Monday, June 05, 2006

A season for painful admissions

When George W. Bush was declared in late 2000 to be the victor in Florida—thus handing him an electoral college victory—and Al Gore launched his legal challenge to the results, I distinctly remember asking my pastor, “I honestly don’t know how anyone could be a Democrat and a believer.”

I’m ashamed to admit this, but this is the season for making painful admissions. Another admission I need to make is that had I known then what I know now I would not have supported the invasion of Iraq. I am a firm believer in the capacity of this country to do good and of the overall righteousness of the cause, but the results on the ground day after day, month after month and year after year speak for themselves. The war has not accomplished what I had hoped it would and while it’s impossible to predict what would have happened had the invasion not taken place, I have to admit that the state of affairs may well be worse for both Iraq and America than they would have been had we not invaded. I don’t have answers for what to do now. All I can do is be honest about my own regrets and say that I firmly hope that a peaceful and democratic Iraq will emerge from this struggle. I wouldn’t bet good money on it. In the meantime, I hope our soldiers watch their backs and soundly defeat the hostiles every time they try to do harm. I don’t harbor any illusions that Iraqi insurgents are just loyal subjects defending their homes from a hostile occupying power. The thuggery and viciousness of the insurgents, not to mention the foreign terrorists, leaves them beneath contempt. But they have thoroughly cowed the civilian populous and I’m not sure any amount of time, money, resources or lives can turn that tide. I hope I’m wrong.

Another admission I have to make is that for years I’ve turned a blind eye to the increasing politicization of the church (and why not? As evidenced by my first admission, I was totally complicit in it). Led by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, evangelicals in America have been increasingly activist and increasingly aligned with power brokers in the Republican party.

For the record, I am a registered Republican and have yet to vote for a Democrat in the 20+ years that I’ve been voting. But this is beside the point. Even though there aren’t many political or social issues that I take a different opinion on than your typical conservative evangelical (immigration and gay rights being two notable exceptions), I’ve grown very uncomfortable with the degree to which politics has invaded the church—or more accurately, how the church has sold itself out to politics. In doing so we’ve called down fire on Christianity that was never its to take.

It’s far too easy to dismiss criticism of “the religious right” as being par for the course, Biblically speaking. After all, didn’t Jesus warn us that we would be hated for his name’s sake? But this is a phony spiritualization of what, in the rough and tumble of the modern political landscape, are just the lumps you get when you jump in the ring. Evangelicals rap liberals as much as any secular conservative. If liberals rap back, can we really hang it all on Jesus?

Finally, I admit that I find it increasingly difficult to stuff my pride and selfishness and that I've been acting out of my own wants rather than out of others' needs. In other words, I think I've been more of an asshole lately. And what's worse is, that doesn't bother me as much as I think it should. I almost feel entitled to be an ass. I can't help but think again how this is a singularly spiritual issue. If the law is to do to others as we would have them do to us, being an asshole is to be a lawbreaker, plain and simple.

I don't have pat solutions to any of this, and I won't even promise not to be an ass anymore. But admitting it here helps.


At 12:35 PM, Blogger Steve said...

For me it all became clear way back in the election of '92. I told the story awhile back on one of our podcasts, but we had people at our church crying that Bush had lost to Clinton... I mean really, really crying...hard!

I was living in Colorado Springs or "Dobson-Land" and serving at a church where the invasion of the political process in the church drew a line in the sand and divided us - although many thought it would unite us.

It was very uncomfortable to enter church on a Sunday and pass tables that were inviting you to sign this, support that and oppose this.... truly bizarre.

It was church at it's worst...

It was the beginning of the end for me... or was it actually the end of the beginning....

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Craig Bob said...

I have similar memories of '92. In fact, I may have even advocated setting up one of those tables in the fellowship hall. And then there was the blue dress and what's the definition of "is" and rabid Christians with torches and pitchforks yelling for impeachment. That was the beginning of the end for me. I hung on through 2000 -- punched the card for W. But swung over to Kerry in 04 -- not as a lifelong commitment to vote blue -- but, honestly, it felt really good to break free from that unholy Christian/Republican alliance. Free at last.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Ex Pastor's Kid said...

I hate being a one-issue voter. If it weren't for abortion, I would be such a political liberal I think. That's the one thing that makes me so sad about the religious right, they get so much wrong, but on this one issue, despite their mishandling, I cannot make it about choice when I know too well it's about a little baby. Or am I missing something?

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

If you're going to be a one-issue guy, that's not a bad issue to draw the line on. I would just keep in mind that as long as it's a constitutional issue there's not much influence individual lawmakers can have on the legality of abortion.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger shelly said...

Oddly enough, my political awakening (if you will) took place after September 11, 2001. Even more bizarre, about a year later, I started questioning my faith and "mainstream" Christianity in general.

Anytime abortion or gay rights or GWB (mainly in regards to him being "a man of faith") is mentioned during a church service these days, I roll my eyes as virtually everyone else in the congregation says "amen".

For what it's worth, I'm not registered with any party. I voted Libertarian in 2004 and would do so again. That said, I'd call myself a "progressive/liberal Christian".

Ex PK...
If it weren't for abortion, I would be such a political liberal I think. That's the one thing that makes me so sad about the religious right, they get so much wrong, but on this one issue, despite their mishandling, I cannot make it about choice when I know too well it's about a little baby. Or am I missing something?

What if a woman's life was in danger and there was no other option? What if a woman was raped? Or incest was committed against her?

Earlier this year, an eleven-year-old girl in foster care (IIRC) in Florida made news because she wanted to get an abortion but the state wouldn't let her (again, IIRC). Personally, I think she had a strong case; an eleven-year-old, IMO, is in no physical shape to be carrying a child.

Also, there is no verse in scripture for or against abortion. That said, in Exodus, when they're getting into the law, it says that if a man hit a pregnant woman and caused her to miscarry, he'd have to pay a fine. But if harm came to the mother, "an eye for an eye...". Seems to me that if God considered a fetus to be on equal footing with a life that was already born, then if a man caused a pregnant woman to miscarry, he would've been condemned to death.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Ex Pastor's Kid said...

Shelly, I hear you. Over the years I am very slow to draw absolutes--so I will not judge the 11 year old girl. My main gripe is primarily in protecting the oppressed. I find myself hard-pressed to find a group weaker and more vulnerable than the unborn; I want to protect them over against the sick consumerist, convenience-driven culture that glibly encourages "planning your family" as something akin to "terminating the life" within you. This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, given these stories about my newborn son who was seen by a number of doctors as a major inconvenience.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't find God in either political party other than in some of the individuals who belong to those parties. Neither represents God and though God was important to those who came from Europe and settled here and established a new nation, the U.S. is just another nation that will rise and fall. It is dangerous to affix the hope that belongs only in Christ to any temporal nation. Doing so also leaves us open to a very evil kind of manipulation that could end in persecution of the church by the very people we have pinned our hopes upon.

Christ can't be legislated in to the mind and heart of anyone. To try and do so is to turn Grace back into Law. And it is all false promise anyway. What has the Republican party actually done to end abortion? Nothing; it is only election time lip service and we have fallen for it for over a decade now. The government will never end abortion. Only Jesus in the hearts of men and women will bring about an abhorrence that will end it without law.

When I think of my own hopes that I have mistakenly placed in politics, all I can say is, Father forgive us, we know not what we do. Please show us a better way and keep our eyes and hopes fixed upon You.


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