Because life is a series of edits

The Last Hurrah

In Politics on July 6, 2007 at 8:15 am

Last night I dreamt that Barack Obama was one of my professors at Covenant. Needless to say, it’s probably time to bring our political discussions to a close. However, before I do, I’ve got a few last questions to which I’d appreciate your responses (think personally and practically here):

  • Apart from voting (or not), what else do you, as a twenty- or thirty-something believer, do to influence political change at the local, state, and/or national levels?
  • How do you try to live in community with others who hold different (perhaps very different) political perspectives from yours? What difference does age make?
  • If you were tasked with trying to represent the political views of your generation within the PCA (as I am), what would you say?

Thanks for your thoughts on this last round of questions. It’s been tremendously helpful to hear from you, and your thoughtful (and cordial) feedback has given me much guidance for the writing process. The comments are still open on the four previous posts, so feel free to continue any discussions you feel so inclined to pursue. If I use a quote from you, I’ll be in touch.

Finally, with regard to the 2008 election, let me remind you of my own candidacy for President. Though my first digital town meeting got little media attention, I’m content to just let the grassroots buzz build before I really start playing the game (that and I have no money).

Let me hear from you on these last inquiries. And thanks again for contributing this week.

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  1. 1. Grad school doesn’t leave a lot of time for activism, and I don’t feel called to be an activist anyway. But as I said before, I stay informed and pray–a lot. In fact, I often pray while I’m reading the news. When I work with students on their writing, regardless of their own views, I try to encourage them to think through both sides of the issues they write about so that they can clearly and fairly articulate the other side’s position before responding rationally to it. And should a pollster cross my path, I don’t turn him away, considering how many politicians live and die by polls.
    I also volunteer with Soldiers’ Angels (http://www.soldiersangels.org) as I can, but that’s not really political.
    2. It’s hardest when a person you care about is on the other side *and won’t shut up about it,* even when he/she knows you’d really rather just agree to disagree and move on (I’ve seen this mostly in senior citizens). With some people, you just have to agree not to discuss politics. But with some people, all both sides need is to be able to discuss things in a way that is honest and respectful and to know that the other person will be among the first to denounce idiocy on his/her own side. In that way, it’s somewhat like building a friendship with an unbeliever–put the relationship first and “let your gentleness be evident to all.” Or, to use a quote attributed to Augustine, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
    However, I’ve seen that there are cases in which political differences are indicative of deeper spiritual problems. The ECUSA is one–many of the Episcopalians I know are both politically and theologically conservative, but the national leadership is not… and a large number of people on both sides have begun to cling desperately to the notion that schism is worse than heresy. I don’t think I could stay in that kind of situation.
    3. Well, since I’m not PCA (Assembly of God, actually), I can’t exactly answer that question… so I’ll end with a final might-possibly-help plug: God and Country by Sheila Kennedy, just released by Baylor University Press. I haven’t had a chance to read it myself, but I’ve heard great things about it, and it looks like it might give some of the kinds of perspectives you’re looking for.

    I had one of those time-to-back-off dreams after the last election. I feel for you. :P But I do pray God’s blessings on you as you write!

  2. 1. I’m involved in local committees and neighborhood groups. I befriend my neighbors and chat with them about local politics. I discuss politics and political theory on blogs, lists, and forums in hope of helping myself and others think through these many issues. I like to think of politics as an extension of normal Christian life. Not the politics of big government and mass media but the politics of localized collective action – which is to say participating in the polis.

    2. I try to seek common ground first and I do my best to stay charitable and level headed. I quickly admit that I was wrong when reason makes my errors clear. I do my best to make my own unsurity about complicated issues apparent. I seek intellectual honesty. Age doesn’t seem to matter over time. Initially there may be a bit of hesitation and rolling of the eyes but that tends to dissolve as conversations continue.

    3. “If you were tasked with…what would you say?” That many of my generation are willing to step outside of the Left/Right political divide and think anew about what it means to live out one’s faith within a physical and increasingly diverse community. Few of us are willing or desire to fight in the same trenches of our parent’s generation.

  3. 2. I’m used to conversing with those with a host of differing opinions, whether political or theological or literary or sociological, so living in community with others who hold different perspectives isn’t all that difficult or remarkable. It comes down to a personal acknowledgment of how little we really know. And how despite how strongly we feel that we are correct, the fact is: we may be wrong. Approaching conversations with this kind of humility may be learned or natural, but I think it’s essential to living in a world inhabited by people (as people hold, by their natures, differing perspectives).

    3. It’s hard to pin a view to a generation. I have peers who are so die-hard Republican that it’ll make your head spin (and no, I don’t really know what that means either). On the other hand, I have peers who are so disgruntled with the form of the American politic that they’ve rejected capitalism as a viable model and are stumbled by the church’s love affair with America and capitalism. Then there’s the rest of us, who seem to fall anywhere else in the wasteland between those two positions.

    I suppose if I wanted to represent the age bracket to the PCA, I’d summarize by saying that we are a disparate group, politically speaking and that we generally crave honesty and the forthrightness to admit that not everything is as clear as people would like it to be. And that hearing politics coming from the church is exhausting for many of us.

  4. 1. Mainly what I do is learn and talk to others about what I learn and what they learn. I also financially contribute to political causes. I participate in anti-war rallies. I alter my life style (do less, work less, consume less, greenify my life, spend more time with people, etc)

    2. It is hard worshiping in a church where people wonder if I can really be a Christian and have such liberal views. Generally, I don’t talk politics much with people I’m not very comfortable with. Even then, I only really talk about stuff with people I know won’t flip out when they find out I think the Religious Right is a very bad thing. This alienates me from many people at my church — politics, in one form or another, is a very common thing for people to talk about at my church. I also have to come to terms with the fact that there is a double standard and I get the booty end of the stick. What I mean is that views of the Religeous Right can be expressed by a leader, at a Bible study, even from the Pulpit, but if my views were expressed I would be considered a rabble-rouser, divisive, argumentative, etc. It is because I am in the very small minority. In this sort of setting, I have to always tell myself not to get worked up about it and just be peaceful.

  5. This does not really respond to one of the questions, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about in regards to all of this politics ‘n religion talk.

    It is astonishing to me that God through Christ has esablished His kingdom in such a way that we can be good and faithful Christians regardless of the form of government under which we live. To me, that is the heart of the matter – staying faithful, no matter what the circumstances around you may be.

    And I loved your analogy, by the way.

  6. Craig, (working from bottom to top)
    -Is your tasking to provide something that is descriptive, contemplative, or prescriptive? Anyway, as another has already responded, it probably polyglot (if indeed the PCA has become as broad as advertised).
    -Sometimes too much is made of generational differences (not that there aren’t any), but other demographic factors in the community definitely come into play: socio-economic status, education, family background, cultural background, personality type (on the M-B framework or something else), a variety of phobias, etc.
    -Given my age, I can’t answer. But, if I were allowed: asking questions, listening to “other” perspectives, reading, attempting to become disciplined in discernment, and occasionally (only if thoroughly convicted) taking part in a cause by handing out tracts, etc.

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