Law at the Jesus Creed: Red State, Blue State (by David Opderbeck)


Red State, Blue State, Law and Mission

My “law” post for this week will diverge a bit from the topic of “law” per se to discuss why I believe a missional approach to “law” is vital.  The springboard for this post is an essay from “Q Ideas” by Ken Wilson, “Science and the Evangelical Mission in America.” (Now on the website.)  Wilson’s essay is specifically about the relation between faith and science, but I think the missional principles he discusses apply equally to the relation between faith and law.

Wilson suggests that the mission field of North America can be characterized by two broad people groups:  those with a “Red Sensibility” and those with a “Blue Sensibility” – “Red” and “Blue” being the terms the media uses to distinguish between conservative Republican-leaning and liberal Democrat-leaning states, respectively. 

Is Wilson’s use of missiological categories to describe opinions about politics and science useful and appropriate?  Should a “missional” approach to questions such as law, politics and science involve adapting to these cultural assumptions rather than confronting them?

Wilson offers the following as characteristics of these

Red Sensibility

Blue Sensibility

Votes Republican

Votes Democratic

Considers Earth 10,000 years old

Considers Earth 4.5 billion years old

Thinks species are fixed

Thinks species related by common ancestry

Views environmentalism skeptically

Views environmentalism positively

Regards climate change skeptically

Regards climate change as real

High church attendance

Low church attendance


People who share a “Blue Sensibility,” Wilson argues,
represent a mission field the Church should be reaching.  As Wilson notes, “this is a big mission field:  roughly half the population of the
United States leans blue.” 

We will not reach
this people group with the heart of the Gospel, he says, unless we clear away
cultural barriers that make them feel unwelcome in our churches.  Such barriers include opinions about
science and politics that are hostile to common cultural assumptions and that
are not, in themselves, vital to the heart of the Gospel.  Wilson suggests that someone who is a
registered Democrat, or someone who accepts evolutionary science, should not
feel the least bit uncomfortable about these characteristics in a church that
is missional towards Blue Sensibility people.

I think Wilson articulates something very important about
how the Church in North America should understand itself.  Are we truly serving the Mission of God
by issuing “declarations” and other public statements that declare war on Blue
Sensibility beliefs in the legal and political arenas?  Why is it really that a registered
Democrat, or a scientist who accepts the evidence for evolution, almost
certainly would have to fear revealing those facts in many of our
churches?  To what extent is our
primary concern the preservation of our own cultural privileges rather than the
extension of grace to others?

At the same time, I think Wilson sidesteps two tricky
questions:  (1) how do we draw the
lines between core and non-core values? ; and (2) what happens when the “Blue
Sensibility” really conflicts with something the Christian community considers,
or ought to consider, a core value? 

The response to question (1) requires a separate post (or,
more likely, a book-length response!). 
In short, my response would revolve around the person of Jesus Christ
and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. 
This would mean, for example, that the sanctity of life and the sanctity
of marriage are values that must remain basic for the ethical formation of the
Christian community.

The response to question (2), I think, is well summarized in
a video
by theologian Stanley Hauerwas about leadership.  Hauerwas notes that, as a leader, “you don’t have to win all the time.”  Hauerwas is speaking here about
leadership in the local church, but his observation is generalizable to the
Church’s leadership in society. 
Our leadership in areas we believe are vitally important – life,
marriage, concern for the poor and oppressed – is not about “winning” in the public
square through lawsuits, lobbying, or debate, even if all those activities
might have their place.  In fact,
we “win” – or better, the Mission of God is fulfilled and people are blessed –
as we follow the paradoxical way of the cross. 

What would comprise a
missional approach to issues of life and marriage that doesn’t primarily
emphasize “winning” in the public square? 
In what areas of law and policy, if any, is “winning” a valid goal for
the Church?


"I very much appreciate John Walton’s work. He walks a fine line because he understands, ..."

An Ancient Document (RJS)
"To tell the story of the dawn of the age of authenticity is to show ..."

