If Al Franken and Rand Paul Can Be Friends, Why Can't We?

Today’s StarTribune has an interesting story on the young and unlikely friendship between Senators Al Franken and Rand Paul.  As you may know, Paul is one of the Senate’s most conservative members, and he actively courts mainstream media attention.  Franken, on the contrary, is on the left wing of the Senate and generally avoids media attention.  The Strib reports:

The duo has raised eyebrows because the two senators couldn’t be further apart politically: Paul is a staunch libertarian and founded the Senate Tea Party Caucus, while Franken’s liberalism is well known through his writing and speeches.

“At first blush, obviously it is [odd],” Franken said in an interview. “But in many ways it makes a lot of sense.”

The pair’s budding friendship serves as one small counterpoint to the notion that Washington’s rhetoric is so toxic in today’s hyper-partisan political environment that senators as dissimilar as Franken and Paul cannot come together.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get a representative of the conservative, Reformed branch of American Protestantism to come on Doug Pagitt Radio, for which I will serve as the guest host on April 10.  I’ve thought it could be a great way to model Christian brotherhood — to have a cordial, 30-minute conversation about issues that we think are really, really important.

Alas, I have been repeatedly rebuffed in my efforts to get someone to agree to come on the show.  I’m not going to name names (yet).  Instead, I’m going to keep extending the invitation in hopes that someone who disagrees with me on theological issues will still see fit to model brotherly dialogue in a setting that will edify God’s kingdom on Earth.

About Tony Jones
  • Kenton

    Oooh, put their responses on ecclisileaks!

    … or … maybe not.

  • Scot Miller

    Good luck with that, Tony. My hunch is that your invitation is a “lose-lose” proposition for them. If someone from the Reformed establishment comes on the show, they can keep you (and the rest of you “emerging” types) marginalized as insignificant, but they run the risk of looking insecure and fearful. On the other hand, they’re also probably afraid that by coming on the program they’ll give you (and by implication the “emerging” movement) too much credibility. Looks like they’re hoping to keep you marginalized and hoping that you’ll just go away.

  • Scot Miller

    I meant to say, “If someone from the Reformed establishment DOES NOT COME on the show, they can keep you… marginalized….” Otherwise, what I said makes no sense whatsoever. (Not that that’s so unusual for my comments….)

  • Charles

    I don’t think conservative, reformed leadership folk fully understand the emergent discussion/movement. They continue to hang onto their dominionist understanding of “churchianity” and are threatened by anything appearing to be universalist, or even a bit more open than their perspective. One thing emergents must continue to do is offer reassurance that the foundation of the emergent orthodoxy is still Jesus as the human face of God (and savior(?). I think the conservative folk in the seats are getting it – but the leadership is obviously (sadly) threatened by new thought and understanding.

  • carla jo

    does it have to be “brotherly”?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Of course not, CJ, but all the Reformed leaders I know are men. Maybe I should ask one of Beliefnet’s “Sola Sisters”?

  • http://churchthought.com Matt Steen

    They are afraid that they will be sent a farewell tweet for the association with you. Either that or they will get emerging cooties… a very bad thing in that world.

  • nathan

    They can’t sit at the table with you because it legitimates your position and implicitly means that (gasp) they could be wrong.

    In other news, CT online has your prophesied “soft excommunication” articles on Rob Bell attempting to marginalize him while still being “soft”.

    Very prescient, Tony.

  • Tomas

    But I think the emergent movement is losing steam, and another 100 years from now, the Reformed wing of Christianity will still be going strong. Actually, the emergent movement has lost steam.

    And honestly, Tony, I can see someone saying no to Pagitt Radio and you. I’m not sure that you’re at all without bias and and why should someone walk into that?

    Charles . . . please say more about “Jesus as the human face of God and Savior (?)” Is that the direction of emergent – Jesus as human, but not Savior?

