Christianity and politics, reconsidered

E. J. Dionne is a Catholic who is liberal politically.  I wonder, though, if all sides could find some agreement in what he says about Christianity recognizing the “limits” of politics:

It’s hard not to notice that Christianity hasn’t been presented in its own best light during this election year because Christians have not exactly been putting forward their best selves.

My colleague Michael Gerson wrote recently about the “crude” way religion has played out in the Republican primaries, including “the systematic subordination of a rich tradition of social justice to a narrow and predictable political agenda.”

Gerson is exactly right, but I don’t propose to use his admirable column as an excuse to pile onto the religious right. Instead, I want to suggest that what should most bother Christians of all political persuasions is that there are right and wrong ways to apply religion to politics, and much that’s happening now involves the wrong ways. Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

What I’m not saying is that Christianity should be disengaged from politics. In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression. There is great debate over how to understand the relationship between Jesus’s spirituality and his approach to politics, but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.

But because Christians have a realistic and non-utopian view of human nature, they should be especially alive to the ambiguities and ambivalences of politics. The philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain captured this well in reflecting on Augustine’s writings. “If Augustine is a thorn in the side of those who would cure the universe once and for all,” she wrote, “he similarly torments critics who disdain any project of human community, or justice, or possibility.”

Christians, she’s saying, thus have a duty to grasp both the possibilities and the limits of politics. This, in turn, means that the absolutism so many associate with Christian engagement in politics ought to be seen as contrary to the Christian tradition. And that’s the case even if many Christians over the course of history have acted otherwise.

via A kinder mix of religion and politics during Holy Week – The Washington Post.

Now liberals keep bashing conservative Christians for their relatively recent interest in politics.  They don’t say much, though, about the overtly political agendas of the liberal churches.  I grew up in one of them and attended their conferences.  It has been said (by sociologist Peter Berger) that the best way to understand what the American left is up to is to attend meetings of the National Council of Churches. That agenda, by the way, is utterly utopian.

So I can appreciate what Dionne says, especially if he is willing to apply it to his own side.  (Liberal Catholics, by the way, are just as politically focused with a leftwing ideology as the Protestants in the National Council of Churches, if not more so, what with the revolutionary ideology of liberation theology.)

At the same time, all of this talk about “social justice” strikes me as rank hypocrisy as long as it excludes the justice due to babies being killed in their mother’s wombs.  In fact, I would argue that much of the “Christian right” is animated primarily by horror at legalized abortion.  And that if the issue of abortion were taken off the table–either by Democrats tolerating pro-lifers or Republicans embracing pro-choicers–the Christian right would diffuse its presence politically, though they won’t go away as long as this grotesque social evil continues.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Going too far in either direction is dangerous, but my issue with people clamoring for social justice is that their solution ALWAYS seems to be more government. With VERY rare exception, liberal “Christians” (I question how somebody can call themselves Christian while holding to things that the Bible specifically denounces) always fall on the side of the state, even at times over the church.

    I brought this up about the health care matter: if you’re so worried about people getting better health care, then get out your checkbook and start writing checks on behalf of others instead of holding a gun to other peoples’ heads and calling it “compassion.” Instead of whining about “we” needing to do something, put your money where your mouth is and YOU do something about it. Aside from the fact that it’s utter arrogance to assume that the rest of us do nothing charitable with our money (which btw is not true), it’s not your place to play Robin Hood and do evil (stealing from others) in order to do “good” (distribute wealth to those who did not earn it).

    Penn Gillette ironically said it best: “It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. People need to be fed, educated, medicated, clothed, and sheltered. If we’re compassionate, we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.”

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Going too far in either direction is dangerous, but my issue with people clamoring for social justice is that their solution ALWAYS seems to be more government. With VERY rare exception, liberal “Christians” (I question how somebody can call themselves Christian while holding to things that the Bible specifically denounces) always fall on the side of the state, even at times over the church.

    I brought this up about the health care matter: if you’re so worried about people getting better health care, then get out your checkbook and start writing checks on behalf of others instead of holding a gun to other peoples’ heads and calling it “compassion.” Instead of whining about “we” needing to do something, put your money where your mouth is and YOU do something about it. Aside from the fact that it’s utter arrogance to assume that the rest of us do nothing charitable with our money (which btw is not true), it’s not your place to play Robin Hood and do evil (stealing from others) in order to do “good” (distribute wealth to those who did not earn it).

    Penn Gillette ironically said it best: “It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people yourself is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. People need to be fed, educated, medicated, clothed, and sheltered. If we’re compassionate, we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.”

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

    That critique focuses on one of my biggest frustrations with modern Christian involvement in public debate. Christianity is nothing if not true, yet so many of our arguments sound like there’s nothing deeper than, “The Bible says so, and I stop thinking after that.”

