Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Politics of God continued

Last night a group of us met at The Old Spot. It was Pub Theology Night, and at point of discussion was the topic of yesterday's SynchroBlog - The Politics of God.

We bantered about McCain and Obama, and whether it was a sin to vote Democrat, or a sin to vote Republican. You can see it had its heated moments. We talked the Middle East - Israel and Palestine, and that was more heated than the Elephant and Donkey, but all still friendly enough.

I love getting wildly disparate people together, and letting them get to know and understand one another. So, we get fundy fanatics, atheists, Witches, Emergenty people, and next-door neighbors.

After bantering about politics in general I brought the discussion around to the question of hearing what God's political agenda was for oneself - not what it was for anybody else. We talked about expectations God might have during the current political season in the US.

The answers varied from: God expects me to vote Republican (yes, in Massachusetts!), to God wants me to vote Democrat, to God wants me to work toward peace (the most popular answer last night - is this born of current world tension?), to God wants me to consider the oppressed and poor in my decisions.

My answer was God wants me to understand the other - to consider the positions of those whose political philosophies are radically different than my own, and even search for imago dei within their choices, and motivations. Like the rest of my life, I am entertaining an anthropological missiology in my political interactions, because the politics of God are a politic of grace and understanding, and therefore that is what He wants from me.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Talking Points of Presumption

Politics and religion are the two great taboos of polite discussion. In the USA, as we inch toward voting for the Presidency political discussion becomes the regularly broken taboo. Heated opinions are tossed about on every street corner where people congregate, and restaurants become places to rest and rant.

Over the years I have been intrigued by the fact that every person living is an authority on religion. As a pastor for the last 23 years I have deep experience in understanding the Bible, studying the issues of religion and human interaction with things Divine. Yet, almost daily I meet people who believe their experience and understanding on these issues far exceed my own. Many of these people seldom deal with the issue of religion until it is time to fervently debate their own position. I typically smile during these encounters, considering that fervency is a better sign than nonchalance.

Politicians must have similar feelings when sitting at the table with the multitudes of political armchair quarterbacks. (Sorry for the decidedly American reference here - you'd have to watch American football.) These politicians have spent decades behind the scenes of this dance we call politics in which the balance of power among people, and the development of the laws of our lands is determined. They have seen the delicate maneuvers taking place. They have walked through the dilemmas, and felt the pressure of the "damned if we do, damned if we don't" scenarios. They have seen the dark underbelly of corruption, and the innocent idealism of those seeking the public good.

It seems to me that those of us who sit outside the halls of power easily describe our political opinions with the naivety typically reserved for idealistic teenage years.

We appear to know the hearts of the politicians we judge, and call them out as being (pick a popular epithet here) stupid, dishonest, corrupt, naive, morally bankrupt, indebted to special interests, or whatever host of other things we find reprehensible.

It is the common attack of the left upon the right in America to call out the opposition as stupid. It is the common attack of the right upon the left to call the opposition morally bankrupt. I find these talking points to be shallow arguments meant to win without significantly intelligent persuasion.

Quite frankly it sounds stupid to call a man who has risen to the pinnacle of world political power "stupid." The inanity of such a comment can not be understated. To call a person morally bankrupt or corrupt without having all the evidence on the table, and clear before us is in itself a corruption of the very principles of justice and mercy upon which Americans pride themselves as standing for.

The politics of presumption flow from the lips of those who call themselves spiritual as freely as polluted water, and so in this season of political change we are being called to a new kind of politic - the politics of grace.

I hope I have stepped on your toes. In a democratic union like the USA (not designed as a pure democracy by the way, but that is another topic) responsibility lies in the hands of every person - every voter. In a land of free speech our speech is of critical value, and if we follow the corrupt and stupid talking points, which frequently make the sound bites of daily news, we shall be responsible for our nation's rising stupidity and corruption. So I leave this thought with the words of someone older and wiser.

"But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

Check the post below for links to the other SynchroBloggers joining this discussion.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Politics of God - July 22nd SynchroBlog

Look to Tuesday, July 22nd for the next SynchroBlog on the subject of The Politics of God. Are you wondering what is meant by that? Well, the bloggers who will be joining the topic this month will define it for you. The list of contributing bloggers will be posted in the next couple days.

Do you want in on the SynchroBlog? Leave a comment with your name and URL, we'll add you to the list.

Here is the list of those intending to contribute so far:

Phil Wyman rants about The Talking Points of Presumption
Lainie Petersen considers Questioning the Citizen Diety
Jonathan Brink enters The Political Fray
Adam Gonnerman explains The Living Christ's Present Reign
Sonja Andrews Won't Get Fooled Again
Mike Bursell at Mike's Musings
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes
Steve Hayes on God's Politics
Matthew Stone at Matt Stone Journeys in Between
Steve Hollinghurst at On Earth as in Heaven
KW Leslie tells us about God's Politics
Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping
Dan Stone at The Tense Before
Alan Knox asks Is God Red, Blue, or Purple?
Beth Patterson writes about Learners inheriting the earth: the politics of God
Erin Word discusses Hanging Chad Theology

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My Three Day Story

I placed a post on our church blog following my experiences over three recent days. These were not three typical days, but then there really are not typical days in Salem. (I am convinced there really are no typical days anywhere, but that's another story.) So to stop from blathering on here's the link to that story.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Green of Being Green Considered Once Again

Our roommate Evan Hansen e-mailed me this link to one of the You Tube TED series of speakers after reading about my skepticism about Global Warming, which is combined with my interest in ecology. This is a nice 17 minute ditty by Economist Bjorn Lomborg.