Podcast #23: Speaking of Politics

Podcast #23: Speaking of Politics March 25, 2008

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We all have something to say about the upcoming presidential election and all of the issues surrounding it. The problem is, we don’t all know what we’re talking about. In this episode of Christ and Pop Culture (which features possible the most awkward opening to the podcast yet!), Ben and I talk about the best way for Christians to engage in political discussion. The debates will only heat up in the future, so this one’s important!

Also, we count down out Top Five Craziest Things Heard in a Political Conversation, and debut brand new music from Soberminded.

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  • ITEM!!
    While speaking of human nature is a maybe a good starting point, I think it is more nuanced then that. For instance, someone who believes strongly in the depravity of the human nature might be a conservative, liberal, communist, socialist, or anarchist. Or probably any number of other things. While certainly one’s view of human nature is not negligible in shaping one’s political ideology, I think it’s only one component among a multitude.

    To further illustrate. One may trust that people are untrustworthy and seek to use that untrustworthiness (in the form of their greed) to manipulate society such that people look after others’ interests in the interest that their interests will be looked after in turn (a la some form of Pay It Forward/the Golden Rule). Such a person may become a liberal capitalist, seeking free market responsibility and civil liberty. Another person may recognize the corruptibility of man and recognize that access to power may likely increase the negative impact of the corrupt use of that power. Such a person may seek either communist governance (trusting a power structure that strictly limits the ability of people to perform the corrupt actions they naturally tend toward and being in turned governed by the people it governs) or some form of anarchy (in which power structures are eliminated, thereby reducing the scope of the corrupt actions that will naturally come about).

    So yeah, while

    Because I adore myself, I am now linking to two articles relevant to this line of discussion:

    Spectator Sports & Gardening vs. the Awesome Might that is Power Chompsky

    Dude. Soberminded busting in on Ben at the break creeped me out. Seriously.

    Creeped is not in Firefox’s dictionary—and so, registers as a misspelling.

  • Dane,

    Of course you’re right that there are many subtleties and nuances in formulating a person’s political perspective. However, it’s fairly widely agreed that understanding of human nature and purpose is foundational to all questions of political philosophy. Whenever a political philosopher writes, understanding their view of those two questions (whether they make it implicit or explicit) is always necessary to understand them correctly.

    I certainly agree, though, that though Soberminded seems like an interesting band, it didn’t seem to fit the situation all that well. I was creeped out too.

  • I think it might be helpful for you to distinguish between justice and righteousness. Rich (I believe) said that we should strive for a “just” nation rather than a “righteous” nation. To me, it’s not altogether clear what the difference is between the two.

    Also, if we should protect the sanctity of human life, then why shouldn’t we protect the sanctity of other things – like the Sabbath, for example?

    Finally, I would just like to point out that “human nature” entails more than whether or not we have original sin. This might be obvious, but it’s often overlooked in discussions like this. Being human is about more than morality and moral compulsions. I think noting such features as our aesthetic, social, intellectual, and liturgical habits would have significant bearing on how we go about constructing cities.

  • @Scott – I think you’re right that there are other aspects to human nature—e.g., mortality, sentience (usually), corporeality—but I don’t think some of the things you mention are so much aspects of human nature as they are particular traits of practice or personality picked up through their experience of life.

    Humans are naturally social (as evidenced by Adam’s need for a companion suitable to him) and I think we could say humans are naturally rational (with uncommon exceptions—e.g., perhaps, the vegetative or comatose).

    But I don’t think saying that humans are naturally aesthetic or naturally liturgical rings quite as true. I think a large portion of the race has some aesthetic sense (though wildly divergent it both scope and expression), but I’ve read about people with no apparent aesthetic sense. (Maybe they do possess such a sense but it’s just at such a low keen compared the rest of society that it’s as if it weren’t there.

    And I’m not sure I get where you’re going with liturgical. Maybe you could explore that a bit.

  • Well, to reply somewhat briefly, I’d point out that Adam’s primary vocation was priestly, the garden of Eden being a temple of sorts.

    As for the aesthetic, if you’ll allow me to count Adam’s erotic desire for Eve, I think you’ll see that this is at least one sort of aesthetic aspect of human nature, though I do believe there are other examples I could give you.

  • Hm, I don’t know that eroticism/sexual drive should be seen as aesthetic in nature. For certain, sexuality can be influenced by aesthetic concerns (even as it can be influenced by other concerns—moral, intellectual, personal, and headaches), but I don’t think we should equate the influence with the drive.

    For the sake of argument though, let’s suppose that sexual aesthetic sense is part of the human nature. I think this would say something pretty interesting, in that people don’t truly have that particular sense for years of their lives. This would mean that one can be human without participating in human nature. From this we might conclude that three-year-olds are less human than normally operating twenty-year-olds—as the three years does not exhibit as much of the human nature. I’m not sure where this goes, if anywhere, but it was a curiosity that presented itself to me even as I write.

    Maybe as humans we have a primary human nature (what makes us distinctly human) and a secondary nature (the way those who are genuinely human typically interact with the world). I don’t know. Again, just supposition spurred by the moment.

  • Yes, I’m using aesthetic in a broad sense here, broad enough to mean merely “the capacity for delight.” Erotic desire would fall within that bracket, methinks. So while your curiosities might be interesting, I think under my broader use of the term, it’s fairly easy to say that children are human with a fully human nature.

    What do you think about my liturgical point, btw?

    Of course, let’s not stray too far from the topic. All I mean to say is if you want to say that human nature is only one aspect of political theory, you have to at least admit that it’s a pretty multi-faceted aspect of it and so it probably has a lot to contribute to political discussion, much more than just “are we inherently sinful?” ‘Cause, like you said, tons of people accept that, from communists to constitutionalists.

  • As far as the liturgical point? I’m not sure. I do see Eden as something temple-like, but Adam’s role there was revoked—meaning I don’t think we can use it as a determinant of our nature (as the fall plainly altered human nature).

    As to your main point, that human nature includes more than just the question of depravity, I do agree. I think I actually agreed a few comments ago too. I’m not sure though but I think that the sense spoken of in the ‘cast was focused most directly at the depravity question—so i used that in my example.