The Age Of Youthfulness
"We are likely in agreement -- language often gets in the way. For example, I ..."

An Ancient Document (RJS)
"I worry, a little, we emphasize the literalness of these stories too much. For example, ..."

An Ancient Document (RJS)

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • RJS

    It is an excellent essay by Wilson – I was thinking about using it as a spring board for a missional discussion of science and faith next Tuesday (and still may).
    As gross classifications the red and blue classifications by Wilson are good – except I do know a fairly large number of “red” folk (even within the church) who are willing to think “blue” on age of the earth and even open to the possibility of evolution.
    I also think in some churches today we have the opposite problem … what happens when the “red sensibility” really conflicts with something the Christian community considers, or ought to consider, a core value? I could think of examples here as well (environmentalism, the acceptance of torture as an unfortunate necessity, …)
    Good questions.

  • dopderbeck

    RJS — great point. Here’s an example of the problem you raise: a church I used to attend years ago had a special “patriotic” service around July 4 every year. The wall of the sanctuary behind the pulpit ordinarily featured a world map intersected by a cross and the phrase “He is Lord of All.” During the patriotic service, an enormous American flag would unfurl and literally cover the cross. Military veterans in the congregation were invited to wear their old uniforms to church, and a cadre of them would march down the center aisle as we sang “God Bless America.” Even more oddly, this was a church that claimed to take the Bible’s apocalyptic literature very seriously. It’s not too hard to imagine what the author of John’s Apocalypse would say to a church in which the symbols of the state literally covered the cross while men in military uniforms flanked the platform!
    As I describe this in writing, it sounds shocking, astonishing, unbelievable — clearly idolatrous. But in that context, it was perfectly normal and expected. That suggests something was deeply amiss, I think.

  • pwr

    Dopderbeck-I certainly have a problem with people who mistake loving country with worshipping God, or those who believe the two are not mutually exclusive. I feel it is important to honor those who have sacrificed to protect the freedoms we enjoy in America. But in doing so, we must not overlook Christ’s Ultimate Sacrifice to gain freedom for the world.
    But I have a much deeper issue with those who put adoration of creation ahead of honor, reverence and obedience to the Creator.

  • Another very good post, David.
    Most Christians would agree that the kingdom of God in Jesus is front and center as to how we’re to live and think, and where our allegiance and devotion should lie. We just don’t agree on how that plays out in relation to our citizenry in this world. I would find a debate or interaction between say C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer fascinating on this. Of course even within the Anabaptist tradition there is a wide spectrum on just how this is to be lived and worked out in the world.
    As to the red and blue state thing, certainly we have to pick our fights, and as Hauerwas wisely points out, being willing to “lose” here and there. But I think it’s a given that Jesus would offend both those on the left and the right today in America. We need to keep working on the vision of the kingdom of God revealed in Jesus and from Scripture. For me it casts grave doubt on the overall agenda of both the left and the right politically in this country. When people look at us they shouldn’t think either left or right, but different, and find out that our difference lies in Jesus and God’s kingdom come in him.

  • I’m not sure I get his high church and low church separation. Actually, having lived most of my life in red states and the last 10 years in a blue state, I’d almost flip that.
    It would be interesting to hear how people the the high/low church culture should change our missional mindset.

  • AHH

    Deets #5:
    I think one is supposed to read “high” and “low” church attendance as a statement of amount (not as Anglican vs. Baptist or whatever). Most “red” people attend church, most “blue” people don’t.
    And as a scientist living in a pretty “blue” town with some of the “blue” values myself, it is certainly true that many of these cultural issues hinder mission to “blue” people. The book “Unchristian” for example talks about how Christians are perceived as gay-hating Limbaugh-loving environment-despoiling flat-earthers so that pepole with “blue” sensibilities are not receptive to the gospel because of all the associated baggage.
    As David said, the hard part is deciding what can’t be soft-pedaled for the sake of being “missional”. For example, I would say that a church in 1855 should not have been silent about slavery for the sake of being missional to slaveowners. Yet I would want a church today to say something like “it only matters that God created, not how God created” even if their leadership held the “red” position. Or to refrain from crusading against gay-friendly laws even while upholding traditional sexual morality within the church. But I’m not sure how to justify such decisions aside from my personal preferences.