    While the Bible is sufficient for salvation and is authoritative, God never calls us to cease thinking for ourselves. In fact, we’re encouraged in Scripture to have reasons for our faith, for our beliefs. I pray that those reasons get more attention when Christians speak publicly.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    Moreover, popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry. This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

    That critique focuses on one of my biggest frustrations with modern Christian involvement in public debate. Christianity is nothing if not true, yet so many of our arguments sound like there’s nothing deeper than, “The Bible says so, and I stop thinking after that.”

    While the Bible is sufficient for salvation and is authoritative, God never calls us to cease thinking for ourselves. In fact, we’re encouraged in Scripture to have reasons for our faith, for our beliefs. I pray that those reasons get more attention when Christians speak publicly.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    And J. Dean (#2), you raise a good point, and for those interested in opening their checkbooks and providing health care for individuals, I’d recommend Samaritan Ministries, a Christian health insurance co-op, where you pay a monthly share directly to another believer, and you’re also made aware of additional needs if you feel led to give extra. The great thing is that you’re asked both to pray and to give to Christians in need of health care.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    And J. Dean (#2), you raise a good point, and for those interested in opening their checkbooks and providing health care for individuals, I’d recommend Samaritan Ministries, a Christian health insurance co-op, where you pay a monthly share directly to another believer, and you’re also made aware of additional needs if you feel led to give extra. The great thing is that you’re asked both to pray and to give to Christians in need of health care.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Josh@3, I’ve heard of them. Great organization from what I understand. Proves that you can take productive action without running to government for the solution.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Josh@3, I’ve heard of them. Great organization from what I understand. Proves that you can take productive action without running to government for the solution.

  • Michael B.

    “And that if the issue of abortion were taken off the table–either by Democrats tolerating pro-lifers or Republicans embracing pro-choicers–the Christian right would diffuse its presence politically, though they won’t go away as long as this grotesque social evil continues.”

    I couldn’t disagree more, and this trivializes the wide chasm between the Right and Left. Consider gay marriage, for example. Gay marriage is only part of a wider agenda for the Left. We want to see a day where homosexuality is completely normalized. That is, imagine a gay prom queen, a gay president, and anti-homosexuality being treated the same way as racism. If you think gay marriage is the last stop, I would just ask you to remember when all the Left wanted was for homosexuality to be legal.

    As for abortion, the Left would love to see the end of abortion as well, as most consider it a crude method of birth control. In its place, we would like to see a world where women have as much control over their reproductive lives as they would have in buying a new car, and to be federally subsidized if necessary. And not just for the US, but for other countries as well, as it’s considered that giving women the right to control their reproductive systems is one of the ways of raising a society up, as opposed to having child after child with no idea on how to feed it.

    Don’t think we’re just divided on a few small issues.

  • Michael B.

    “And that if the issue of abortion were taken off the table–either by Democrats tolerating pro-lifers or Republicans embracing pro-choicers–the Christian right would diffuse its presence politically, though they won’t go away as long as this grotesque social evil continues.”

    I couldn’t disagree more, and this trivializes the wide chasm between the Right and Left. Consider gay marriage, for example. Gay marriage is only part of a wider agenda for the Left. We want to see a day where homosexuality is completely normalized. That is, imagine a gay prom queen, a gay president, and anti-homosexuality being treated the same way as racism. If you think gay marriage is the last stop, I would just ask you to remember when all the Left wanted was for homosexuality to be legal.

    As for abortion, the Left would love to see the end of abortion as well, as most consider it a crude method of birth control. In its place, we would like to see a world where women have as much control over their reproductive lives as they would have in buying a new car, and to be federally subsidized if necessary. And not just for the US, but for other countries as well, as it’s considered that giving women the right to control their reproductive systems is one of the ways of raising a society up, as opposed to having child after child with no idea on how to feed it.

    Don’t think we’re just divided on a few small issues.

  • Tom Hering

    Polls show Americans are growing tired of religion in politics. Personally, I’m growing tired of the politicization of Christianity.

  • Tom Hering

    Polls show Americans are growing tired of religion in politics. Personally, I’m growing tired of the politicization of Christianity.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    Tom (@6), a recent survey actually shows that a majority of all voters and a large majority of Republican voters want to hear about the religious beliefs of candidates, because those beliefs are important to how we vote:

    More than 7-in-10 Republicans (71%) and those identifying with the Tea Party (72%) say it is somewhat or very important that a presidential candidate have strong religious beliefs, compared to 51% of Democrats. (Source)

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    Tom (@6), a recent survey actually shows that a majority of all voters and a large majority of Republican voters want to hear about the religious beliefs of candidates, because those beliefs are important to how we vote:

    More than 7-in-10 Republicans (71%) and those identifying with the Tea Party (72%) say it is somewhat or very important that a presidential candidate have strong religious beliefs, compared to 51% of Democrats. (Source)

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Tom @6, I actually agree with you on that, whether it’s Pat Robertson or Bishop Spong.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Tom @6, I actually agree with you on that, whether it’s Pat Robertson or Bishop Spong.

