Because life is a series of edits

Studying the Body Politic

In Politics on July 2, 2007 at 7:06 am

Alright, friends, I need your help. A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece called “A Church That’s Too Embarrassed to Talk About Sex” for the PCA‘s byFaith magazine. The article dealt with how twenty- and thirty-somethings in the PCA felt little help from the church in areas of sexuality.

Well, the folks at byFaith have asked for another article for one of their fall issues, same demographic (PCA twenty- and thirty-somethings) but different topic – politics. Anybody got an opinion on that? I thought so.

Specifically, the angle I’d like to take is not Democrat/Republican or Liberal/Conservative and who’s voting which way and why; rather, I wonder what you all think about the American body politic in general, and to what degree do you (and friends you know) involve yourself (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually) in its goings-on?

I’ll have more specific questions, but what I’d like to do in this post is ask you for two things:

  1. Give some thought and offer your initial ideas to the question above (be sure to include at least your email address so I can contact you for clarification if needed).
  2. If you have a blog, would you be so kind as to point your readers here this week, encouraging them to leave a comment as to what they think?

My goal is to use this week for research into how twenty- and thirty-something PCA-types (and others) think politically so as to formulate questions to go deeper in understanding and representing your perspectives. Feel free to ask your own questions and help me figure this out – I’m wide open as to where this goes, so long as the conversations are civil and it serves the purposes of writing a good and informed piece.

I’ll post more specific questions here throughout the week, but for now, would you spread the word, as well as share your initial thoughts with us? I’d greatly appreciate it.

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  1. i’m not in the 20-30 age group but the topic is very interesting! i’m looking forward to reading the responses. since i’m not in that group, i guess i can’t put in my 2 cents. oh well, you have a lot more space than you once did:) i’ll definitely link you to my blog for this one! m

  2. 28 year old male. and I think unfortunately, I grew up in the PCA, and as a result have a tremendous amount of baggage with this issue, mostly because for me growing up, christian = replublican. today I mostly vote democrat (I’ll vote for hillary for pres), and am viewed as anti-american and communist by some of my friends and family. in return, I call them facsists, and I get angry whenever I see fox news.

    I just really have to believe that the kingdom of heaven is bigger than the republican party. and bigger than the USA. actually, the more I grow as a christian, the more I hate america.

  3. craig,

    i just wrote a long comment on this subject but after reviewing it decided to delete it. if you want my opinion on this issue i think it’d be best if we grabbed a cup of coffee and discussed it in person.

  4. Craig,

    As you know, a handful of my friends and I (all 20 somethings) have discussed many issues on or related to politics over the past year or so on our blog (linked above). We are generally disillusioned with the mass media political juggernaut controlling American politics today. We all tend to think of both parties as basically the same in practice but different in rhetoric. In the end, a vote for a republican or a democrat is a vote for big government, big business, and big lies. Big, big, big. Instead, we would encourage people to either NOT vote (i.e., stop telling the world that the present system is ok) or vote third party (any will do).

    In response to the bigness of the present system – and corresponding inability we see built into its structure to commence true change for the better – we would propose a return of power to the local and the small. Socialism and modern Capitalism both seem to end in a state of more centralization and more concentrated power. Rather than this, it is the third way of subsidiary and local governance that appeal most to us. We value locally produced goods, authentic communities, and locally controlled democracy. It is when the state, federal, and global systems subvert the local economic, social, and political structures that a system emerges unchangeable and unloved by most.

    We’ve found the most commonality with our ideas in the writings of the modern Christian writer Wendell Berry, catholic authors E.F. Schumacher and G.K. Chesterton, protestant social thinker and economist Henry George, orthodox and Crunchy Cons author Rod Dreher, economist and Capitalism 3.0 author Peter Barns, urban thinker James Howard Kunstler, PCA pastor Tim Keller, food thinker and journalist Michael Pollan, philosopher Ivan Illich, architect and mathematician Christopher Alexander, and author of the Free-Market Anti-Capitalism blog Kevin Carson.

  5. I don’t have much faith in republicans and zero in democrats. And also zero in the parties as wholes. The parties, as they look today, don’t seem to stand for any ideals and are motivated by self preservation. I don’t see clear and thoughtful philosophies on government, economics, foreign policies, civil law, or science and technology being expressed by hardly anyone in positions of power, and even less are acting on them. I get the feeling that most politicians are opportunists or ignorant, or both. I see the whole scene as being a slow moving game toward destruction, and all the energy and money spent on it really only affects the pace.

    Is that too cynical?

  6. Sorry, “subsidiary” should be “subsidiarity” in the middle of my 2nd paragraph above. Oops. The meanings are opposite.

