restricted national defense fit in my paradigm of good government.
3 becomes 4 – while I understand that salvation occurs through Jesus alone and my moral compass compass comes from the Judeo-Christian ethic, I do not have the right to cram those codes down the throats of everyone else who comes to this country. In fact, as I understand it, so doing is an anathema to living as Jesus did … he invited, he asked, he loved, he did not “… speak softly and use a large stick,” to quote a much beloved president. I also believe that so doing runs counter to the principles enshrined in our Constitution. It’s our tolerance of others and our protection of the marginalized that is our strength. We need to remember that.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:47 am


Tim, yes that’s right but the terms I’m using are the standard terms used in the two major scholars of evangelicalism: David Bebbington and Mark Noll.



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:04 am


Scot,
Yes, but didn’t Mark Noll actually use the term Biblicism in his definition? I think that in common usage, to most people, Biblicism means something far more specific than “sola scriptura”. Could that be where the difference lies?



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:13 am


…ok, just some definitions from a couple sources on “Biblicism” so we don’t go around in circles on semantics.
Oxford English Dictionary: Biblicism – adherence to the letter of the Bible
Wikipedia: the interpretation or translation of the explicit and primary sense of words in the Bible. A literal, Biblical interpretation is associated with the fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to Scripture, and is used by many conservative Christians today.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:25 am


Since this post and the earlier one are on a similar topic, I think we could also ask this:
Has the Democratic party accommodated itself to Mainline Prots?
Have Mainline Prots been co-opted by Dems?



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:32 am


…wanted to add one more thing (sorry for being such a pain on this issue):
When Mark Noll was complaining about the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”, did he have the Methodists in mind as part of the overall Evangelical movement when he issued those criticisms?



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Bill

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:33 am


Tim
I am not sure Noll or Bebbington (I like Stackhouse)make a case that Biblicism, in the sense you are using it, is a characteristic of evangelicals. As well, you seem to be conflating fundamentalists and evangelicals. Evangelicals do consider the Scriptures to be a central authority, but I am not sure you can make a solid case that the sola part means no reason or no tradition (or Tradition) – then again that is the reason for this excellent book.



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:50 am


Bill,
I don’t think I’m making the points you say I’m making.
I understand one can be Evangelical without being Fundamentalist – though I think if we are to be honest there is a large degree of correlation between the two. But denominations such as the Evangelical Covenant Church would certainly qualify in my mind as Evangelical, but not by any means Fundamentalist. So the correlation is there and it may be strong, but isn’t absolute.
What I was trying to address was that the way in which Scot defined evangelicalism above broadened the tent considerably to include Christians that might be surprised to find out that someone is characterizing them as Evangelical. But I’m not an expert here, and so am open to learning if I’m mistaken in this.
I think it really turns on what “Biblicism” means as Noll, Bebbington, and Stackhouse used it. Is it really meant to be synonymous with “sola scriptura” or does it mean something else?



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Wyatt Roberts

posted August 18, 2010 at 10:50 am


I find myself agreeing with both parties on all four points.



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RJS

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:12 am


jodi makes an important point in a comment on the other post. “I think it’s important to note that this conversation is specifically related to American Christianity. This trend does not live itself globally.”
But it is more than that – it is important to note that this conversation is specifically related to white American evangelicalism of the 1980′s and 1990′s.
It does not apply to racial minorities – no matter how “evangelical.”
If we go back in history – as Scot noted in his introduction on the other post – the tie to Republican politics was not so tight. William Jennings Bryan was the democratic candidate for president. I have two uncles, both evangelical pastors (now in their late 70′s), one Baptist, the other Evangelical Free, one staunch Republican the other staunch Democrat. Christianity was also not tied to politics in such a fundamental fashion when I was in college (shortly after Scot).
We also need to realize that the tie is majority – not universal. No matter how we look about 3 to 5 of every 10 evangelicals are not Republican. In an “average” church of 1000 at least 300 are not. So even as a majority preference it is far from universal.



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sonja

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:15 am


I’m sorry … I get that the subject of Biblicalism is likely endlessly fascinating, but that’s not what this post is about. Could we please talk about the intersection of faith and politics here? There have now been 9 of 19 posts on the subject. I suppose mine makes 10 of 20 and I should also just sit down.