  • Barry Arrington

    “In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression.”

    This has got to be one of the sillier things I’ve seen written lately. The truth is exactly the opposite.

  • Barry Arrington

    “In fact, the early Christian movement was born in politics, in oppositional circles within Judaism fighting Roman oppression.”

    This has got to be one of the sillier things I’ve seen written lately. The truth is exactly the opposite.

  • Truth unites… And divides

    J. Dean: “(I question how somebody can call themselves Christian while holding to things that the Bible specifically denounces)”

    There are political liberals in Christian churches who are pro-abortion and who are pro gay marriage. And there are political liberals in Christian churches who vote for Democrats who are pro-abortion and pro gay marriage.

  • Truth unites… And divides

    J. Dean: “(I question how somebody can call themselves Christian while holding to things that the Bible specifically denounces)”

    There are political liberals in Christian churches who are pro-abortion and who are pro gay marriage. And there are political liberals in Christian churches who vote for Democrats who are pro-abortion and pro gay marriage.

  • SKPeterson

    Okay, I guess I’m a little slow this morning, or the coffee hasn’t quite kicked in, but what exactly does this mean?

    Christians, she’s saying, thus have a duty to grasp both the possibilities and the limits of politics. This, in turn, means that the absolutism so many associate with Christian engagement in politics ought to be seen as contrary to the Christian tradition. And that’s the case even if many Christians over the course of history have acted otherwise.

    I can get the first sentence; I would argue that the second notion, the limits of politics, definitely needs to be heeded. As to possibilities? Yes, maybe. Again, the problem comes about when one tries to place the label “Christian” on policies, either Left or Right. I would argue that abortion is a Christian issue, but I also recognize that it might be the only one (though I’m somewhat sympathetic to the anti-death penalty argument).

    My problem is with the rest of the paragraph. What is Dionne writing about, here. This just seems more of the garbled argumentation that is all too typical of Dionne’s standard oeuvre. I’m not following how he makes his conclusion in the paragraph from the first sentence. It just doesn’t follow.

  • SKPeterson

    Okay, I guess I’m a little slow this morning, or the coffee hasn’t quite kicked in, but what exactly does this mean?

    Christians, she’s saying, thus have a duty to grasp both the possibilities and the limits of politics. This, in turn, means that the absolutism so many associate with Christian engagement in politics ought to be seen as contrary to the Christian tradition. And that’s the case even if many Christians over the course of history have acted otherwise.

    I can get the first sentence; I would argue that the second notion, the limits of politics, definitely needs to be heeded. As to possibilities? Yes, maybe. Again, the problem comes about when one tries to place the label “Christian” on policies, either Left or Right. I would argue that abortion is a Christian issue, but I also recognize that it might be the only one (though I’m somewhat sympathetic to the anti-death penalty argument).

    My problem is with the rest of the paragraph. What is Dionne writing about, here. This just seems more of the garbled argumentation that is all too typical of Dionne’s standard oeuvre. I’m not following how he makes his conclusion in the paragraph from the first sentence. It just doesn’t follow.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    My take here is that Dionne is explicitly wrong about the early church being involved in politics. Except for Simon the Zealot, Christ chose His disciples from apolitical fishermen and even a Roman tax collector, not those ready to wage war on Rome. In the same way, the early church among the Gentiles simply wanted to live in peace and refuse to worship Caesar, not ascend to the Senate and emperorship.

    And if you introduce Dionne’s disdain for absolutism to the early church, you get rid of the very things–rescuing babies abandoned in dumps, refusing to worship Caesar, caring for the sick–that allowed Her to grow.

    More or less, it seems to me that a lot of contemporary liberals simply refuse to learn, or learn from, history, including our President, who despite working in Chicago’s South Side for 20 years was unable to figure out that all that government “help” wasn’t working out so well for people there.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    My take here is that Dionne is explicitly wrong about the early church being involved in politics. Except for Simon the Zealot, Christ chose His disciples from apolitical fishermen and even a Roman tax collector, not those ready to wage war on Rome. In the same way, the early church among the Gentiles simply wanted to live in peace and refuse to worship Caesar, not ascend to the Senate and emperorship.

    And if you introduce Dionne’s disdain for absolutism to the early church, you get rid of the very things–rescuing babies abandoned in dumps, refusing to worship Caesar, caring for the sick–that allowed Her to grow.

    More or less, it seems to me that a lot of contemporary liberals simply refuse to learn, or learn from, history, including our President, who despite working in Chicago’s South Side for 20 years was unable to figure out that all that government “help” wasn’t working out so well for people there.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    “…but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.”

