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The Loss of the Political

There's an old saying in Tennessee – I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can't get fooled again.
– George W. Bush
Ah, George, but they did get fooled again. Shame on all of us.
To judge all Christians on the basis of those who voted for Bush is analogous to judging all Americans based on the fact that the majority of them voted Bush – not once but twice. Yes, there are a lot of people who call themselves Christians that do insane things (like support the Bush regime), but that doesn't mean Christianity itself is being truly represented by those people. And yes, there are a lot of Americans who do obnoxious things (like support Bush's war in Iraq) but that doesn't mean all Americans are truly represented by those people. And I would push it one step farther. To support Bush is actually fundamentally opposed to Christianity. Not that I'm saying all Christians need to get out and vote for the liberals or some fringe party. What I am saying is that it seems to me that most Christians have lost their understanding of their distinct political identity. Christians have tended to take the approach that they need to vote for “the least of the evils”. Sure, all candidates won't agree with everything they agree with, so they just try to find the candidate that is the most similar to their morals. Now it seems like most Christians in North America think that morals strictly deal with things related to sex, and drugs, and prayer in school. So they see a guy like George W. and vote for him. Other Christians (definitely the minority) realise that morals are far more about things like economics and war so they tend to vote for other parties – and instead of risking splitting the vote, they vote for Kerry. You know, take the least of the evils. Of course, when that's your approach you still just end up with… evil. I'd say this approach became popular around the 40s and 50s (thank you Reinhold Niebuhr, you lead the church into exile). Pick up pretty much any Chomsky book and you'll be able to judge its efficacy.
Of course a third group of Christians realise this and tend to retreat into an apolitical stance. Better not to get involved at all. Keep your own hands clean and try to save as many souls as you can while the world goes to hell.
The problem with all these positions is they misunderstand the nature of Christianity. Christianity is inherently political. It was never about souls going to heaven while the world burns. It's about transforming the world here and now. Jesus was a political figure, Paul's gospel had devastating political consequences and the message of the prophets in the Old Testament returns over and over again to political issues.
But Christianity is not political in the ways any of these people have imagined.
North American Christians need to rediscover their true political identity. Probably a good first step is to rediscover Jesus. After all, I think it's Jesus that all these people are either completely abusing or completely ignoring.
Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?
– George W. Bush
I don't know about our children but our church sure as hell is not.

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  1. As always, great thoughts.
    I think that if I were American I might have voted for Kerry. Not because he was the lesser of two evils. But because he opposed war under false-pretences. Because he appeared willing to address issues such as racism, poverty, health care and a debt that is spiraling out of control (and thus aggravating and excacerbating the mentioned issues). Because Kerry appeared to want to represent more than just the upper class and corporations. Etc. Etc.
    Sure, Kerry may have turned out to be the lesser of two evils. But to not vote against Bush considering what he stands for and what he has done…I don’t know if I could not vote. Help me out here. Are you suggesting Christians should not vote at all? I know that you are not saying Christians should not be political, in fact, you are saying that they are to be.
    Look forward to hearing more.

  2. Quick answer (that’s not really an answer):
    Hauerwas (or is it Wallis… hang on, it might be Brueggemann) talks about the loss of the prophetic imagination. I think once we regain this we’ll be able to see how it’s not really about party politics.

  3. -the comment above is by poserorprophet, not jude. A mistake was made when re-entering the comments form the livejournal blog-

  4. is there more coming?? I dreamt last night that you answered this question very differently. I guess all dreams don’t come true. I’m weird.

  5. You see, I’ve discovered that I seem like I’m smart just because I struggle to get across what I’m saying. Everything comes out all jumbled, I get stuck in technical language and people automatically assume, “woh, that guy’s smart.” Really I’m just trying to figure out what the hell I’m talking about.
    Real genius is exhibited in an ability to write in a way that can make any topic readily understood and also draws the reader into the text. You know, the words just come alive. Hmmm, now who do I know that writes that way?
    Oh right… you do.

  6. Oh sir, kindly take the tube from my ear and quit inflating my head with flattery. I’m either embarrassed or encouraged, I can’t decide which…but I’m smiling all the same.