  • Diane

    A missional approach to life and marriage that wouldn’t have to win in the public square–which I assume to be legislative victories and legal victories–would look like this: Christians staying married and working to build strong marriages, Christians living sacrificially and non-judgmentally to make sure that children born are cared for and not living in poverty or with abuse or neglect. As far as I can understand, people are awed by a living faith, enacted materially.

  • BradK

    RJS, you touched exactly on some of my thinking upon reading David’s post. I “think blue” on a number of issues although I (maybe inaccurately) tend to think of myself more in the “red sensibilities” category. Historically I’ve probably tended to vote more republican than democratic, particularly in national elections. But I consider the earth to be several billion years old and that species are related by common ancestry. I have a strong interest in the environment and certainly have no doubt that humans can (and have in some cases) completely wreck(ed) it. But I regard practically everything somewhat skeptically, including environmentalism. And I have high church attendance. So am a red or blue?
    Upon reading the post, like you I immediately wondered “what happens when the *red sensibility* really conflicts with something the Christian community considers, or ought to consider, a core value?” Because I am in a “red sensibility” church in a “red state”. And I really do believe that many members’ sensibilities, and maybe even some of our church’s sensibilities as a whole, conflict with some core values.
    I believe that “blue sensibilities” churches and “red sensibilities” churches both need to focus on where our sensibilities might conflict with core Jesus values. If we do that, then we just might all find our way to a better place together in the kingdom. This discussion might tie in to a certain extent to Ken Wilson’s “New Christianity” essay (it can be found via a google search) where he talks about four camps or sensibilities or “mega-tribes” in the church which he identifies as Liturgical, Social Justice, Evangelical, and Pentecostal. He sees a blurring of boundaries and mingling of these four camps resulting in the Church as a whole being driven towards a center that is God Himself. I find this idea appealing.

  • One thing struck me about MLK Jr’s approach to social change was his explanation of how his non-violent protest strategies were intended to bring change. By assembling and marching, contrary to the orders of civil authorities, he subjected himself to repeated physical assaults. His conviction was that at some point the oppressor is forced to confront himself and ask, “Why am I beating the heck out of these people who are of no physical threat toward me?” The mirror is turned inward and the oppressor begins to see the ugliness within. He or she is moved toward transformation.
    Yes, King sought freedom, justice, and respect for the marginalized, but is very clear that was an insufficient outcome. The oppressor needed to be set free from what was driving him/her to oppress. King sought the transformation of his oppressor.
    Similarly, in too much of the pubic square debate Christians of all stripes are seeking victory for their opinions at the expense of their opponents rather than seeking the transformation of their opponents. We must ask what is our objective: To secure our rights and enshrine our positions, or to seek the transformation of the oppressed and the oppressors … of friend and foe alike? Just as we wouldn’t say that King should not have used legislative and political avenues to achieve ends, I don’t think we can say red or blue Christians should vacate the political arena. But we would do well to reflect on our ultimate objectives as we develop strategies.