    Here’s more on the principle of subsidiarity:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsidiarity

  7. I would echo the comments above to the degree that the nature of politics is a lot of the same (no matter what side of the fence you are on), and it is usually the candidate with the best P.R., deepest pockets, and shiniest shoes who win any election (except here in the south where you must belong to a minority and be completely removed from rational thought to have any sort of power or position). In my 29 years of life, I have voted one time and that was in this past presidential election, where it was more of my curiosity than my civic pride that drove me to the booths. I find that the further I can detach myself of any political thought or banter the more and more hope I have for our future. I believe in the simple law of supply and demand and that we need only a fraction of the current government to operate. I believe in the individual’s ability to adapt and survive and question the role of the government to provide provisions.

    All that to say, I role my eyes at the thought of effective politics and then go on with my life.

  8. To get more to your point, I don’t involve myself in politics on the practical level. I sometimes get into discussions or read things about the more abstract stuff, but there is too much work required to make any sort of tangible gain as far as national or state politics go. Ideally I’d wish that the local level politics would be more “user friendly” and I might consider devoting some energy in that direction.

  9. Curious as to what any ladies in the house generally think about our political world? And Martha, feel free to share your perspective (though thanks for the disclaimer).

  10. George,

    Not sure how much you’ve tried but I’ve been active in two committees out in here in St. Charles, Mo. and have recently helped to start a multi-modal transportation advocacy group. I have found none of these ventures to be too difficult. Just start going to the city council meetings and get connected. It’s easy.

  11. Wow. I completely disagree with the whole idea of NOT voting. What are you saying by avoiding the polls entirely? Absolutely nothing. I have chosen to vote in most every primary and major election since I turned 18.

    I do feel incredibly dissatisfied with the political scene at the national level. Though I believe there are a few good candidates in Congress, overall I think you have to be wealthy and speak out of both sides of your mouth in order to get elected. Our political officials try to keep everyone happy and when you consider the huge divide of opinions in this country (remember the 2004 presidential election?), then nothing can get accomplished. I have more faith, in general, in the local political scene. Granted, I come from a city of 200,000 — so perhaps larger cities are as twisted as the national scene.

  12. Hi Rebecca,

    Just to be clear, we’ve only been encouraging people to not vote at the national level – or to vote 3rd party. At the local level I think it’s a shame that more people don’t vote. Democracy makes a lot a sense at the local level – less so at higher levels. Again, it’s because the principle of subsidiarity is so consistently ignored that local citizens are slowly losing control of their own neighborhoods and cities.

    The idea behind not voting is simple. The fewer votes cast for national candidates tends to erode the foundation on which the present system is founded – making it more and more illegitimate and, thereby, more and more ripe for revolution.

  13. okay, here’s my two cents prompted by some of the comments. basically, i’m all for democracy when it works well but why do american christians seem to think that a democratic republic is the best system of government? i think we tend to assume God’s endorsment on a democratic republic system when we don’t have that written anywhere in scripture. when Jesus said to render unto ceasar that which was his why do we assume that includes voting? what’s our definition of a good citizen? can i be a good citizen and not vote? how would the 1st century christians have viewed their role in the govermental procedure? when the new testament refers to christians as exiles what, if anything, does that imply for our role in the state? is it possible the western christian ideals for politics are founded more on the ideologies of men like john locke rather than on Jesus Christ? if so, what’s our response?

  14. Trevor, I meant in a more representational sense for world shaping issues – though I appreciate and commend the ‘do what we can where we can’ stuff. As far as I see it, folks run for positions that represent a group people but do very little to associate with that group beyond using them to get what they want. Our connection to our representative heads is very impersonal and unaccommodating. In fact, I get the feeling that apart from the elections there is practically no connection at all (unless you can make it worth their while).

    As it stands, a democratic republic seems pretty foolish anyway. My armchair analysis estimates that 99% of the voting eligible people have practically no training in how to function in the realm of politics in any sort of responsible way (and I include myself in this). Civics classes skim over how government operates, but don’t give folks categories for thinking through philosophies. Add to that the complexity of the various fields that government tries to govern (like bio-ethics or economics) and we are doubly inept. The politicians, who are supposed to have a leg up on this stuff, display no more understanding than the common man. The only difference is that the politician is in a position of power that at least gives him the opportunity to insulate his power and pockets in the midst of the circus.

  15. Travis, I’m not sure of the correct answers to all those great questions but I did find Peter Leithart’s book “Against Christianity” to be helpful on the subject. N.T. Wright’s thought on Second Temple Judaism was also helpful for me (see “New Testament and the People of God” and “Jesus and the Victory of God”).

  16. I am 36, have been a Christian for 25 years, and lean very much to the Left in terms of politics. I worked in the Nebraska Legislature as an assistant to 2 state senators as well as for a legislative committee. My husband and I discuss political issues often, read the news, and watch or listen to the occasional news program (but only on PBS or NPR as these seem to be the only places where both sides of the issue are consistently presented). It saddens me to see the Religious Right take possession of the Republican party, and saddens me even more to talk to Christians who assume that Christian=Republican. This unfortunately limits me and my husband’s ability to relate to most other Christians politically and socially. We are always excited and somewhat relieved to find like-minded Christians. It has been difficult to find a church home where we feel that we will still be accepted if we share our political beliefs. Other Christians never seem to understand that we can love the Lord but still not want our (human) government to legislate morality.

