Washington, D.C.

I’m on the National Working Group of the “Faith as a Way of Life Project” at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and we meet twice a year to have “on the ground” experiences followed by discussion about how faith does or does not intersect with various spheres of life. In order to reflect on faith in our political life, we convened for three days in Washington, D.C. We met with various individuals at different levels of government, from the neophyte congressional staffer to a high ranking senator. As usual, the discussions over dinner and our traditional “late night cigar fellowship” were the best.

Among the highlights was a thirty-minute meeting with Senator Joseph Lieberman. After brief introductions, he talked about his deep faith (which happens to be Jewish) and how it affects him daily.

Lieberman is known as a moderate Democrat, a member of the “Group of Fourteen” that has tried to present a third alternative to the ideologies of the far left and far right. And, most importantly for our purposes, he has been outspoken about his faith in his public life.
He told us about growing up in a very religious home and in a home that valued public service. And then he asked us for questions. One of the things we asked was how he was able to work with those on the far right and far left, how he was able to work for consensus, and how he co-sponsors legislation with senators who disagree with him on most things — basically, how does he maneuver in a radically plural context for a principled pluralism?

Interestingly, Sen. Lieberman quoted a Jewish teaching in response. “We are to perfect the world,” he said. Then he continued, “And the second half of that verse is the part that you don’t hear quoted as much in Washington: ‘Under the sovereignty of the Almighty.’” So, he continued, the pragmatism of that Jewish theology leads him to a pragmatic political philosophy. “I disagree with conservative evangelical Christian politicians on gay rights,” he said, “but we both believe that God created the Earth and that we are stewards of the Earth. So I work with conservatives on environmental protection legislation.” He also talked about his personal hatred of abortion, but that he thinks that Roe v. Wade is a faithful and balanced interpretation of the Constitution.

In other words, Lieberman’s faith clearly influences his political philosophy. and it influences his day-to-day decisions. The pragmatism he espoused reminded me of what I know of Jewish theology, but also of early American politics (and current philosophies like Jeffrey Stout). And it made me wonder how we can develop young Christian politicians who are less ideological and more faithful…and pragmatic.

Finally, it was nice that several times Sen. Lieberman remarked at how refreshing it was that he got a time in his day to talk about faith, especially in a day that was consumed with Harriet Miers and Scooter Libby.

  • Friar Tuck

    Hey I am really thankful for this post.It seems your dream of a more pragmatic Christian political philosophy is awfully idealistic. HA! I crack myself up.

  • Chris Scharen

    Who is don juan de bubba! he’s cracked himself, I’d say! t, nice post about our meeting. it left me with some hope but also with some fire to raise up a generation of people for faithful politics. miroslav is working on a column called ‘jesus-left behind’ that basically shows how even the religious right has left jesus and his father behind in their rush to pursue political aims. lieberman’s faithful seeking of perfection by drawing on a depth of faith is an inspiration to me.peace, chris

  • Anonymous

    Can’t we be pragmatic about being against gay priviledge (I say priveldge instead of rights for that is what it is)? People on the other side forget that Jesus said “go and sin no more”. While He did heal the people. We need to help people in a loving non harsh way away from the lifestyle and sin and toward True freedom. It seems the “other side” address the first but never addresses the “go and sin no more”. That pretty much goes for any sin for all are equal in Gods eyes. So as you can see Chris, as a member of the religious right, I have not left Jesus because I want people healed AND to “go and sin no more” just like Jesus says. We need to look at ALL of Jesus and not bits and pieces. DH

  • Anonymous

    I will continue to pray for Mr. Liebermans salvation for it is by Faith in Christ alone that Salvation is made. That is not to say there aren’t belessings for the Jews but Paul makes it very clear that they must be “grafted in” just like Gentiles must be “grafted in” by Faith in Christ alone. dh


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