  • MattR

    Great discussion!
    I live in what most would consider a very ‘blue’ city… and am a church planting pastor here. Actually feel called to be sort of a ‘missionary’ to the ‘blues!’
    But I have to say, more and more young people (though often fitting into these categories broadly) find the left vs. right culture war thing sort of played out.
    I do believe these categories can be broadly helpful… and most of us fit more into one or the other, even though we would like to think we don’t. But, I have friends for example, who are gay, yet vote Republican based more on fiscal and limited government issues than cultural factors. And I have progressive, social activist friends who are very committed to family and raising children in safe neighborhoods…
    Part of the church’s role, I believe, is in exposing the ‘culture war’ for what it is… often (either left or right) a form of idolatry based on individualism, western notions of ‘liberty’ and nationalism.
    All that said… I DO think we need more incarnational Christian communities and witness in ‘blue’ culture. And this might often disturb the sensibilities of a predominantly ‘red’ leaning American Christian Culture (believe me, I have many stories of push-back here!).
    A recent example might be the Prop 8 (anti-gay marriage) legislation in California… a basic rule of being a missionary might be (to paraphrase a quote from Greg Boyd), we should NOT pass laws against the people we are trying to love! You can even be traditional in your view of marriage, and yet still believe in the rights of gay friends and neighbors… the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
    But both sides need more of a critical-contextual approach. Our focus should be Jesus & Gospel/Kingdom, and core convictions that stem from that. Which, no matter where we find ourselves, will often make us a prophetic voice!
    Sorry so long winded here… obviously very passionate about this!

  • MattR #10
    “Part of the church’s role, I believe, is in exposing the ‘culture war’ for what it is… often (either left or right) a form of idolatry based on individualism, western notions of ‘liberty’ and nationalism.”
    I’m not wanting to pick at you personally I don’t think most people characterize the left as engaging in “… a form of idolatry based on individualism, western notions of ‘liberty’ and nationalism.” This seems to be a critique of the right. Thus, despite the preceding “either left or right” qualifier, I fret that this suggests that the culture wars are something the emanates exclusively or primarily from the right. Long before the Religious Right emerged on the scene in the late ’70s, the left had aggressively sought secularization of public life, collectivist government and other agendas that do not comport well with Christian witness either. Thus, I want reiterate again that addressing the culture wars is not exclusively or primarily a matter of fixing the Right.

  • MattR

    Point taken, Michael W. Kruse (#11),
    I think I was trying to say, in a less than articulate way, what some so called post-liberal thinkers have pointed out… that thought it plays out differently with liberals and conservatives, BOTH sides share the same basic political assumptions (mainly from western liberal democracy), and that is a mixed bag… and often very different from the politics of the Kingdom… see Stanley Hauerwas, ‘Resident Aliens’ for example.
    Wasn’t trying to pick on one side!…
    Though I do probably lean a bit ‘blue,’ so that might come through 🙂

  • MattR #10
    Let me offer this take on the marriage question.
    Family is social institution that men and women choose to enter through marriage. It is not a merely a private agreement between any two interested parties.
    A central driver (not the only one) in the emergence of traditional marriage is nurture and protection of the most vulnerable members of our society … children. It is not true that every sexual union between a man and a woman produces children but every child (barring significant medical intervention) comes from such a union.
    Furthermore, whether we are talking about the ancient wisdom of Aristotle or current social scientific research, the optimal condition for society is for children to be raised by the biological parents that produced them. One of the reasons monogamy is important is that it ensures that fathers know who their children are and develop a bond.
    Now let be very clear about what I did not say because every time I write about this issue I’m accused of saying it. I did not say that an adoptive parents will always do worse than biological parents. I did not say that gay partners could not provide a loving home that might be better than some biological parents would offer. The issue is the normative pattern. The traditional setting is, in the aggregate, optimal compared to the alternatives in the aggregate. There is legitimate common good consideration for society to give preferential treatment to male and female sexual unions and to build up social customs and laws the reinforce the solidity of these unions.
    I will anticipate another issue here and state that it is irrelevant whether each male and female union produces children or even intends to produce children. The issue is that all children come from male and female unions. Therefore, such unions need to be formalized and specially treated without government or society intruding into personal lives of couples to monitor the baby making intentions and performance.
    And here is the irony of it all. Those who are most vocal about the economic libertarian individualism of the right are frequently those most passionate about dismantling the family as the most elemental unit of society and reducing marriage to purely an individualistic private contractual agreement between any two adults without regard for the societal implications
    I don’t think the state should be taking much interest in what consenting adults do sexually in their private lives. I think consenting adults should be able to develop covenant or contractual agreements on host of issues if the wish to. If the culture determines that homosexual relations are morally neutral while the church does not, I’m not sure the church should be opposing such agreements just because of sexual behavior. However, a same-sex relationship is qualitatively different from a heterosexual relationship and, in the interest of the common good, it is important to give heterosexual relationships special status. Gay persons are not being discriminated against because they can’t have their partnerships called marriages.
    The constant demonizing of by the left of those who oppose “same-sex marriage” as homophobic or the equivalent of racists strikes me as an expression of culture war radical individualism.