  17. George,

    That’s the same sense I get out of it. Fully agree.

    I think the problem in part lies in the fact that politicians are indeed given opportunity to make decisions at such large scales on issues like bio-ethics and economics (as you mentioned). It’s not that I think politicians shouldn’t make these decisions but I think that the wrong politicians are making them. I’d rather see these decisions being made at the county and city level instead of the state and federal. If decisions are made at the federal level there is no choice for citizens but to go along with the decision (unless they move out of the country). However, if decisions are made at the local level citizens can opt out simply by moving to some other nearby city or county. Strong local government and weak federal government seems to necessarily mean less coercion and more freedom for citizens and the communities in which they organize themselves (including the community of the Church).

  18. Stats: female, white, married, 36, blah blah blah.
    Opinions: I always vote, but rarely feel like I’m voting for someone I really believe in or trust. Partisan politics are the bane of our country. I’m neither R nor D, neither left nor right.
    My biggest gripe about the church and politics is the way some churches feel the freedom to express political views from the pulpit as the “right” views or even the “Christian” views. A republican is no closer to Christ than a democrat, but I’ve heard sermons that practically call democrats sinners.
    I’m also not a fan of the way the church has completely alienated certain people groups (especially gays) based solely on their sin. Yes, homosexuality is a sin. But I would never hold up a sign saying “God hates gays” or even jump on the church bandwagon about the sanctity of traditional marriage. I have an awful hard time picturing Jesus doing the same. By getting so involved in politics, the church has ostracized the very people it should be loving and trying to reach.

  19. Me: 34, dead-center politically (according politicalcompass.org)

    1. Neither side moves beyond platitudes when discussing faith, perhaps because neither side has much to say. It’s amusing watching political types talk about the need to “inform people of their deep spirituality.”

    2. The notion of a “Christian Nation” is unhelpful and only serves to baptize the actions of the government. It seems to go no further than abortion and prayer in public schools.

    3. The “pro-life” thing verges on pagan desperation of life after death–must keep the body alive at all costs (e.g., Terri Schiavo)

    4. Some elements of Christianity are present on both sides of the political spectrum. The “Left” is better with mercy and charity, but the politics of resentment often get mixed in. The “Right” is better with duty and honor, but stubbornness and blindness get mixed in.

    5. America doesn’t embody any great virtues (inter)nationally any more, merely self interest. Political use of ethical language is crassly emotive.

    6. Gay marriage is becoming a tiring subject, especially when I hear more about man-on-man activity in church than in any other context.

    7. It’s hard to get worked up about partisan politics when it looks so much like theater.

  20. my perspective,for what it is worth, comes from living through a LOT of different administrations of different parties as well as living overseas for a few years. I’ve never had complete faith in the replublicans (i remember watergate) nor the democrats (for all their power of many years, they didn’t solve the problems of poverty as they promised). so when the “church” seemed to be in the back pocket of the republican party, thanks to the issue of abortion, I watched with interest. in the middle of that, we moved…from miami, FL to east TX:) wow! talk about a culture shock. in that part of TX, people tended to discuss their political opinions quite openly:) and as time went on, the assumption was that we were republican if we were christians.
    the danger, of course is that we forget so many other issues…how do we deal compassionately with the poor? women who are abused? people who are disenfranchised? altho’ the democrats talk more about it, i don’t see them actually doing anything more concrete to help. government programs that are hand-outs don’t help, schools that edge out any mention of God, creation, etc. are no help. so we have ourselves in a bit of a mess.
    power really does seem to do a number on people when they get too intrenched or secure in their situation. one thing i do know is that we are to be salt and light in our world. we must be involved on at LEAST a local basis. that is how we get a say in the planks that go to the state and national levels of the party. i was amazed at how easy it was to get involved for anyone, in local and state politics, when we moved to TX. that’s how pro-life people got their agenda into the republican party…they started at the grass-roots level. there are a lot of christians involved in gov’t at various levels as well as in the political parties. if the parties aren’t doing what we want, we can only blame ourselves. it is much easier to be a critic and see what is wrong than to roll up our sleeves and do the work that is hard and messy. we don’t often see that our involvement in local and state political conventions can be as important as our involvement in church activities. that is our form of gov’t–for the people, by the people (who will be involved in it), of the people. my words convict me as i realize how little i have done since i moved to IL to understand the process here…which is very discouraging.
    i don’t see how we as christians can justify a stand to not vote unless we are willing to not complain about anything that happens as a result of everyone else’s vote. even a vote of rebellion against the major parties is something to think hard about if you are sure the person can’t win. whenever we vote against something, we are also voting FOR something that might be a lot worse. if i had to vote right now, i have no idea who i would vote for. ugh! i’m praying for a huge amount of wisdom and insight in this election but i can promise you that i am not handing this decision over to a bunch of ungodly, uninformed (or TV hypnotized) people. i will NOT do it!!! how’s that for a mild opinion from a little old lady? (ha!)