    Jesus was hardly interested in politics. He was interested in the RELIGIOUS powers that be. He was interested in an individual’s lostness.

    __

    Does that mean we abandon politics? NO. But we ought never to tie our politics to the gospel. Too much is at stake for the lost.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    “…but his preaching clearly challenged the powers-that-be. He was, after all, crucified.”

    Jesus was hardly interested in politics. He was interested in the RELIGIOUS powers that be. He was interested in an individual’s lostness.

    __

    Does that mean we abandon politics? NO. But we ought never to tie our politics to the gospel. Too much is at stake for the lost.

  • Steve Billingsley

    There is a lot of historical illiteracy regarding where the “religious right” came from. It is basically a movement that reacted to the social and cultural changes of the 1960s and early 70s. Many of the leaders of this movement (Falwell, Robertson, etc.) initially supported Jimmy Carter’s candidacy. But the disappointment with Carter, particularly on the issue of abortion (and a perceived softness toward Communism) drove them to the Republican Party.

    The Christian Left has been around much longer than the Christian Right. They trace much of their roots to Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel movement (although the Catholic Left has a bit different family tree, it is pretty contemporaneous). The real dividing line for many isn’t economics, but abortion. The history of the Christian church and its’ view of the practice of abortion is striking in this aspect: Opposition to abortion was universal in the early church and in fact was universal throughout church history until very, very recent times (think the last 50 years). Until the Christian Left comes to terms with this – it will have very little ground to stand on in arguing it’s case as a specifically “Christian” argument.

    The best book on the subject that I know of (I think Dr. Veith recommended this in the past) is “Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World” by Michael J. Gorman. I really do think that if the Christian Left stood up against abortion (and to be fair, some do, like Ronald J. Sider) – then much (but not all) of the political division in the church would dissipate. There would be other hot button issues (gay marriage comes to mind) – but I none of them carry the weight that abortion does.

  • Steve Billingsley

    There is a lot of historical illiteracy regarding where the “religious right” came from. It is basically a movement that reacted to the social and cultural changes of the 1960s and early 70s. Many of the leaders of this movement (Falwell, Robertson, etc.) initially supported Jimmy Carter’s candidacy. But the disappointment with Carter, particularly on the issue of abortion (and a perceived softness toward Communism) drove them to the Republican Party.

    The Christian Left has been around much longer than the Christian Right. They trace much of their roots to Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel movement (although the Catholic Left has a bit different family tree, it is pretty contemporaneous). The real dividing line for many isn’t economics, but abortion. The history of the Christian church and its’ view of the practice of abortion is striking in this aspect: Opposition to abortion was universal in the early church and in fact was universal throughout church history until very, very recent times (think the last 50 years). Until the Christian Left comes to terms with this – it will have very little ground to stand on in arguing it’s case as a specifically “Christian” argument.

    The best book on the subject that I know of (I think Dr. Veith recommended this in the past) is “Abortion and the Early Church: Christian, Jewish and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World” by Michael J. Gorman. I really do think that if the Christian Left stood up against abortion (and to be fair, some do, like Ronald J. Sider) – then much (but not all) of the political division in the church would dissipate. There would be other hot button issues (gay marriage comes to mind) – but I none of them carry the weight that abortion does.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Steve Martin, I think we ought to clarify our agreement on the important point that the early church was not trying to be political; they were not trying to be political, but their ministry could not help but impact the political world of that day immensely by showing the wickedness of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, and the Romans.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com bike bubba

    Steve Martin, I think we ought to clarify our agreement on the important point that the early church was not trying to be political; they were not trying to be political, but their ministry could not help but impact the political world of that day immensely by showing the wickedness of the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, and the Romans.

  • John C

    Even if abortion is taken off the table, there is still a lot the Republicans can get angry about: there’s health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites, birth certificates, voter fraud, budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools and the EPA.
    For goodness sake, why would anyone want to outsource a Federal Agency like the EPA t0 a motley collection of 50 states? — pollution is not defined by state boundaries.
    And why Josh shouldn’t we all contribute to the health care of our neighbour? It sounds almost Christian does it not?
    And why do the secular humanists on this blog sound more Christian than the Christians ?
    There is more than enough to stir the faithful to the polls but the whine of Republican discontent does not inspire.

