Why It’s Difficult to Derive Political Affiliation from the Bible or Why I’m a “Political Agnostic”

With presidential elections coming up, we’ll hear a lot more about every aspect of politics, including its link to religion—especially Christianity.  I would like to step back and ask a very simple question: Is it possible to derive a distinct political position or affiliation from the tenets of the Bible?  My answer is “probably not.”

Trying to fit Christian beliefs into a specific political stance seems to be putting a square peg into a round hole—it just doesn’t fit.  There are two major problems in trying to translate Christian faith into politics.

The first problem is which aspect of the faith do you want to emphasize? [Read more...]

St. Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer for Scholars

Ineffable Creator,

You who are the true source of life and wisdom and the Principle on which everything depends, be so kind as to infuse in my obscure intelligence a ray of your splendor that may take away the darkness of sin and ignorance.

Grant me keenness of understanding, ability to remember, measure and easiness of learning, discernment of what I read, rich grace with words.

Grant me strength to begin well my studies; guide me along the path of my efforts; give them a happy ending.

You who are true God and true Man, Jesus my Savior, who lives and reigns forever.

Amen

***

When I was in graduate school, Davy Carozza, father of my brother-in-law, gave me this prayer from Thomas Aquinas.  It helped a lot, getting through grad school, and it’s still a moving prayer.

 

A Christian Economist’s Response to Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street protest has dominated the news over the past month, and it’s raising plenty of issues about financial governance, inequality, and fairness.  It is spreading beyond NYC to other cities and college campuses.  (There’s even an Occupy UConn).

Bruce Wydick is an economist at the University of San Francisco, and he is a friend of mine from college.  He has written a very thoughtful piece about the Occupy Movement for Christianity Today, and in it he diagnoses what he sees as the source of the crisis.  Here are some excerpts from Bruce’s essay.

“Part of the power of the protest lies in its ambiguity. Americans are angry about many issues today. In such a climate it may be more strategic to focus on the common anger than on specificities.”

“The crisis has spiritual roots. Jesus warns his followers, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15, NIV). But a syncretistic form of Christianity has emerged in our country, a syncretism that mingles genuine New Testament Christianity with the consumer materialism of the American Dream.”

“This spirit of entitlement in America also lies at the root of our national debt problem, a crisis exacerbated by the housing and finance meltdowns. Make no mistake: our national debt problem is a moral problem.”

Thanks Adrienne for the link!

Is Mormonism a Cult? Not Now (But It Used to Be).

With Mitt Romney making a run for a presidency, people are thinking about his religious faith, Mormonism, and one of the questions that comes up is whether or not it’s a cult.  Various answers have been given, including yes , no, and no.  I would suggest that the correct answer to this question is: “no, Mormonism is not a cult, but it used to be.”

Let’s start off by thinking a little bit about Mormonism.  Every couple of years or so, I have Mormon missionaries knock on my door at home, and, as a sociologist who studies religion, I am probably one of the few people who wants to talk with them more than they want to talk with me.  I’ve even invited Mormon missionaries to come and speak to my sociology of religion class on several occasions.

When I talk with these young men and women, I’m struck by two things.  One, they are very impressive people.  Often just out of high school, they have taken a year or two off, at their own expense, to spread their religion.  I really appreciate that level of commitment; they are invariably sincere and kind people.

Two, I am surprised by how very different their religion is from mine.  As the missionaries have told me, Mormonism differs from what we might call historical Christianity on many key points.  Based on my conversations with them, and some poking around Wikipedia and other sources (and I’m not at all an expert on Mormon doctrine), some of these differences include: [Read more...]


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