  • MattR #12
    “that thought it plays out differently with liberals and conservatives, BOTH sides share the same basic political assumptions (mainly from western liberal democracy)”

  • dopderbeck

    Michael (#13) — I’m not going to try to stake out a position one way or the other on the legal issue concerning marriage at this point. But I do want to push back on your essentially natural law argument here, because I often see it come up and I don’t really think it works.
    You say: “The issue is that all children come from male and female unions. . . . Therefore, such unions need to be formalized and specially treated “
    The first problem is that it’s entirely unclear how you derive the “ought” from the “is” here. The justification on the one hand seems to be consequentialist (“on the aggregate” biological parents are better for kids than not), but that of course raises all the hoary empirical problems of consequentialism, as you sort of acknowledge by hedging on the empirical question with terms like “on the aggregate”. Beyond that, I wonder how the ought and the is connect.
    The second problem is that this statement, in any event, is no longer true, and it’s going to become increasingly less true in the future.
    In-vitro fertilization, it seems to me, seriously undercuts the factual basis for this argument. All children still come from the union of an egg and a sperm, but quite often this doesn’t involve any kind of sexual union at all anymore. The issue will become further complicated once we have human cloning (and we will, I suspect, at some point, have it). Then, you will not even need a sperm.
    I don’t think this means there are now no problems with legalizing gay marriage. However, this particular common line of argument against it, it seems to me, fails.

  • dopderbeck #15
    Social institutions emerge and evolve over time out of the collective wisdom of a society. Believing as I do that sin is present in the world, that collective wisdom always contains some mixture of distortion and injustice. Therefore, I’m unwilling to give blanket endorsement to what has emerged from the past but I’m also concerned that we don’t too quickly discard the collective wisdom … believing that we are so much more evolved than those who proceeded us that we can just make the world over into whatever suits us.
    We make the kinds of distinctions I made above about marriage all the time. Could some sixteen year olds marry without parental consent and have a successful marriage? Certainly. Would it also be true that some who marry at sixteen will have better marriages over their lifetimes than those who marry at 26? Yes. Yet we require 16 year olds to get parental consent in most states. Why? Because we know that many 16 year olds do not have the capacity to make responsible decisions. Many marriages between 16 year olds would last longer and be more healthy than those between some 26 years olds. But in the aggregate we know that people marrying at 16 is considerably less optimal then having people wait until they are older. We set public policy accordingly.
    It does not follow that because every marriage at 26 is not better than every marriage at 16 that we should consider them the same. Similarly, it does not follow that because every family made up of two biological parents and their children does not create a better situation than alternatives we should be treated the same. Contracts, laws, and customs that promote this arrangement for procreation and nurture are in the common good.
    I’m not saying that because the consequences are what they are that no other reality can obtain but I think the burden of proof is on those who would dismantle the family, as we presently are doing. All I’m hearing is that marriage should be altered because gay partners want to be conferred with the status of marriage and its legal privileges. What does that mean for institution of the family?
    As I acknowledged, with extraordinary measures, children can be produced outside of this bond. That doesn’t change the unique civil status of male and female couples. That is the only relationship from which children are going to emerge without intervention and I’ll bet big money that it will continue to be the overwhelming predominate circumstance under which children will be born in the future. There aren’t going to be serendipitous children from sexually inactive individuals or gay partnerships. That doesn’t mean they should not raise children but it is a qualitatively different reality.
    If policy is not to be set by identifying and promoting optimal civil arrangements for the public good and moral considerations from religion are to be excluded (which I too oppose), on what basis are we to make judgments about policy? I’m trying to get a grip on your take.
    I’m also aware that some will say that we’ve been moving away from marriage and family as social institution toward marriage as a private arrangement. Therefore, we need simply to vacate the public square on this issue and keep it an issue within the church. If I’m right, we are retreating from advocating something that is in the common good for society and we should be reversing the trend not acquiescing to it.
    I think you could say that until fairly recently the culture has been moving toward producing more garbage and engaging in wasteful consumerism. This is during the same period we have been moving away from the institution of the family. Why is it appropriate to champion less wasteful lives (in pursuit of the common good) in the public square, contrary to what has been the cultural direction, while acquiescing to the deterioration of the family as a social institution (which I’m suggesting is in the common good)? I need to understand why it is inconsequential to the common to acquiesce.