  • John C

    Even if abortion is taken off the table, there is still a lot the Republicans can get angry about: there’s health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites, birth certificates, voter fraud, budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools and the EPA.
    For goodness sake, why would anyone want to outsource a Federal Agency like the EPA t0 a motley collection of 50 states? — pollution is not defined by state boundaries.
    And why Josh shouldn’t we all contribute to the health care of our neighbour? It sounds almost Christian does it not?
    And why do the secular humanists on this blog sound more Christian than the Christians ?
    There is more than enough to stir the faithful to the polls but the whine of Republican discontent does not inspire.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    John C, you obviously come to this debate with an ax to grind, but I’ll indulge you. Yes, contributing to the health care sounds almost Christian. It sounds a lot like Acts 2, where a group of Christians sold their positions and held all things in common possession, but it is different. There, a collective of believers, united in shared friendship and fellowship, contributed to one another’s lives. There, the distributions to the poor were personal, connecting with human beings who could love, pray for, and speak into the lives of the poor.

    It sounds a lot like the parable of the Good Samaritan, but it is different. There, one individual used his personal income to voluntarily minister to a stranger. Christ’s point, as He explained it, was to criticize those clergy who did not voluntarily love and serve another human; it was not to criticize those who did not support forcing the clergy to give to the government-run welfare program.

    I could continue with numerous other examples that sound like a government welfare program, but in each there would be a disconnect. As I mentioned in comment 3, there are numerous examples of Christians contributing to the health care of others. That, however, is a philosophically and sociologically distinct phenomenon from the government programs envisioned by liberal-minded Christians.

  • http://www.quietedwaters.com Josh

    John C, you obviously come to this debate with an ax to grind, but I’ll indulge you. Yes, contributing to the health care sounds almost Christian. It sounds a lot like Acts 2, where a group of Christians sold their positions and held all things in common possession, but it is different. There, a collective of believers, united in shared friendship and fellowship, contributed to one another’s lives. There, the distributions to the poor were personal, connecting with human beings who could love, pray for, and speak into the lives of the poor.

    It sounds a lot like the parable of the Good Samaritan, but it is different. There, one individual used his personal income to voluntarily minister to a stranger. Christ’s point, as He explained it, was to criticize those clergy who did not voluntarily love and serve another human; it was not to criticize those who did not support forcing the clergy to give to the government-run welfare program.

    I could continue with numerous other examples that sound like a government welfare program, but in each there would be a disconnect. As I mentioned in comment 3, there are numerous examples of Christians contributing to the health care of others. That, however, is a philosophically and sociologically distinct phenomenon from the government programs envisioned by liberal-minded Christians.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    J. Dean said (@1):

    I question how somebody can call themselves Christian while holding to things that the Bible specifically denounces

    Really? Do you? So everyone that doesn’t hold to your precise theology is therefore not a Christian? If so, you’re in a sect. Get out.

    But I bet what you meant to say was that you enjoy judging the faith of people who hold to some things that the Bible denounces, while other Christians who don’t trip your particular sensors do not have their faith called into question at all, in spite of their heterodoxies.

    Aside from the fact that it’s utter arrogance to assume that the rest of us do nothing charitable with our money (which btw is not true), it’s not your place to play Robin Hood and do evil (stealing from others) in order to do “good” (distribute wealth to those who did not earn it).

    If it’s arrogance for someone to assume you’re not giving to charity, isn’t it likewise arrogance for you to assume that those in favor of a government health-insurance solution aren’t also giving to charity?

    Also, where did you come up with the idea that using taxes to fund programs is “evil”? I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t in the Bible, where we’re commanded to pay taxes. Did Jesus and Paul endorse “stealing” and “evil”?

    Seems to me that last paragraph of yours I quoted is a fine example of what Dionne is speaking against. You’ve taken your “conservative” position on taxation and turned it into a personal religious conviction.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    J. Dean said (@1):

    I question how somebody can call themselves Christian while holding to things that the Bible specifically denounces

    Really? Do you? So everyone that doesn’t hold to your precise theology is therefore not a Christian? If so, you’re in a sect. Get out.

    But I bet what you meant to say was that you enjoy judging the faith of people who hold to some things that the Bible denounces, while other Christians who don’t trip your particular sensors do not have their faith called into question at all, in spite of their heterodoxies.

    Aside from the fact that it’s utter arrogance to assume that the rest of us do nothing charitable with our money (which btw is not true), it’s not your place to play Robin Hood and do evil (stealing from others) in order to do “good” (distribute wealth to those who did not earn it).

    If it’s arrogance for someone to assume you’re not giving to charity, isn’t it likewise arrogance for you to assume that those in favor of a government health-insurance solution aren’t also giving to charity?

    Also, where did you come up with the idea that using taxes to fund programs is “evil”? I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t in the Bible, where we’re commanded to pay taxes. Did Jesus and Paul endorse “stealing” and “evil”?

    Seems to me that last paragraph of yours I quoted is a fine example of what Dionne is speaking against. You’ve taken your “conservative” position on taxation and turned it into a personal religious conviction.

