Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Political Rant

I see far too many Christians over-simplifying the moral imperatives of the gospel of Jesus as they attempt to apply it to the political process. They are still operating as though the stereotypes presented by political actors (especially by opponents of those various actors) are valid. Frankly, to be specific, I see too many Christians defaulting to a kind of socialism, (or at least a statism) because A) some 'progressives' make a big fuss about caring for the poor (and their myriad opponents don't, for various reasons), B) they ignore, or fail to see that state-directed 'compassion' involves coercion which, by its very nature, denies individuals their God-given status as free moral agents, or C) they are just plain ignorant. Under (C), a certain sanctified stupidity prevails, whereby intent is the only measure of a policy's desirability. Most forms of Protestant soteriology actually encourage this. Because of "the finished work of Christ," [this means you, Francis S.] we need not actually be perfect; we need only be in union with the One who is perfect. He doesn't see us, it goes, he sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ. It seems to me very difficult--but not impossible--to pursue excellence in any matter, whether political, personal, or otherwise, when the moral value--or usefulness-- of any act is predetermined good by benevolent intent at the outset. The philosophical word for this escapes me, but it should be evident after a moment's reflection that intent cannot be the only measure. Thomas Sowell wrote a book called The Vision of the Anointed making this basic point: that entire generations of leaders have attempted social engineering on a massive scale to combat every problem one can imagine without being called to account when those initiatives fail. Furthermore, he says, skeptics of such initiatives are not granted the assumption of benevolent intent. I may be tempted to dismiss this as conservative complaining couched in five-dollar words but for the fact that we do seem to be truncating many policy debates along the lines of intent. And that's why asking "Why?", "To What End?" and "What is/was the result?" is more important than the "What." If skeptics say that the healthcare plan under consideration, for example, will force private health insurers out of the market, limit free choice, and be too costly, its proponents ought to prove why those objections aren't correct or pertinent. The style of politics in fashion (today and forever, apparently) is: 1. Assert the unproven, and 2. Impugn the opposition. If you "Bork" somebody today, when you die, the newspapers and such will call you a "liberal lion" or a "conservative icon." It's been a long time since I read anything like, "He wasn't much of a partisan, but he consistently asked important questions, and raised the level of debate, while disputing with charity and grace." When Christians don't understand politics, and don't want to try, they issue a bland, "Pox on both your houses!" kind of statement, or declare themselves 'apolitical.' The first says, "I don't want to think too hard about this." The second says, "I blindly trust the people with power over my day-to-day living." I've found that if you are too intellectual or too ideological, others automatically wonder about your spiritual priorities. Just because Jesus doesn't take sides doesn't mean the disputes and the process of their resolution is unimportant.

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