  • dopderbeck

    Michael (#16) — I hear the arguments you’re making now, but there a bit different than the argument you made in #13. In #13 you focused on some biological facts about how children are produced and extended that to an ethic of the family. But the biological facts on the ground have changed significantly because of technology. I don’t see how your ethical position accounts for those technological changes.
    In #16, you focus more on history. I think that can be a helpful focus. At the same time, you need to acknowledge a very significant weakness in that focus: historically, the “traditional” family has very often not been a good thing for women. It is a very recent, very modern invention that the husband doesn’t have some kind of property-like right in the wife. It is true that the trend towards a more contractual view of marriage was deeply influenced by Christian notions of dignity, as John Witte’s latest book shows. But this truth remains: in the long history of the Western tradition of marriage, rooted in Biblical traditions that in turn are rooted in the norms of the ancient near east, women were propertized. Does history then enshrine this as a moral norm? I think we’d agree that it doesn’t.
    So my “take” is that I’m not really sure how to think about the civil law of marriage in a pluralistic modern democracy. My religious view of marriage is that it is a covenant between a man and a woman for life; this is rooted in creation and cannot be “redefined.” I agree with you that the law should ideally acknowledge this for the flourishing of society. However, I’m not convinced that this is deducible from “natural” reason alone, and I’m not sure that this ideal is realizable in in a democratic regime in which some people construe their identities very differently. And, I’m very much unsure that the price of fighting for the ideal law in this circumstance is worth the cost in terms of mission to the “other.” I suppose I lean towards the Hauerwasian view that, in this historical moment, the Church ought to focus on its witness to the real meaning of marriage as a called out community rather than expending so much heat on it in the public square.

