We have had a book called God’s Politics, by Jim Wallis. Now we have one called The Politics of Jesus, by Obery M. Henricks, Jr. Does anyone on the Left, who so freely decries the Right for their excessive claims to truth, ever stop to think that they have no more claim on God’s truth than the Right does? While the Left assaults the Right for partisanship they continue to produce books that tell us "How to rediscover the true revoltuionary nature of Jesus’ teachings." The hubris in such a claim is quite staggering. Hendricks spends most of this book arguing that the two primary culprits in our lifetime, men who both attacked the true revolutionary teaching of Jesus, were Ronald W. Reagan and now George W. Bush. Surprise, surprise!!!
Former moderate Republican senator John Danforth (MO), an Episcopal priest, gets a lot closer to the truth in his new book, Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together. Danforth suggets that it is simply wrong to equate "faith with political agenda." The Right has done its fair share of equating God’s law with their politics for the past twenty-five years but the Left was doing this for fifty years before the Right decided to join the partisan parade that now badly polarizes America. The sad reality is that the Left now acts like they have always held the moral high ground and the Right is thus a movement filled with self-righteous idiots who want to take over America for God. I sure wish these folks would talk to the intelligent conservatives I converse with day-to-day but they often choose to major on a few public figures in the Christian media (Falwell, Robertson, etc.) that are not true representatives of thoughtful and serious conservativism. (It is much easier to demonize your opponents than to face hard and serious issues honestly. Just accuse Republicans of not caring for the poor and the game is over if you buy this approach.)
I am sometimes asked why I am not impressed with Sojourners magazine and the editor, Jim Wallis? My answer is that when Wallis endorses this kind of book by writing "In The Politics of Jesus, Obery Hendricks articulates a critical prophetic message that interrogates our nations politics according to the values of Jesus. . . . This book is a must-read for everyone who seeks to understand and live out the revolutionary implications of following Christ" I am frankly staggered by how much he lacks credibility as a Christian thinker or serious political voice. And he claims, cleverly times ten I would add, that "God is not a Republican." I agree! But Mr. Wallis, please, God is not a radical liberal Democrat either! A touch of humility in all of this public philosophical debate would be a helpful step toward fruitful discussion among Christians. I have a number of real friends who disagree with me politically but the reason they remain my friends is that they treat me with respect. I think I return the favor. I wish people on the Right and the Left would stop this kind of moral triumphalism. It is poison to the nation.
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I have read a number of Faith and Politics books over the past year and Danforth’s is probably the best. And while I agree that there should be a lot more humility in how we as religious people interact in politics I think that there is a fundamental problem with the way that the different sides start. This is over generalization and does not apply to everyone on either side, but many that I talk to on the right believe that it is possible to start with a firm truth about how God would interact in the political world while many that I talk to on the left would say that we can try but but because we can never fully know God’s truth we can only approximate what God would do in politics. Danforth actually starts on the side of “we can’t fully know truth” which is why he believes in the necessity of humility. I agree that there needs to be a lot more conversation and a lot more civility in the conversation and both sides need to start with the understanding that they are not fully right and the other side is not fully wrong.
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