  21. Here from Megan’s place with a somewhat different perspective (from what I’ve seen–haven’t read all the comments):
    I’m 26, of Missouri-Texas roots, and a die-hard conservative, a self-described child of the Reagan years. I vote when I can, which in these parts generally means voting Republican except perhaps at the local level; the Democrats have gone so far to the left that they’ve left most of us behind, especially committed Christians who are both socially and theologically conservative. However, the Beltway seems to be a magic wall that cuts most politicians, of both parties, off from the rest of the country–witness the immigration debate. Sometimes it seems like the only way to make a difference is to pray that the Spirit will move through the halls of Congress with a clue-by-four.
    Really, the more I think about it, the more I realize that we can’t neglect the spiritual dimension of the war for America’s soul. Whatever your politics are [“you” in the general sense, here], if you are a Christian, you ought to be praying for your leaders and your fellow Americans, that we would all both know and do God’s will as it concerns us as a nation.

    Degree of involvement: Lately I’ve had to step back a bit for the sake of my own sanity, and I’ve never been involved in helping with campaigns or anything like that. But I do stay informed and pray and vote, and I encourage others to do the same. And most of my friends (at least among my fellow grad students in the English department) do the same.

    BTW, I don’t think we can overlook education, either. There’s a reason CSL starts The Abolition of Man with a discussion of lit theory as it appeared in textbooks of the day. But that may be a bit off topic….

  22. 36, white, married, PCA, registered independent

    Politics, as it exists today in this country, is impotent, regardless of your party affiliation. Almost nothing that I’ve seen mentioned thus far here will actually be affected by “politics”. Do we really expect political parties that have rejected God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ to lead us in things like “mercy and charity” or “duty and honor”? To be compassionate to the poor? To educate our children? It doesn’t matter if they are R or D.

    The irony here is that the majority of folks in the PCA have an amillenial view of the kingdom of God, so I wonder why this is even an issue that byFaith would care about? Why care about politics if you have no theology of kingdom growth in the first place? Isn’t it all just going to hell anyway?

    While voting in federal elections (and state elections for that matter) is a part of our submission to the authorities God has placed over us, it often of necessity winds up being a vote for the candidate who will do the least damage to the church and her work. The lasting good that has been done by our government over the past few decades has mostly come because of Supreme Court appointments (the Court being the de facto seat of power in this country), which, for most Christians, means a heavy lean toward the Republican party (have the Dems appointed *anyone* who was remotely anti-abortion?).

    The Savior of this country is the Lord and King Jesus Christ. It is not Democrats, Republicans, Mormons, “conservatives” or “liverals”. Until we start acting like that, worshipping like that, and telling others that (instead of promising the talking heads that our candidate won’t let his or her faith affect his or her decisions while in office), we will continue to slowly circle the drain. While the nations rage, and the parties imagine vain things, God laughs.

  23. I’m 36 year old single American who lives and works in Ukraine. From over here, U.S. politics seems a lot better to me than what most people have implied in their comments. I consider it a privilege to vote and have voted absentee while I’ve been living overseas. In my opinion, if you don’t vote you have no right to criticize the government.

    That said, I agree that there is no “Christian” party. I used to think the 2 party system wasn’t that great, but experiencing some of the politics in Ukraine has made me appreciate it a bit more. Here there are so many parties who each have a few people in the parliament that it is just a mess! The deputies form coalitions in order to get things passed, but I don’t think these coalitions often have anything to do with what the voters might expect from their party. It seems to me that the U.S. system motivates candidates to try to please their constituents and not just look to line their own pockets.

    In general, I don’t pay a lot of attention to politics. I try to find out about candidates before elections, but that’s about it. Living over here, I pretty much avoid conversations about U.S. politics when I can! I just don’t have the language skills down to be able to explain in Russian exactly what I think about Bush and the war in Iraq. Too many issues involved!

  24. 26, white, married, two kids, Republican.

    I pretty much agree with Baumbach (although I’m curious about his amillenial comments). We can’t pin our hopes for anything on government. I don’t think that Christians should disengage from politics, but politics is not the solution to anything, only Christ can solve any of our problems. At this point I consider Republicans the lesser of two evils, and I wish that a third party would have a decent chance at the national level. I also wish the government would stop taking so much of my money.

