Future of Evangelicalism
The Dead Are Not Raised by Politics
That's appallingly heretical. Our identity is rooted in our doctrinal commitments, not our prudential judgments.
A person can be a Christian and be politically confused, but that doesn't make him any less Christian. Realizing that at the beginning should soften the edge of our conversations. The more we can decouple the policies from the people, the better. If you come with that posture, then you ought to be able to be civil toward your opponent because you realize that person is made in the image of God, possesses the imago Dei, and ought to be treated with civility and dignity no matter what he or she thinks.
The need for civility is more urgent now than ever. Christian charity and civility should always be that hallmark of our conversation, especially in our political disputes.
You occupy a mediating space. What would you want your friends on the Left to understand about the Tea Parties, and what would you want those on the Right to understand about the Obama administration?
I want my friends on the Right to understand that the people in the Obama administration have, in general, extremely good intentions. They just have a different view about what public justice is and how we ought to arrange our life together politically and legally. Except in the most extreme cases, one should never call into question the fact that these people are well intended.
I don't think it's fair for people on the Left, when they see a big mass movement, to find a label and call them all racists. Nor do I think it's right for people on the Right to call somebody a communist because they believe in state intervention in a way that the person making the charge finds inappropriate. So I think we ought to be really careful about putting labels on people in ways that misrepresents them and damages them. Just critique the policy.
I trust that I have earned the respect of liberals and conservatives alike, because they know that I respect them all. The fruits of the Spirit ought to be exhibited in these kinds of exchanges. And if they aren't, then one has to reexamine one's commitment to the central truths of the faith.
It's too easy in this town to get so stirred up ideologically that we forget our prior commitments. The dead are not raised by politics. There are some things that transcend politics that are more urgent than winning political victories. It's always very important, when Christian politicians reach across the aisle, that if their opponent gets sick in the hospital then they should be the first people there to see them.
One of the great characteristics of Rick Warren is his ability to do this. I hosted and moderated a luncheon discussion on the new shape of evangelicalism last November. Twenty-five journalists were there. Ten months before, Rick had given the invocation at the Obama inauguration, so the press were curious about him. And in room of twenty-five journalists, I would estimate that twenty or more were coming from a liberal perspective.
So, how do you defuse a room full of liberal, skeptical journalists? You hug them all. Every time Rick Warren walked up to someone, he would see their name tag and exclaim, "Oh, Dan Gilgoff! You did such a great job on that last article you wrote." None of it seemed contrived. It's just who Rick Warren is. But I said to myself: twenty years ago, would Falwell go around the room hugging all these New York Times writers? I doubt it. There would have been all sorts of suspicion. Rick was just going around the room, greeting everyone, totally comfortable in his own skin.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.