Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Audacity of Hope

The political landscape of America has always been shifting sand. Look at a red state/ blue state chart from 150 years ago and compare it to today; you’ll see what I mean. One of the more recent phenomenon in political mapping has been the union of Christian conservatives with the Republican party. There are many reasons for this, but primarily it seems that issues such as abortion, gay marriage, prayer in schools, and the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places are the litmus test issues for this block of voters.

I’m wondering if there’s a change on the horizon. I just finished reading Time’s book excerpt from, ‘The Audacity of Hope’ by Barack Obama. Here’s a democrat who is open, both about his faith and the role that faith must, of necessity play in the public arena. The difference for Obama is that his work with, and experience of the ‘historically black church’ offered a powerful apologetic for the issues of faith to be both rooted in something transcendent, and effective the public spheres of poverty, justice, racism, and war. What will happen when a democratic presidential candidate begins to openly profess the connection between faith and public policy? What will happen when such a discussion leads to debates across party lines that have theological overtones (for example: is pre-emptive war in keeping with the ethic of Christ? Is abortion wrong when the culture into which a child is born is unsupported with economic and educational assistance? I could list twenty more… but don’t have time)?

What Obama calls the ‘historically black church’ was appealing to one of my favorite theologians. In part, I think his perception of this same seamless theology, which spoke to all areas of life, was that to which he was drawn.

Interesting days are ahead, when candidates on both sides of the isle are appealing to the teachings of Jesus as the basis for their political convictions. This will demand that churches offer a voice in the midst of the discourse, critiquing the dialogue with sound theology and hermeneutics. Are you ready for that? Are we ready for that? What an exciting time to be alive!


At 18/10/06 23:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything is so wonderful. And there is beauty everywhere. Even the bees bring forth a glory filled bounty. Just look and see

And I thought Jesus said his politics were in heaven. And the american flag in church seems as wrong as a mud fence in a rain storm. Oh. forgive me please.

It's all so good.

At 19/10/06 22:55, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contained in this post are some of the funniest lines I have read in some time.

Thanks mucho!


At 20/10/06 01:59, Anonymous Jenny said...

Goodness, give him a break! If you have been keeping up with this blog you would know that Richard is as much against having a flag in church as you are, is aware that life isn't always perfect, and that the Kingdom of heaven will never be completely fulfilled by neither republican or democratic parties. I don't want to put words in his mouth or anything, but it appears to me that all he is saying is that it's exciting to have a possible Christian candidate who isn't just about anti-gay, anti-abortion issues, but might possibly deal with issues that Jesus actually preached about and cared about--the poor, the down trodden, etc. I know there is not much to hope about in American politics today (I'm sure glad that I'm in the UK right now), but let the guy have a little hope when it is actually there for the hoping. Such sarcasm is petty and unhelpful.

At 20/10/06 13:02, Anonymous Phillip said...

Mistaking methaphor for sarcasm is somewhat understandable. But asking a question of what is meant by their comments seems to be a better approach.

The politcal scene in this country and in the UK is dependent on the winds of the people's sentiment. Currently it seems the people's appetite for those in power is sour at best. And being consumers first, we'll see if any find it necessary to be bothered to get out and vote.

It's all about power and manipulation. It has been since day one. This is our legacy. Maybe our collective hope is held in balance by our willingness to confront the blight on our nation's soul. Besides, most of the world knows this is not a christian nation. And never will be. Pluralism is where the founders placed their hope.

As far as the church, hopefully she will not be fear driven. Alas, She will never be frear driven. Love is Her foundation. Never will she bow to kiss the hand of political leaders.

Or will she?

At 20/10/06 16:21, Anonymous ceguy said...

Hi Richard,

I share your enthusiasm for Barack Obama. His confidence that the gospel has something to say about social justice is a welcome relief to the rhetoric of those who, on one extreme, use biblical language to justify the interests of the wealthy, and on the other, try to bar religious reasoning from the public forum altogether. I might reinterpret what you say about his particular location in the black church, however. It seems to me that an important dimension to his message is that he learned to think of the gospel as a story told from the perspective of history's underdogs, like the Jews of the first century and black Americans of the 20th.

Contrary to what some of your respondents seem to suggest, to bring one's faith into the public arena is required by both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the spirit of true secularism. As for the gospel, Jesus' entire ministry was an affront to the power structures of his day. To share meals with people censured by the ruling class, to revive prophet warnings against economic inequality, to demonstrate that God was on the side of the weak and afflicted, to enter the Temple and denounce its program openly--this was a threat against Palestine's local hierarchy that was felt all the way to Herod & Pilate's offices. If we fail to carry the ramifications of Jesus' teachings & practices into the public realm, we are not his disciples.

As for secularism, true secularism does not require an agreed-upon non-theological foundation. Rather it requires a willingness to allow every participant to phrase his or her concerns in terms that he or she deems appropriate. As a Christian, I ought to be able to say publicly why my faith calls for a certain course of public action, but also to listen as others tell me why, on the basis of their core beliefs, they do not find my case convincing. From there, it is our task to persuade and listen until we arrive at a course of action consistent with both my convictions as a Christian and the convictions of others according to their systems of thought or belief. Of course, this would require a degree of civility, humility and patience sorely lacking from modern political discourse, but I think we could develop these virtues with practice. (For more on this, let me recommend Jeffrey Stout's excellent work "Democracy and Tradition.")

Grace & peace,

At 22/10/06 19:08, Blogger Jim Underhill said...

I agree with Richard's analysis of the U.S. political scene going into midterm and Presidential elections (could we do it w/o TV adds this time?). It's clear that the Democrats will be tugging @ the hem of Jesus' cloak as have the Republicans. I wonder how our Lord feels about being a piece of our election process and debate?

As to a seemless candidate, one who mixes his/her politics and faith w/o hestitation, it would be wonderful. My concern is the many tugs and pulls on any candidate that, it seems, eventually has them diminish their faith for political reasons. One only needs to reveiew the life of the two Bush Presidents and Bill Clinton to see that politics wouldn't allow a seemless politic to occur.

I have hope though for the local church, within its community. We can be engaged, active and difference makers. We don't have the tugs and pulls, the political promises that one must keep as the 'trade off.' Wherever our local fellowship exists, U.S., U.K., or anywhere, may we become the seemless ones that bring the hope, reconciliation and peace so desired by the world around us.

At 25/10/06 13:07, Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

There's something about the name Barak. Wasn't he the guy who could have been leader of his country but deferred to a woman. Only her name was Deborah not Hillary.

At 27/10/06 17:52, Anonymous larry said...

I don't care who you are, that's funny


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