  25. I’ll be 34 in three weeks. In my twenties (especially late twenties) I was far more politically interested than I am now. I saw a horrifying number of things wrong with both of the two big parties and began looking into lesser party politics in my idealism. This alienated me from fellow members in several bodies and was the primary reason that one of my relationships failed (the woman’s parents never could accept my Christianity if it would not vote Republican). Over the years, my confidence that political involvement of the citizenry matters in any meaningful way has waned to the point where I may talk politics with friends, but I find it hard to care about elections (as every result seems to fall under the heading: More of the Same). And it doesn’t help that there aren’t really any news sources that aren’t agenda-driven, from which one can garner “pure” news. If one had no job or responsibilities, I can see how they might be able to sift through everything out there and have an inkling of an idea what is going on, but I don’t see how the average player can possible responsibly vote with any sense of honesty within his conscience.

    What I’d like to see from the PCA is an active distancing in the leadership from several ideas implicit to much of conservative American Christendom: a) that American international interests coincide inextricably with the church’s extranational interests; b) that Republican interests are church interests; c) that political involvement is our Christian duty; d) that a worldly political/economic system (e.g., capitalism) is somehow Christian or uniquely compatible with Christianity; e) that democracy and/or the “spread of democracy” is somehow Christian or uniquely compatible with Christianity; f) that America is now or ever was a Christian nation; g) that the church’s involvement in the civil realm is a good (read: righteous) thing.

    From my vantage point, when one looks at Christian involvement in the political realm, it looks as if the bride of Christ is in bed with the world. I think it’s embarrassing that people can presume the political party I would support simply by looking at the denomination from which I come. I know PCA members-in-good-standing who are Democrats and I know one who considers himself an anarcho-socialist; and they fairly consistently feel alienated by the believers around them. Occasionally from the pulpit but more often from offhand comments made by fellow members and officers. Most of us keep our political thoughts a quiet secret for fear of unhappy and inappropriate reactions (I was once accused of being a nihilist simply because I couldn’t find it in my heart to vote for Bush).

    And really, how healthy is it for some church members to live in fear of other church members for something as trivial as a political perspective?

  26. Baumbach said:

    “Do we really expect political parties that have rejected God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ to lead us in things like “mercy and charity” or “duty and honor”?”

    and

    “The lasting good that has been done by our government…for most Christians…means a heavy lean toward the Republican party (have the Dems appointed *anyone* who was remotely anti-abortion?)”

    This is my problem with evangelical politics. While I don’t remember our Lord saying anything about anti-abortion demonstrations in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, I do remember Him talking a lot about acts of mercy and charity. Did we have a golden age of Christian government in the 1960s, before Roe v Wade?

  27. I’m not sure if Craig is really wanting to host a discussion, but since there have been a couple references to my comment (#22), I’ll respond to them briefly.

    Taylor asks about my comments referencing the pervasive amillennialism of the PCA vis-a-vis politics. All I’d say here is that amils have a concept of the kingdom much like the Lutherans “two kingdom” approach that spiritualizes all things relating to the church and, I believe, divorces the Adamic dominion mandate from the current work of the church. I was referring to the inconsistency there: if the church has no effect on politics, why care where here members stand politically? But IMO the truth is because the PCA has biblical moorings, they can’t help but tend toward *acting* like post-mils. Politics does matter because as the kingdom advances on earth the political landscape will also be redeemed; however, this won’t happen if we make politics the *point*. It starts with the church worshipping and giving thanks (Rom 1), which will gradually change politics (and a bunch of other things) from the ground up.

    In response to Douglas Wokoun (#26), would you not consider the life of an unborn child the appropriate subject of mercy and charity? My point was that the only lasting influence politics has had over the past few decades (outside of the realm of national defense) has been in the make-up of the Supreme Court, and that the church by-and-large does “better” (i.e., has more freedom to do her thing) when constitutionally conservative justices are appointed, and that is almost universally done when Republicans are in power. I used the abortion issue as one I thoguht was a “gimmie” in this context, but I guess not. And while I don’t want to turn this into a fight against abortion and anti-abortion tactics (I didn’t say anytingn about anti-abortion demonstrations, did I?), we lose more lives in this country to abortion *every day* than we lost on 9/11. Now, abortion, too, will go away if and when the church does what she is supposed to do. In the interim, when we as a church *have* to engage in politics, it should be over issues we can make a difference in.

    In other words, choosing a candidate because they are going to, say, lower taxes or bring more jobs, really shouldn’t be on the Christian voter’s radar, since no single candidate can actually do any of that. However, choosing a candidate who intends to appoint constitutionally- and socially-conservative justices *can* make a difference in the short run; we should pay more attention to these types of issues if we desire to be good stewards of “our” government.

  28. Discussion is the breakfast of champions. Have at it (just keep it tethered to some kind of personal/PCA application if possible).

  29. Twenty-two, single, from Texas, haven’t had the chance to vote because of weird red tape things (registration didn’t go through, absentee ballot didn’t get to me at college on time, what have you). I go moderate on most things.