  • Charles

    I certainly do NOT speak for the emergent folks. I’m simply a student of scripture and life-long believer in a all-loving God. I am fascinated by the re-framing of Christian thought going on among the emergent cohorts. Are they losing steam? I don’t think so – but that’s just me.

    If you want to start a theological dialog about Jesus as savior I’m very ill equipped – having had no formal theological training. I will say that I’ve always struggled with Jesus as savior and atonement metaphors. I’ve read McKnight and Boyd and others on the subject of atonement and Jesus as “The Christ” and have come away dissatisfied. Jesus as a human being, along with his message to 1st century Jews is one thing — what the church wants you to believe about him (the Jesus of faith) is quite another.

    I come down on the side of Jesus as the human face of God. But Savior? I think that’s the church speaking. I think that the original discussion about Jesus as savior by the gospel writers is centered around the argument of whether gentiles were to be part of the Abrahamic covenant with God. The writers were saying, yes, you can trust this man Jesus and his message of an all-loving God. His is saving you from being separated from God, calling you to be part of the blessing to all nations. But that’s just my uneducated understanding of scripture.

  • Charles

    ..let’s make that: “He is saving you from being separated from God…” (Dang, I hate it when I do that!)

  • toddh

    The implied critique in the post of religious leaders is well-taken. If Senators can disagree fundamentally with one another on very important issues, yet still strike up a friendship, why can’t religious leaders? I think the answer might be that Senators can clearly see that they are part of the same “Senate,” so there is no getting around their one big commonality. But religious leaders can too easily say, “you’re not really part of the ‘Senate’ (but I am) so why should I find any common ground or dialogue with you?”

  • http://marginaltheology.wordpress.com Annie

    There may also be a lack of trust. If you are inviting them, you’re setting the terms of engagement and you’re framing the dialogue. If they don’t trust you to do it in a way that lets their voices be heard in a favorable light, why would they? The only way I’d agree to this sort of conversation is if I had a solid relationship with the person or persons inviting me that was founded on mutual respect. As it is, I don’t bring up my views in all academic circles because I don’t trust people to give me a fair and respectful hearing. Not saying you wouldn’t. I’m only saying you don’t come to the table without trust.

  • http://marginaltheology.wordpress.com Annie

    The reason I raise this, I decided I want to add, is that it’s very easy–too easy, really–to blame them or to attribute this to a kind of rebel status. It’s far harder to look at the way you engage them and see if there’s anything there that could cause mistrust. I happen to think there is. As inviting as emerging church folks want to be and try to be, I also know it can be an insular and prohibitive conversation to join. There’s a lot of static to dig through before you get to the heart of the thing. I happen to like the heart. I also completely understand those who find the whole thing self-important and off-putting. And again, how easy is it to fault those who are scared of news things or whatever narrative we’re using to explain why we aren’t friends and how much harder (and more productive) is it to look to ourselves for the reasons the relationship can’t seem to get started?

  • Charles

    Annie said: “As inviting as emerging church folks want to be and try to be, I also know it can be an insular and prohibitive conversation to join.”

    Annie, I think you’ve hit on a good portion of the problem — if there is a problem. I too find the conversation “insular and prohibitive.” Someone can offer a point of view only to be met with absolute silence. Unless, of course, you happen to step on someones toes (even if inadvertent) and then you’re met with the “self-important” rebuttal that comes across as completely dismissive.

    None the less, I do enjoy the larger discussion of the changing church.

    (I’ve bookmarked Marginal Theology – good stuff!)

  • http://www.nurse2thought.wordpress.com Brad

    Have you thought about contacting Michael Horton? He seems like a palatable option, given what I know of his contributions to emergent conversations. I remember reading some of his remarks here: http://www.amazon.com/Church-Emerging-Culture-Five-Perspectives/dp/0310254876

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  • http://ryanschmitz.blogspot.com Ryan Schmitz

    Could you have found a better picture of Frankin and a more menacing picture of Paul? (I think not). IDK, maybe that’s the reason they are hesitant, I mean this post in not really an olive branch, is it?