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:21 am


Sonja,
In any conversation one has to define one’s terms. My posts have been on requesting clarification on what it is to be Evangelical, as if I can’t get a hold on that, then I can’t really make any good use of this post. It may very well be that Scot’s definition of Evangelicalism is correct – I was just trying to ascertain if that was true.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:22 am


Scot,
You ask in #15, “Have Mainline Prots been co-opted by Dems?” As a Mainline Prot pastor for 26 years, my answer to this is unequivocally, “Yes.”



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:28 am


I might be inclined to agree that Mainline Protestants have been co-opted by the pro-social welfare and egalitarian messages of Democrats. Where do the Catholics lie? I think they’re rather split evenly down the middle aren’t they? Does this make Catholics more independent political thinkers? I have no idea honestly, but it’s interesting to speculate.



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DRT

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:58 am


I think there has to be a strong regional component to this. I grew up in an industrial northern city but now live in rural virginia. The difference is quite stark. Here in rural VA there is a very strong desire to put on an outward appearance to others that is not necessarily rooted in their own beliefs. So when I was going to an evangelical based church the automatic assumption is that you were a republican because that was the “right” way to be. Anyone who puts a different view forward is automatically treated with fear and suspicion. More than once I was plopped into the greatly feared camp with the suspicion one would have for someone who was into satan worship just by not thinking the same thing they thought.
Then people with whom I work (corporate job) automatically think something is wrong with you if you are a republican. Yes they are much more mainline but not as homogenous as the country folk.
So my experience is that evangelical churches are nearly 100% co-opted by the Republicans. In this neck of the woods it is the only right choice. Not believing in the Republican way is like saying Jesus is not the way, the truth and ….



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JHM

posted August 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm


Scot,
Could you maybe clarify what the point/purpose of the statements (not the Repubs/Dems part)? For instance, “salvation occurs through Jesus alone.” I don’t know what that has to do with the discussion of Republicans vs Democrats. I’m a little confused.



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TLC

posted August 18, 2010 at 12:41 pm


Where do political independents figure in this discussion?



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Tim

posted August 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm


Sorry (seriously) to bring this issue back, but…..
I am willing to concede that my conceptualization of Evangelicals has been woefully inadequate and unfair. But please extend some grace, as for the first 25 years of my life, I had it hammered into my head what it meant to be Evangelical from mostly fundamentalists, and that depiction is of course something very different from how Evangelicalism is presented here.
So I just wanted to check and make sure I have this right – and to do that let’s take a rather extreme example and make sure this fits into the camp of Evangelicalism:
So with the definition of Evangelicalism as consisting of these 4 principles:
1. Biblicism: which has in this thread been defined as essentially synonymous with Sola Scriptura – meaning authority of the Bible alone.
2. Conversionism: need for a personal experience of faith.
3. Crucicentrism: a focus on the cross as God’s place of atonement for sins.
4. Activism: need for the person to be active in living out one’s faith.
So, would an individual or denomination that considered (based on the authority of the Bible alone as contextualized by modern critical scholarship) that the:
1. Genesis account was largely morally instructive myth (using myth along the more favorable/generous lines)
2. The Gospel of John should be read and applied along the lines of its being the last to be recorded, that it differed in theological terms significantly and incompatibly from the synoptics in terms of theology, and that linguistically it reads as if most of the conversations were generated from just one person (meaning the author)rather than historical accounts of actual events and dialogs.
3. That even in the Synoptics, the dialog attributed to Jesus and the historicity of events recorded, while certainly based ultimately in fact, are far from perfect history.
4. The Book of Daniel and Revelation don’t occupy literary genres of true prophetic work, but rather pseudo-prophetic work.
…that if this person still relied on the Bible as their authority as opposed to tradition or other sources, and still met the other 3 criteria of Conversionism, Crucicentrism, and Activism – that they would still be considered Evangelical. That a denomination that would ever take this “liberal” view would still be considered Evangelical?