    The thing with this country is that as much as many evangelicals try to make it a “Christian” nation, there’s a reason that the founders set up the whole separation of church and state thing–we *aren’t* a Christian nation. While I believe Christians ought to be involved with government–running for office, voting, being informed–what we have to remember is that a government can’t ultimately be expected to solve any sort of moral problem; the church, however, can. We can’t rely on any government to *really* solve the problems of abortion or gay marriage or stem-cell research or poverty or human rights, except for that of the Kingdom of God.

    I have the unfortunate feeling that much of evangelical politics is really more about gaining power and influence than about any real effort at reformation, which has been an issue in Christendom at least since the Crusades. We’re more concerned with making everyone agree with our morality (and thus our rules) than the Gospel. And this sucks.

  30. I am a 28 year old, Baptist, homeschooling, mom of three, practicing attatchment parent, baby-wearing parent, cloth diapering, using less stuff, breast feeding, working pt outside of the home, help-mate to her husband, kind of lady.

    ALL OF THAT SAID:

    I am really far more conservative morally than either parties candidates. I have views that criss-cross party lines depending on wether we are talking about Church vs State, public schooling, taxes, military, health care, and welfare.

    My husband and I voted Republican in the last election, not because we are Repubs mind you, but based on the fact that GW was the only candidate that was outspokenly against abortion and infanticide.

    Now if he holds that opinion to be a personal one does not matter to me. What does matter to me is that he put his pen where his mouth was and has done his best to end abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

    I will again vote next year based on this criteria….Politicians are just that, politicians; meaning, they are trying to will a contest that will further the interest of those that buy them votes and give them money.
    Ultimately I cannot expect sweeping change in the charater of the government. The systems of checks and balances allows for no one party to have too much control.

    Also, I am not naive enough to think that what is going on in our country today is just one man’s fault, but rather a culmination of the many previous years, including other administrations.

    I do not believe that America is a Christian nation. But I am glad to be here and feel blessed to live in a country that tolerates my beliefs..better here than Cuba, China, Veitnam, the Middle Est, N. Korea, France, Germany, England….okay, anywhere else.

  31. I’m a little late to the game, but I’ll chime in none the less.

    Personally, my faith has been very challened by Christianity’s unequal yoke with earthly power. This unequal yoke became solidified with Constantine and up to this day is still a big smear on the Church. In my opinion, the Church has been hijacked by those with earthly power. Even today, for some strange reason, the theologically conservative church is a solid bastion for free-market/neo-Liberal economics, support for the war and militarism in general, and has a high regard for those with money/power. The PCA is no execption to this phenomenon. Evangelical nihilism (the sort of political theory we see in the Relgious Right) is a huge concern of mine. It pains me to see the way the Church has historically supported exploitation and violence — Christianity is hurting the world. Unfortunately, most Christians don’t see it this way and think the sorts of things I’m saying in this post are wacko. At least when I was a big religious right guy I thought these sorts of comments were from La-La Land.

    My political involvement is various. Mostly it entails investigation into history, theory and political issues. I feel the need to broaden my intelectual base — I no longer feel I can trust the Church to lead me in the right direction in these regards. For most of the Christian life I thought Repulicanism was an essential of the Christian faith. Eventaully I realized I was mislead. Appart from these intellectual pursuits, I contribute to political causes, particiapte in anti-war rallies, socialize with people, and put into practice the things I think our culture needs to do in order to survive (do less, consume less, greenify my life, spend time with people more, etc.) Sometimes I try and pray about these things, but not as much as I should.

  32. What do I think about the American body politic and how much do I involve myself in its goings-on?

    This is (obviously) a very involved question, and given my time constraints as a 37-year-old mother of two children under age 3, I will do the best I can in a few short sentences.

    Overall, I suppose I’ve become a bit cynical about politics. I do vote in every election (even the primaries and all local elections) and try to read and research the candidates & issues before voting. I keep up with the news via newspaper, internet, and sometimes the TV. However, I wonder how much my thoughts on the issues and my vote really matter. I generally feel like I’m voting for the lesser of two (or 3, or however many) evils, rather than voting for candidates I like.

    As far as the church and politics, it seems to me that there has been and continues to be an unfortunate linkage of Christianity with one set of political ideals. If you are a Christian, you must be concerned with gay marriage or abortion rather than with poverty or single motherhood. Government funding of stem cell research is more on your radar than children’s health insurance or dental care for indigents or global warming/environmental stewardship. At the same time, I do see some progress in this area. There are a number of evangelical organizations (e.g. Sojourners, Evangelicals for Social Action, etc.) that are raising awareness of neglected issues.

    On another subject, politics and power seem to be inextricably linked. I worry about this a lot. It seems that it becomes a game once in power to simply stay in power and that concerns over doing any actual good fall by the wayside. This is not to say that we should not be politically involved or care about politics, because I think we need to, but the church has to be especially careful about her role in politics.