  • SKPeterson

    Josh – It sounds an awful lot like certain groups that used to be called Aid Association for Lutherans or Sons of Norway or any of the other mutual aid societies that sprang up in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    There are a lot of things for the left to get angry about, too: health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites (okay, maybe not so much, but replace them with the conservative elites), birth certificates, voter fraud (or open access), budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools, the EPA and the United States Postal Service.

    And, what is so wrong with ID being in schools? After all, it is one of the 50 states. Now, if you want to argue that a complete focus on the Gem State shortchanges the contributions of the other states to the fabric of America, that is a perfectly acceptable argument, but don’t knock the state that has given us Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Picabo Street and Nikki Sixx. IA, IN and IL are excellent additions to ID in our schools.

  • SKPeterson

    Josh – It sounds an awful lot like certain groups that used to be called Aid Association for Lutherans or Sons of Norway or any of the other mutual aid societies that sprang up in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    There are a lot of things for the left to get angry about, too: health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites (okay, maybe not so much, but replace them with the conservative elites), birth certificates, voter fraud (or open access), budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools, the EPA and the United States Postal Service.

    And, what is so wrong with ID being in schools? After all, it is one of the 50 states. Now, if you want to argue that a complete focus on the Gem State shortchanges the contributions of the other states to the fabric of America, that is a perfectly acceptable argument, but don’t knock the state that has given us Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Picabo Street and Nikki Sixx. IA, IN and IL are excellent additions to ID in our schools.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And now, taking on the same problem on the left… Michael B. said (@5):

    In its place, we would like to see a world where women have as much control over their reproductive lives as they would have in buying a new car, and to be federally subsidized if necessary.

    Wait, what? All car purchases are now federally subsidized?

    Secondly, what you’d actually like to see is a world where a woman is able, as it were, to drive her car into another person’s car and completely wreck it, and to do so without consequences, claiming that such consequences would impinge on her “control” over her own car.

    Thirdly, the problem isn’t women not “having control over their reproductive lives”, it’s the women who don’t exercise the control they have over their reproductive lives, who apparently need taxpayers to subsidize them in order to have control over their own lives.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    And now, taking on the same problem on the left… Michael B. said (@5):

    In its place, we would like to see a world where women have as much control over their reproductive lives as they would have in buying a new car, and to be federally subsidized if necessary.

    Wait, what? All car purchases are now federally subsidized?

    Secondly, what you’d actually like to see is a world where a woman is able, as it were, to drive her car into another person’s car and completely wreck it, and to do so without consequences, claiming that such consequences would impinge on her “control” over her own car.

    Thirdly, the problem isn’t women not “having control over their reproductive lives”, it’s the women who don’t exercise the control they have over their reproductive lives, who apparently need taxpayers to subsidize them in order to have control over their own lives.

  • SKPeterson

    A further argument could be made that a woman gives up her full “ownership” of her reproductive freedom once she accepts a subsidy, thereby lessening her control over time. Take agricultural subsidies for example. Once they get imposed or voted into being, the government begins to take a greater regulatory and supervisory interest in how the fields are plowed, when the plowing occurs, and who is doing the plowing.

  • SKPeterson

    A further argument could be made that a woman gives up her full “ownership” of her reproductive freedom once she accepts a subsidy, thereby lessening her control over time. Take agricultural subsidies for example. Once they get imposed or voted into being, the government begins to take a greater regulatory and supervisory interest in how the fields are plowed, when the plowing occurs, and who is doing the plowing.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John C asked (@16):

    there is still a lot the Republicans can get angry about: there’s health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites, birth certificates, voter fraud, budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools and the EPA.

    Last I checked, these were nearly all things liberals/Democrats were also getting angry about. Yourself included, it would seem.

    For goodness sake, why would anyone want to outsource a Federal Agency like the EPA t0 a motley collection of 50 states?

    See? You sound angry already, and this has nothing to do with the topic! But a quick answer might be: because you want tighter pollution controls than you can achieve at the federal level. Also, pollution isn’t defined by national boundaries. Good luck with that.

    And why do the secular humanists on this blog sound more Christian than the Christians ?

    I assume it’s because you’ve defined “Christian” to refer more to a collection of political positions than to anything having to do with Jesus Christ and his saving work. Lucky guess?

    There is more than enough to stir the faithful to the polls but the whine of Republican discontent does not inspire.

    I mean, sure, inspirationally speaking, the Republican’s whinging just doesn’t hold a candle to yours.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    John C asked (@16):

    there is still a lot the Republicans can get angry about: there’s health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites, birth certificates, voter fraud, budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools and the EPA.

    Last I checked, these were nearly all things liberals/Democrats were also getting angry about. Yourself included, it would seem.

    For goodness sake, why would anyone want to outsource a Federal Agency like the EPA t0 a motley collection of 50 states?

    See? You sound angry already, and this has nothing to do with the topic! But a quick answer might be: because you want tighter pollution controls than you can achieve at the federal level. Also, pollution isn’t defined by national boundaries. Good luck with that.