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Scot McKnight

posted August 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm


JHM, it’s one of the principles Wilkens and Thorsen bring up and it relates to the overall significance of the gospel and personal salvation and the ultimate role of social action and law. Separation of church and State … all this is at work in the principle.
If laws can’t create salvation, which in some ways is reflected in a different way for liberation theology themes, should evangelicals get involved in laws? Wilkens’ principle is that they can still vote their conscience and see that as helpful for society. Dems probably should see more ultimacy in the laws, but I would say today that many Repubs and Dems are on the same page on the significance of laws (e.g., Prop 8 in California).
So it seems to me that is the drift…



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kevin s.

posted August 18, 2010 at 12:53 pm


@Fish
“Hopefully not too many young evangelicals are moving to libertarianism, for objectivism, the idea that fulfilling my own personal wants and needs is the highest form of morality, is in direct opposition to the Gospel.”
You have committed the error of conflating libertarianism with objectivism. The latter has undoubtedly influenced the former, but one can easily be libertarian while rejecting objectivist moral claims.
From your comments here, I feel safe assuming your are ideologically progressive. The mistake you are making is reading libertarianism through a progressive lens.
In the progressive paradigm, how you approach government is a reflection of your moral beliefs (this is true of conservatism as well, but to a lesser degree). For a progressive to say that leveraging the self-interest of man is the best way of achieving a just society would constitute a rejection of the gospel.
But libertarians reject that paradigm entirely. They believe that a government functions best when its aims are purely functional. How you believe something should function is not a reflection of your morality.
For conservatives, libertarianism is a sometimes food. We believe that people are best left to govern their own actions, but also recognize that government must act in order to preserve the conditions for liberty. In my view, you cannot have libertarians with conservatives running the show at least some of the time. A fundamentally libertarian society will succumb to the interests of fascists.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm


“Have Mainline Prots been co-opted by Dems?”
Within the PCUSA I’d say this is profoundly true of the hierarchy. It is the mirror image of, say, the Southern Baptists. The difference is that when the SB leadership speaks they are generally voicing the views of a substantial majority of the congregants. But in the PCUSA, the congregants pole a little to the right of center. PCUSAers aren’t as conservative as baptists but as a body they aren’t all that liberal. PCUSA pastors, and particularly the hierarchy, pole way to the left.



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AHH

posted August 18, 2010 at 1:00 pm


I think there is an important difference in principles that is missing from the authors’ list of four, and that is related to the role of the US in the world (especially the military) and the nature of a Christian’s allegiance to country.
Among Evangelical Republicans there is much more American exceptionalism, intermingling of “God and Country” as closely related and of similar importance, identification of US military force as a tool to improve the world, nationalistic patriotism (that often effectively treats non-Americans as less valuable humans), etc.
Whereas among Evanglical Democrats there is more distrust of military power, questioning of whether US interests and God’s interests are necessarily aligned, rejection of American exceptionalism and civil religion, and often identification of patriotism, beyond a certain minimal level, as idolatry.
And I’m sure the way I phrased some of that is influenced by my own journey as an Evangelical who used to be a Republican but now more often votes for Democrats.



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Rick

posted August 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm


I cannot bite my tongue any longer. As RJS recently pointed out, political discussion here quickly turns to unfortunate accusations. Likewise, as others have recently pointed out, the political slant at this blog (in the comments more than the posts) is clearly in one direction. The result has been an apparent decrease in interaction from more conservative voices, which did not used to be the case. There used to be a more healthy balance.
Thus far, in today’s discussion, we have seen comments such as:
“Republican party got so shrill and fearful of everything”
“nationalistic patriotism (that often effectively treats non-Americans as less valuable humans)”
Such comments and attitudes stop third way proposals dead in their tracks.



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kevin s.

posted August 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm


@AHH
I don’t think that is historically true. Prior to the Bush administration, Democrats had a long track record of favoring aggressive military intervention.
This has tapered off since Vietnam, but I think that is a function of the fact that Democrats have not held the executive for much of the time since. The president is the figure most closely identified with military initiatives, and those who ideologically oppose a particular president on other issues are far more likely to oppose him on military issues as well.
Conservatives do adhere to the notion of a civic morality, which liberals broadly reject. I wouldn’t say that is a defining issue on part with the four identified in this post, and might be wholly irrelevant in today’s political landscape.



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kevin s.

posted August 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm


@Rick
I would settle for a moratorium on “fear” meme, the accusation that people’s political beliefs are based on an irrational fear of this or that (usually labeled as “the other”). The charge is as nebulous, non-falsifiable, and manifestly insulting.



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Rick

posted August 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm


Kevin S.-
Totally agree.



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DRT

posted August 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm


Kevin and Rick, I hear you on the ixnay earfay thing, but we are dealing with powerful basic human needs and I think that earfay is a primary driver of the actions of many people. The basic problem that people have with the other is generally seated in fear, based on my experience.
Do you have more helpful language that captures a similar thought?