    My own local PCA church doesn’t discuss politics much, but on the other hand, I have met people there who definitely do not fit the typical Christian Right type of mold. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable sharing my political opinions with others in my church, in general. Perhaps some of this is due to the fact that I live in Utah, where only 2% of the population are evangelical Protestants. Maybe here we find it easier to hold onto what unites us rather than what divides us? I don’t know.

    I do know that living in Utah gives me a unique perspective on the whole idea of a “Christian Nation”. Whose version of Christianity would we subscribe to? Would my children be forced to pray others’ ideas of Christian prayers in school? In some ways we do have a theocratic government in Utah, and I don’t think it’s a good thing at all. If that was expanded to the national level, it would certainly not be an improvement. Be careful what you wish for, if you find yourself desiring a “Christian” government.

    I’m afraid I’m out of time now, but I appreciated the chance to think through a few of the issues.

  33. I’m a 38 year old white mother of 2. I’m not actually a member of the PCA – more of a “nondenominational Christian.”

    I was raised by parents who I suppose were fairly typical of the “Christian right.” I grew up thinking Republicans were good and more aligned with Christian values than Democrats.

    In college I was challenged in many areas, including my faith and political views. The more I learned about the R & D parties, the more disillusioned I became with both and the less I wanted to align myself with either. I especially became suspicious of those of either party who tried to make the case that their party was the more “Christian” or aligned with God’s will. I still vote but am less and less convinced that my vote makes any difference, locally or nationally. I feel generally disengaged and apathetic toward politics, if you want the truth.

    I’ve been heartened to see more interest among Evangelicals recently on issues like environmental stewardship, justice issues, and care for the poor. I hope this trend continues. We would have a lot more credibility with the public if we could expand our issues beyond abortion and gay marriage.

  34. Reply to Brian T. Murphy: You are a very SAD man :-(

  35. A friend’s blog pointed me to this discussion, and i’m happy to read the vital, lively responses readers have posted.

    In my midwestern PCA church, it’s risky to articulate left-ward leaning, or even centrist, political sympathies. I would echo the feelings of alienation that several earlier posts articulated.

    As a woman, I have to exercise an even greater degree of caution when discussing my views, since most of the church women I know prefer not to talk politics (or don’t stay informed enough to discuss issues). It’s weird how politics is often implicitly regarded as a men’s subject.

    As an aside, the women contributing to this conversation work against my experience in a really encouraging way. It would be a pleasure to meet all of you and advance the conversation in person!

    Anyway, I usually end up in conversations with my friends’ husbands, in which I perform a painfully complicated tight-rope walk, hoping to persuade and inform, without being branded a “liberal” (a terrible pejorative) or worse, a “feminazi.” It doesn’t usually work. I’m rapidly reaching the conclusion that suggesting a different perspective isn’t worth the risk of being labeled or regarded with suspicion. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, and I always maintain the hope that openness to dialog will come with time…

    Thanks.

  36. I am a 31 year old married father of five children who lives in the Mississippi delta, is a member of a PCA church, and works as a manager for a large manufacturer-

    My wife and I discuss politics on a daily basis and draw on talk radio and the internet to keep up to date on what’s going on.

    I think that we have come to learn that everything bad out there, politically speaking, did not appear all at once one Sunday morning when we opened the paper, but that it has taken years and years of incrementalism, through laws, Supreme Court decisions, etc., to take root.

    The experience of many Christians who get involved politically, that I’ve seen, is that they get real involved and hope for BIG things from their politicians, only to find that politicians (even the ones who claim to be Christians) are sinners and eventually let them down. The politically-involved Christian then begins to experience disillusionment with politics and their political naivete of BIG CHANGE goes out the window only to be replaced with a separatist-like cynicism, i.e. “Let’s move to Bristol and just live out a Christian life…” or some such sentiment.

    It seems we don’t have the patience for anything these days and the same goes with patience for things to get done through the political process. Change for the good can come politically, but we have to be patient and endure the defeats along the way.

    Even more importantly, I’ve come to realize that the political process mainly helps to set the context for the good that needs to be done, but we still have to get out there and do the work of sharing and living the Gospel of Christ. The political process is a tool that we can use for God’s glory, like anything else, but our faith is in the working out of God’s will by a holy God who holds and turns the hearts of kings and all other governments after His own pleasure.

  37. By the way, lest I be misconstrued, there is nothing bad at all with moving to Bristol. I wouldn’t mind doing so myself…

  38. It strikes me that within Reformed/Presbyterian Christian circles you find the whole spectrum of opinions on the place of Christians relative to politics. I had friends at Covenant College who were dogmatic about being Republicans, Democrats, or non-partisan. Some were idealistic and some were cynical. Some felt Christianity has little to say about public policy and legislation; others felt the entire public agenda should follow explicitly Christian thinking.