    And why do the secular humanists on this blog sound more Christian than the Christians ?

    I assume it’s because you’ve defined “Christian” to refer more to a collection of political positions than to anything having to do with Jesus Christ and his saving work. Lucky guess?

    There is more than enough to stir the faithful to the polls but the whine of Republican discontent does not inspire.

    I mean, sure, inspirationally speaking, the Republican’s whinging just doesn’t hold a candle to yours.

  • Tom Hering

    “… all of this talk about ‘social justice’ strikes me as rank hypocrisy …”

    Okay, but that doesn’t make the talk wrong. If it did, our status as hypocrites would make all of us wrong about social justice. An issue every one of us cares about. At least as far as it concerns whatever group we personally identify with. (Religious liberty brouhaha anyone?)

  • Tom Hering

    “… all of this talk about ‘social justice’ strikes me as rank hypocrisy …”

    Okay, but that doesn’t make the talk wrong. If it did, our status as hypocrites would make all of us wrong about social justice. An issue every one of us cares about. At least as far as it concerns whatever group we personally identify with. (Religious liberty brouhaha anyone?)

  • John C

    A whinge is hardly a political manifesto or a vision of the future, Todd. It is just a reaction — in this case, a reaction by Conservative republicans to the 21st Century.
    As for the EPA, I am more perplexed than angered.
    Although I must admit to getting a bit prickly over ID in the science curriculm.

  • John C

    A whinge is hardly a political manifesto or a vision of the future, Todd. It is just a reaction — in this case, a reaction by Conservative republicans to the 21st Century.
    As for the EPA, I am more perplexed than angered.
    Although I must admit to getting a bit prickly over ID in the science curriculm.

  • Tom Hering

    When did Republicans become characterized by British spellings?

  • Tom Hering

    When did Republicans become characterized by British spellings?

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    “And now, taking on the same problem on the left… Michael B. said ”

    My point was that we have a great deal that divides us.

  • Michael B.

    @Todd

    “And now, taking on the same problem on the left… Michael B. said ”

    My point was that we have a great deal that divides us.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@25), Aussie spellings. Pretty certain John C’s from the Antipodes, which is why it’s all the more funny when he tries to tell us how things are in the States. He gets most of his news about the state of our union from RightWingWatch.org, best I can tell.

    Michael B. (@26), I agree there’s a great deal that divides you from me, even though I’m not infrequently sympathetic to “liberal” arguments. Heck, Tom here is even more sympathetic to such arguments, and I wouldn’t say there’s a lot that divides the two of us. (And sssshh, don’t tell anyone, but there’s even a politically liberal-ish gay man around here with whom I have much in common — though sexual orientation isn’t one of those things.) Furthermore, I’d posit there’s not a lot that divides Tom and I from the more “conservative” types here, whether the third-party-leaning Paulites or even the workaday Republicans.

    I say all this in contradiction to your theory. The “wide chasm between the Right and Left” (@5) is often much ado about nothing, played up by people who seem to think that politics is all there is. The Lutherans on this blog quite often have no difficulty bridging that chasm. But then, we have something to look forward to beyond the next election cycle.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@25), Aussie spellings. Pretty certain John C’s from the Antipodes, which is why it’s all the more funny when he tries to tell us how things are in the States. He gets most of his news about the state of our union from RightWingWatch.org, best I can tell.

    Michael B. (@26), I agree there’s a great deal that divides you from me, even though I’m not infrequently sympathetic to “liberal” arguments. Heck, Tom here is even more sympathetic to such arguments, and I wouldn’t say there’s a lot that divides the two of us. (And sssshh, don’t tell anyone, but there’s even a politically liberal-ish gay man around here with whom I have much in common — though sexual orientation isn’t one of those things.) Furthermore, I’d posit there’s not a lot that divides Tom and I from the more “conservative” types here, whether the third-party-leaning Paulites or even the workaday Republicans.

    I say all this in contradiction to your theory. The “wide chasm between the Right and Left” (@5) is often much ado about nothing, played up by people who seem to think that politics is all there is. The Lutherans on this blog quite often have no difficulty bridging that chasm. But then, we have something to look forward to beyond the next election cycle.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “get angry about: there’s health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites, birth certificates, voter fraud, budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools and the EPA.”