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Rick

posted August 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm


DRT-
“I hear you on the ixnay earfay thing.” Now that is funny.
In regards to that term, you bring up a good point. However, as Kevin S. pointed out it is all to often used as pointing to “an irrational fear of this or that (usually labeled as “the other”)”.
People may have actual, legitimate concern about the consequences of some actions, and believe in the benefits (for many, or all) of certain policies. Brushing it off as “irrational fear”, unless actually based on evidence of such fear, is not helpful in dealing with the issues at hand.



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Dink

posted August 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm


Rick, I must agree with you and would hope for a better understanding of Evangelicals and Fundamentalist instead of trying to use this forum to influence the politicals against many true believers.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted August 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm


#32 AHH
I fully agree with the civil religion concern about the right but I don’t believe the left is offering an abandonment of civil religion. Rather I think the religious left is fashioning an alternative civil religion around collectivist, environmentalist, and egalitarian impulses in the culture. This is one the most important insights that James Davison Hunter offers in “To Change the World.” To the degree that both the religious right and left see the political arena as the focal point for Christian engagement with the world they are mirror images of the same problem. The religious left (mostly Mainline) went down this route (and has never returned) in the 1960s and 1970s. The right succeeded them in the 1980s and 1990s. And the response of the disillusioned evangelical right folks is now to come out and embrace the religious left’s civil religion as though this were some big new discovery. In reality, I think right and left are both swimming in the same delusion of political primacy. They folks just trade ends of the pool.



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kevin s.

posted August 18, 2010 at 5:38 pm


“In reality, I think right and left are both swimming in the same delusion of political primacy. They folks just trade ends of the pool.”
They’ve set up one of those water polo games that seems like a great idea, until everyone realizes that water polo is actually a pretty hard and frustrating sport. So now they’re mad at each other because nobody is having a good time, Jerry got gouged in the eye, and there differing (and entirely incompatible) attitudes toward pool-based urination.



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kevin s.

posted August 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm


“In reality, I think right and left are both swimming in the same delusion of political primacy. They folks just trade ends of the pool.”
They’ve set up one of those water polo games that seems like a great idea, until everyone realizes that water polo is actually a pretty hard and frustrating sport. So now they’re mad at each other because nobody is having a good time, Jerry got gouged in the eye, and there differing (and entirely incompatible) attitudes toward pool-based urination.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted August 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm


Michael, You may have something there, but I think it’s a mistake to insist that just because one no longer votes straight line Republican and has fundamental problems with the Republican platform that they have (or, then) embrace the religious left. No. I’m uncomfortable with both platforms, but certainly am not Republican, and do agree with the Democrats more on some issues. But that does not make me sold out to the religious left at all, of course.



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Allen Garry Bunyan

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm


“Laodicea”



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sonja

posted August 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm


Well … since it was one of my phrases (not even a whole sentence) that got yanked out of context, mangled and bandied about here, I guess I’ll step back into the fray.
I was very clearly expressing my opinion about the direction that the Republican party has taken in the past 20-ish years. It’s unfortunate that some of you find my opinion offensive and perhaps contrary to your experience. I was expressing my opinion based upon my experience in my local area and on the national news that I read. Instead of whining about my style, it might be actually profitable to have a debate about the issues. I laid out an actual answer to Scot’s original question. As far as I can tell, I’m the only commenter here to do so in 40 some odd comments and the only response has been angst over a tangential remark about my disenchantment with the Republican party. Take the challenge, tell me why I’m wrong!
OTOH … if we’re just going to whine about hurt feelings and upset tummies, here’s a nasty generality that I do not appreciate:
Conservatives do adhere to the notion of a civic morality, which liberals broadly reject
I’d like to know which “liberals” you are talking about, because at almost 50 years old, I’ve known liberals all my life and every last one of them has adhered to the notion of a civic morality. I think the idea that only conservatives are civically moral is offensive, antagonistic, and divisive. Talk about shutting down the conversation!
I would also agree with Ted. Just because I vote for this party or that party does not therefor mean I agree with the religious version of that party’s adherents. IOW … I may be a Democrat, but I take a lot of issue with Jim Wallis. In fact, I often think it’s a mistake to mix up one’s faith with politics. Too often the temptation is there to come to believe that one can bring about the Kingdom of Heaven through changing laws and political outcomes; gaining power and wielding it. Actually the reverse is true, as followers of Jesus, we gain our power through losing it. So throwing in with this party or that and expecting to get something from it is nonsensical at best.



