God and Public Life: Faithful Citizenship

In writing for you, I am planning to do two things. First, as someone raised within conservative religious, political, and cultural traditions who now faithfully holds somewhat different positions, I hope to confront what I see as harmful narratives and bad theology with more grace than is customary when we face our opponents in this loud-mouthed society. Like constitutional lawyer Stephen Carter, I bemoan the fact (and regret my past tendency) that we prefer to insult those with whom we disagree rather than engaging their ideas, and the fact that some of those with whom I disagree are members of my family and dear friends makes me want to be especially cognizant of that tendency. I believe one may be prophetic without being splenetic.

And secondly, I am trying to let scripture, tradition, and reason do their work, whether that requires defending or amending my position. Knowing that I am living within a story of God -- even if it is the story of God that makes the most sense to me -- allows me to be present to other stories of God, and to be aware that others hold their opinions not to spite me, but because they find meaning and even truth there. So I am inspired by the way that Richard Hays "shows his work" in his The Moral Vision of the New Testament, and I will strive to do the same here, building my arguments with evidence rather than invective.

If this approach appeals to you, I hope you'll join me every Thursday to see what might be on my mind and heart, and that you'll help me to shape a challenging conversation that is at the same time respectful and loving. In the story I inhabit, Christians are called to be a part of the healing of the world, and now, it seems to me, would be a great time for us to start.


Greg Garrett is the author of works of fiction, criticism, and theology, including the forthcoming The Other Jesus from Westminster John Knox Press. He is Professor of English at Baylor University, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church.

Read other articles by Greg Garrett at Patheos:

10/13/2010 4:00:00 AM
  • Mainline Protestant
  • Faithful Citizenship
  • politics
  • Christianity
  • Protestantism
  • Greg Garrett
    About Greg Garrett
    Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post, Salon.com, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.
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