    Look at these one at a time.

    health care – people oppose rationing and being forced to pay for other people’s. It is the federal government doing stuff it shouldn’t and charging a high fee with interest to do it.

    guns – Americans don’t like being outgunned by the thugs, tyrants, etc. We want the right to defend ourselves. This is a classically left position. (fire) power to the people.

    sex – people don’t like the abuse of their children by “educators” who usurp parents by telling kids that they can and should have safe sex. Again, this is a classically left position where the people decide, not the government.

    the liberal secular elites – who favor the power of the Throne over the power of the people

    birth certificates – an example of demanding transparency and expecting the rulers to follow the rules like everyone else, a classic left position rather than the phony left position that the majority doesn’t deserve to rule.

    voter fraud – uh, what? Are you complaining that folks should be okay with fraud?

    budget deficits – uh, what? Are you complaining that folks don’t think that over spending is good?

    raising taxes on the rich – tell us exactly how rich is rich and how high the taxes are going to be? Do you want real tax the rich like we do in Texas? Sky high property tax that taxes wealth and spending not just income? Or are you talking income tax that hits the well to do very hard but it very easy on the super rich unlike Texas style taxes? I mean income tax is literally tax on earned income not passive income/wealth. So, again we have the so-called left arguing for anti left policies and rebranding them right wing.

    global warming – people oppose elites conflating hypotheses with far more substantiated and proved laws and theories to give them credibility they don’t deserve and then calling for people to take drastic steps to change stuff that can’t be changed.

    ID in schools – LOL, if there is one thing that so called liberals believe in it is that human beings were created absolutely equal, at least from the neck up. Look at their absurd ideas in education. Like with enough education we can all be above average!!!

    EPA – people tire of the abuse of power. Pure and simple. Congress creates an agency and delegates authority to it such that laws can be created without legislators voting for them. So, again it is the dictatorial anti left position and contempt for democracy that folks deplore, not the general need for an environmental safety regulatory agency.

    So really the right is far more left than the left.

    It is time to swap labels.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “get angry about: there’s health care , guns, sex, the liberal secular elites, birth certificates, voter fraud, budget deficits, raising taxes on the rich, global warming and ID in schools and the EPA.”

    Look at these one at a time.

    health care – people oppose rationing and being forced to pay for other people’s. It is the federal government doing stuff it shouldn’t and charging a high fee with interest to do it.

    guns – Americans don’t like being outgunned by the thugs, tyrants, etc. We want the right to defend ourselves. This is a classically left position. (fire) power to the people.

    sex – people don’t like the abuse of their children by “educators” who usurp parents by telling kids that they can and should have safe sex. Again, this is a classically left position where the people decide, not the government.

    the liberal secular elites – who favor the power of the Throne over the power of the people

    birth certificates – an example of demanding transparency and expecting the rulers to follow the rules like everyone else, a classic left position rather than the phony left position that the majority doesn’t deserve to rule.

    voter fraud – uh, what? Are you complaining that folks should be okay with fraud?

    budget deficits – uh, what? Are you complaining that folks don’t think that over spending is good?

    raising taxes on the rich – tell us exactly how rich is rich and how high the taxes are going to be? Do you want real tax the rich like we do in Texas? Sky high property tax that taxes wealth and spending not just income? Or are you talking income tax that hits the well to do very hard but it very easy on the super rich unlike Texas style taxes? I mean income tax is literally tax on earned income not passive income/wealth. So, again we have the so-called left arguing for anti left policies and rebranding them right wing.

    global warming – people oppose elites conflating hypotheses with far more substantiated and proved laws and theories to give them credibility they don’t deserve and then calling for people to take drastic steps to change stuff that can’t be changed.

    ID in schools – LOL, if there is one thing that so called liberals believe in it is that human beings were created absolutely equal, at least from the neck up. Look at their absurd ideas in education. Like with enough education we can all be above average!!!

    EPA – people tire of the abuse of power. Pure and simple. Congress creates an agency and delegates authority to it such that laws can be created without legislators voting for them. So, again it is the dictatorial anti left position and contempt for democracy that folks deplore, not the general need for an environmental safety regulatory agency.

    So really the right is far more left than the left.

    It is time to swap labels.

  • John C

    It’s a great list isn’t it, sg?
    Every item has hit the mark.
    Can you think of anything I’ve forgotton?

  • John C

    It’s a great list isn’t it, sg?
    Every item has hit the mark.
    Can you think of anything I’ve forgotton?

  • John C

    Actually Todd, I’ve been taking an interest in politics here and in the US since coming of age during the Vietnam war. Decisions made in Canberra and Washington had a direct bearing on my health and wellbeing. For some young Australians and Americans nothing much has changed.
    For much of our history our cultural reference points have been British but over the last 30 years things have looked more exciting across the Pacific ……………… to be continued, sometime, some other post.

  • John C

    Actually Todd, I’ve been taking an interest in politics here and in the US since coming of age during the Vietnam war. Decisions made in Canberra and Washington had a direct bearing on my health and wellbeing. For some young Australians and Americans nothing much has changed.
    For much of our history our cultural reference points have been British but over the last 30 years things have looked more exciting across the Pacific ……………… to be continued, sometime, some other post.


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