    Behind all of this I think there is a confusion regarding how the state (i.e. the United States, or a state or local government) relates to the church. You meet some folks within the PCA who want our presidents to lead us in prayer and our governments to be explicitly Christian. You meet others who are proudly apathetic about politics and think it has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Among those who think we should get involved, some think its necessary to join one of the big parties and get your hands dirty; others think only by acting as independents or joining a third party can we avoid foolish compromise.

    The reason I present all these different views is that I don’t think the conservative Christian world’s approach to politics is nearly as monolithic as many portray it to be. And I think there is not really any significant hope of uniting conservative Reformed Christians on any specific approach to politics, particularly regarding strategy.

    There is however, significant place for thinking together about the relationship of the state to the kingdom of God, and what claims that relationship makes on Christians. Are Christians responsible to be involved in politics, or is it simply a choice? I know American Christians are reluctant to dive into theory; we’d rather get straight into the questions of what we’re supposed to do to achieve specific ends. But without a solid foundation political involvement is useless and creates a sort of anarchy of thought. I think there are two twin principles we must start from in approaching this whole issue.

    First, Christ has been raised to God’s right hand, above every authority. In a very foundational sense, he has signed the verdict on the nations of this world. There time is short. Their authority is temporary. In a very real sense they are now irrelevant to fundamental reality. This is the origin of the word secular, which in its Latin origins relates to what is temporary. The church has always proclaimed Christ’s kingship as the most important principle in our interaction with the world. I think emphasizing this point would have a profoundly unifying impact on Christian discussions of politics. Also, in light of this point, the goal of Christian involvement in politics should not be to conquer the kingdoms of this world. It should rather be to be faithful to the kingdom of which we are truly part. We should focus on being faithful rather than simply achieving results.

    Second, in sending his Son in the flesh and raising him from the dead, God made a statement about the redemptive validity of this world. Christ is not simply king of the church; he is king and redeemer of the whole Creation. That means God makes claims for the creation and Christians must live in light of those claims. They should not confuse the politics of this world with the politics of the kingdom of God; but they must advance the claims of the kingdom of God on this world. That means articulating the creation order, natural law, or whatever you want to call it. That means advocating justice and peace in every situation. Our thought doesn’t have to simply come from Scripture (although it will be shaped by that); it must also come from the law that is written on our hearts. When we discuss with unbelievers, we must argue based on what we know that they know to be true (because it is written on their hearts). We get involved in politics as those who believe we are advocating the very creation order which God created and redeemed in his Son (as Augustine, Chesterton, and Lewis would argue).

    I’m not sure this is the direction you wanted us to go in answering your question, and I’d be happy to move in a more specific direction if you have questions. But in an article on politics in the PCA I think the theory has to be at least in the background. It is most helpful if we present the overall vision, then articulate different approaches to that vision.

    Personally I and my family have been involved in politics on the local, state, and federal level, as independents, third party members, or Republicans.

  39. Craig,
    This is definitely a fascinating topic and one I was just discussing with another 20-something yesterday. In brief, I think the political system we have is severely tainted by sin (just like every other system/institution in our lives), but I don’t think we should just give up and walk away. Full disclosure: I am 26, PCA through and through, and work full time in politics. That said, I think Christians have a responsibility to try work within the system for the good of our neighbors. It’s certainly not easy, and I don’t agree with the mentality that Christian=Republican (even though I am a Republican), but I think giving up and walking away is the absolute wrong thing to do.

    Anyway, I could ramble on, but I’ll stop and look forward to your article this fall.

  40. I personally believe you will be hard pressed to have a conversation about politics in America and not discuss the Republican/Democrat party issue. As a professor at Covenant College once told a group of students (I’m paraphrasing), there is no way in contemporary America to be involved in politics if one is not involved with a political party. 99% of the time, the political debate is framed by Republicans and Democrats. Independents simply choose between the two. If you want to actually shape public policy you must be involved with either party. If members of the PCA wish to be involved in politics then they must be part of either the Republican or Democratic party.

  41. Wow. TO a lot of this.
    K, I gre up Baptist, and the child of CUban Immigrants that throws two points in the Republican nets right… but lately I have become so jaded with politics myself that I am very upset with the “religious right”

    I think fighting on the political level with moralism is not representing the gospel. We come off as completely judgmental and as lacking compassion and with good reason.

    I however feel a huge sense of tragedy over the brother that says that the more Christian he is, the more he hates America…. There is still much to love in this great country of ours. Having a heritage that traces back to a country that is now Communist, and having family that lost it’s sizeable holdings (including oil and cattle… sounds like texas huh?) in that country, the American flag is a symbol to me of one kind of hope that my family found here. I was born and raised more free than most in my family have ever been.

    God sovereignly gave me a temporal hope, and a rich load of common grace in the country in which I live. MY Eternal hope is in the cross

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