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A non-partisan non-evangelical

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:39 am


Many of the evangelicals that I know seem unable to distinguish between their faith and their political opinions. I see a similar trend in the religious left. As Sonja, Ted, and Michael have mentioned, the pursuit of political power for religious purposes is counterproductive for Christians.
I don’t agree with the phrasing of the four points. Perhaps if debates were re-framed according to what the real disagreement is rather than polarized viewpoints that are typically filled with value-laden accusations, both sides could make progress toward political solutions that are in the best interest of our country.
1. The tension between conservatives and liberals contributes to a somewhat balanced level of government involvement.
2. Our system of checks and balances can counter abuses of power if it is allowed to function as intended.
3. As mentioned earlier, politics is not the arena to promulgate religious beliefs. Perhaps we would be better off if both sides were emphasizing and exercising basic ethics.
4. Citizens should work for the benefit of their society seeking to contribute to the greater good. Christians should also love their neighbor.



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kevin s.

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:41 am


“Well … since it was one of my phrases (not even a whole sentence) that got yanked out of context, mangled and bandied about here, I guess I’ll step back into the fray.”
You know, I comment a lot on blogs like this. I often receive a lot of strong reactions to my comments, partly because I have strong opinions, and partly because I am conservative. I have virtually never complained that my words were taken out of context.
To which, your words were not taken out of context, nor were they mangled. They were expressed verbatim, and in a manner consistent with the context. You are free, of course, to clarify your opinion, but you cannot expect us to do that for you.
“I was very clearly expressing my opinion about the direction that the Republican party has taken in the past 20-ish years.”
We got that. It is understood, but Rick’s criticism stands.
“Instead of whining about my style, it might be actually profitable to have a debate about the issues.”
I expressed my opinion on the issues. Any thoughts on the libertarian thing?
“As far as I can tell, I’m the only commenter here to do so in 40 some odd comments and the only response has been angst over a tangential remark about my disenchantment with the Republican party.”
I take these as thought starters, and assume we are free to respond to the responses, as some have done. I agree that Tim is reintroducing a tired conversation, and ignored him thusly.
“Take the challenge, tell me why I’m wrong!”
I don’t necessarily think you are wrong in terms of how to prioritize the four issues raised here. I cannot precisely address your assertion that the Republican party has become more shrill since Reagan.
Perhaps it is so, but it is equally so of the Democratic party. Howard Dean was literally shrill, as well as figuratively. My frustration with ideological Christianity led me to Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren, who proved to be as shrill as the best of them.
“I’d like to know which “liberals” you are talking about, because at almost 50 years old, I’ve known liberals all my life and every last one of them has adhered to the notion of a civic morality. I think the idea that only conservatives are civically moral is offensive, antagonistic, and divisive. Talk about shutting down the conversation!”
The notion that liberals do not ascribe to an ideology that incorporates civil morality shuts down the conversation? I didn’t know the premise was even controversial. One of the criticisms leveraged by Christian liberals is that conservatives endorse a civic religion.
Michael has introduced a fair point that liberals are doing the same thing, but see a civil religion with different doctrine. By my lights this weakens one of the more compelling points of differentiation for the left, but if you want to fall on the football here, I cede possession entirely.
You and I are in agreement for the remainder, and we also agree on #21.



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A non-partian non-evangelical

posted August 19, 2010 at 12:46 am


Many of the evangelicals that I know seem unable to distinguish between their faith and their political opinions. I see a similar trend in the religious left. As Sonja, Ted, and Michael have mentioned, the pursuit of political power for religious purposes is counterproductive for Christians.
I don’t agree with the phrasing of the four points. Perhaps if debates were re-framed according to what the real disagreement is rather than polarized viewpoints that are typically filled with value-laden accusations, both sides could make progress toward political solutions that are in the best interest of our country.
1. The tension between conservatives and liberals contributes to a somewhat balanced level of government involvement.
2. Our system of checks and balances can counter abuses of power if it is allowed to function as intended.
3. As mentioned earlier, politics is not the arena to promulgate religious beliefs. Perhaps we would be better off if both sides were emphasizing and exercising basic ethics.
4. Citizens should work for the benefit of their society seeking to contribute to the greater good. Christians should also love their neighbor.



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