  • Thanks. I think I have a better sense of where you are coming from. I’ll break this into multiple comments.
    I don’t think I’m making an argument from natural law in #13 and I understood #16 to be a restatement of #13. I’m still not entirely sure I understand your characterization of #13 as a natural law argument. Maybe the issue is that my comments in #13 were and an attempt to refute from the outset an argument I typically hear in favor of same-sex marriage without explicitly stating it. Let me elaborate.
    Marriage has always been inextricably linked to issues of procreation and childrearing. Same-sex marriage advocates reject this. Many heterosexual couples marry and never have children. Therefore, procreation and childrearing are irrelevant to marriage and marriage should not be denied to same-sex couples. (Of course, then in other contexts it is argued that because same-sex couples are no different than heterosexual couples, they should be able to adopt children … which is to make the link between marriage and children.)
    #13 is largely in response to this misconception. The issue is not that every marriage most result in children. The issue is that (until very recently … and I’ll get that below) all children came from male and female unions. Therefore, the sexually active male and female relationship is unique to all other relationships.
    Call it divine design or pragmatic emergence, the male and female union is something that predates legal codes. It is a civil status apart from the law. But it is a civil status that has profound impact for the shalom of society. Therefore, every society develops mores and laws to manage it. Central to management of Western traditional marriage has been appreciation for the extreme vulnerability of children and the need for social structures that nurture and protect them. Pragmatic experience, and more recently social science, has demonstrated that the optimal societal pattern for the care and protection of children is for children to be raised by their biological parents. Not every child will be nurtured this way (some will be raised by one parent, some will be adopted, some will be raised in homes with divorce and remarriage, some may now be artificially created, etc. … and many will do quite well). Not every two parent biological home will be a healthy one. But the optimal normative pattern is for children to be raised by their biological parents and society has a legitimate interest in promoting that pattern for the common good.
    Same-sex marriage proponents refute the claim that the purpose of marriage is to create children. Not every marriage creates children. Therefore, homosexual partners should not be discriminated against because they don’t have children. Marriage is purely a private contract.
    But I’m not saying the purpose of marriage is to create children. I’m saying that male and female sexual unions are the only place from which children emerge. I’m saying that the optimal condition for the nurture of children (in the aggregate) is nurture from biological parents. The institution of the family is worthy of special status.
    Yes, there are artificial means of procreation that did not exist a short time ago. That does not fundamentally change the situation. The common outcome of physically healthy heterosexual young and middle aged adults engaged in sexually activity over time is childbirth. Extraordinary measures could are needed to prevent conception. Birth control is about stopping or postponing what might otherwise naturally happen. For same-sex partners it is only through extraordinary measures that children are created. The very nature of the heterosexual relationship is unique to all others and even with presence of artificial means this does not change. Children overwhelmingly come, and I argue will continue to come, via heterosexual unions.
    I don’t see this view of marriage as a natural law argument. I see it as society’s response to a naturally occurring and unique civil status, attempting to direct in ways that create the greatest shalom for society. The same-sex equivalency argument seeks to extricate children and the role of the family institution from consideration and completely reduce marriage to a private matter between any two individuals. It is the ultimate expression of Western individualism run amuck.
    What I’m suggesting is that this has significant implications for social justice. Sometimes social justice is about reforming longstanding unjust institutions and practices like slavery and racism. But social justice can also be about conserving institutions that promote just relationships from corrosion.
    So here is my concern about the Hauerwasian view. I have known Mennonites over the years. I have seen their courageous stances to stand apart from the government and secular institutions. (Including one senior citizen who was a conscious objector drafted during WWII.) I don’t agree with their stance but I can appreciate the consistency with they try to live it out.
    Too often, those who say they are Hauerwasians come across to me as Anabaptist wannabes getting in touch with their inner-weasel. 🙂 They will participate in political action to achieve goals that comport well with Blue State sensibilities (end the war, stop CO2 emissions, single payer health care) even when that Blue political action is a minority position in society. But when it comes to promoting the welfare and justice of society through Red State issues like preservation of the family, then we must fall back to the Anabaptist position of living out our lives separately and not offend anyone. Hauerwasian living frequently looks very similar to being very modestly adjusted form of political progressivism.
    The Hauerwasians frequently claim to be a third way. There is the political transformationalism of the religious left and of the religious right. Anabaptism is the third way because it stands apart from these two and says it will transform primarily through being a separate society … seeking change by living a different example.
    I see the political transformationalism of the left and right as twin expressions of the same pole … somewhat like MattR was saying #12. The other pole is separatism … Anabaptist. The third way is paradox: Responding to God’s call in the creation mandate to care for creation and build human shalom, all the time recognizing that shalom is unattainable this side of the consummation of the new creation. That is the tension we have been called into. And that brings me back to #9 above … the posture we show toward others as we pursue shalom. We seek their transformation through relationship, not their marginalization … but the pursuit of shalom will sometimes place us at odds as we will occasionally be called upon to take unpopular positions that place a strain on relationships. I believe opposition to same-sex marriage is one of those positions.
    Finally, yes the role of women in the family has historically been unjust. The role of family, and the role of family members, has not been static. It has been evolving over time. As I noted above, historical development alone is not sufficient for justifying continued practice. There is wisdom and sin present in every human institution. But just as there is danger in perpetuating sin into future generations there is also considerable danger in carelessly rejecting the wisdom that has been amassed. Is the devolution of the social institution of family into a private contract between any two individuals a desirable end for the shalom of society? If not, why should we not … in a spirit of grace … seek its preservation? That is the question that I come to.