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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Politics As Self-Indentification

I can remember how profoundly the two books shaped me, one from the left, and one from the right. One was "The Religious Right and Christian Faith" by Gabriel Fackre, and the other was "Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey" by David Horowitz. They are very different books. But great in their own ways. There's another Fackre book whose subtitle is, "Essays Evangelical and Ecumenical," but the first part, I can't recall.

You can definitely tell Fackre is a "liberal" theologian, whatever that means. He inspired me, though, undoubtedly. I understood why the founders of the Presbyterian Church in America feared ecumenism: some of it is the legitimate fear of relativism; some of it is the fear that the ecclesio-political fusion that seemed so natural to them would be found out, and condemned.

The mainlines may indeed be the theater for all manner of libertinism, but to the discredit of their more "faithful" brethren, they are the only context where ecumenical dialogue is taking place. Granted, on Protestant terms, it's a fool's errand with respect to dogma, because you can't protect it. Yet it is all to say that the twin convictions arose: The Good News of Christ must say something about profound human problems, and Jesus cannot be bound by any ideology or movement. We must live in the profound creative tension created by, "Everything matters" and, "Put not your trust in princes." That's the beginning of an authentically Christian political engagement.

Not that I have any answers for you. I can only say that how we experience certain decisive moments writes the story we will tell. Had I experienced thoughtful, calm progressives on my university campus, my story may well be different. I am ever and always the guy who wants to hear it out; don't tell me what to think or feel.

I don't necessarily feel as though the unheard contrarians are on the right, at least not all the time. I've got two degrees; I can decide who to be mad at, and why. I hear about a young woman killed by an immigrant; I lament and pray for both of them. The person whose reaction to every news item is to curse the opposing politician is not meaningfully engaged in the process.

Whatever my involvement in the political process, I owe a certain dispassionate reflection upon the issues of the day to the people around me. We need it a great deal, and in greater measure than we have right now.

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