Friday, February 09, 2007

In chapter two Mclaren states "I've become convinced that although Jesus message was personal, it was not private. I've been convinced that it has everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular---including economics and aid, personal empowerment and choice, foreign policy and war." It's one thing to suggest or assert Jesus message has political implications, it is, imo, another thing to know what Jesus may have thought about a number of politically related issues we face. I'm all for considering what Jesus said and attempting to integrate his message to the current political and economic challenges we face but I get nervous when Christian leaders, political pundits or armchair Christian political experts,in their own minds, assert they know God's will and the mind of Christ regarding public policy. While I concede one is on solid ground to suggest that Jesus cared about the poor, war, and human justice it is another thing to know whether Jesus would support particular policies. For example, would Jesus support an increase in the capital gains tax to help the poor and would he support welfare, universal health care for all, minimum wage increases, etc. etc.?...It's the "application" I get anxious about when it comes to Christians integrating their understanding of Jesus message to political challenges. I get nervous because, generally speaking, Jesus doesn't address how his message is to be applied or integrated...and...when we assume our application of Jesus message is the will of God than there leaves little or no room for compromise or counter proposals, which are important aspects to the political process of any democracy. I do believe God cares about politics and "is" interested in how we go about our political business but I am not sure God is as confident as we often appear to be in our political proposals...and...yet Christians on both sides of the political aisle seem, at times, much more confident that they are implementing God's kingdom on earth than I feel comfortable with.

Mclaren ends his chapter on the political message of Jesus by saying, "If you are part of this Kingdom, you won't be blindly patriotic...and...you will be willing to confront injustice...and...won't nestle snugly into the status quo but will seek to undermine the ways things are to welcome the ways things could and should be."...I can empathize with Mclaren's comments about not being "blindly patriotic", and not becoming too chummy with the status quo but also often ponder what it means to stand against injustice and "undermine the way things are"...In the past I have always interpreted taking a stand with being confrontational and letting everyone know what I was against but as I grow older I now see the value in being subversive by integrating imagination and creativity with the other tools at our disposal. Of course the powers that be and the status quo never like to relinquish power and they will often resist with everything they have but if the life of Jesus has taught us anything it is we can't fight fire with fire but rather we need to look for new ways to address old problems...and...that is one aspect of the political message of Jesus that I think we need to consider and take to heart....

2 comments:

Bilbo said...

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Dave said...

It's interesting to me to read these passages from McLaren as I also consider the political shifts that have taken place in the past year or two since he wrote them. In 2004-05, there was this sense that evangelical Christianity was firmly in the grip of the Republican Party... this concern that church and state were solidifying into one controlling force was almost palpable, and I think that McLaren, Campolo, Wallis, et al. saw a need to reassert that distinction.

Now with the Iraq War turning into a shambles and Bush's popularity in the tank, not to mention scandals affecting the big-time Religious Right (e.g. Ted Haggard)it seems like the church has pulled back a bit from its political embrace, which changes the context of what McLaren wrote so recently. I think his intentions were to remind readers that God/Jesus and conservative Republicanism are not synonymous terms, but one of the ways he sought/seeks to do that is to write in similarly 'absolute' sounding terms (as in Wallis' "God's Politics" which at least on the surface asserts that God has a political position.) Like you, I think it's a mistake to draw such tight connections, whether the politics are coming from the Left or from the Right. I think God is actually apolitical in the best sense of the word. Our efforts to promote justice and equity and right moral conduct all have their own place, validity, etc. but are often as likely to have unintended and even sinful side-effects as certain principles, values, priorities, etc. are pushed to the point that some needs are overlooked.

I think Jesus' way is generally more interested in the process rather than the conclusion...