Monday, August 25, 2008

Purpose-Driven Politics

In my sermon yesterday, I spoke about how it may be easier for churches who value uniformity of belief and orthodoxy probably have an easier time of stating their beliefs concisely and clearly than do churches that value diversity of belief and allow for mystery. I place my own church squarely in the latter category, so the point I was trying to make is that a weakness we should watch out for is that avoiding being pinned down on doctrine can also be a way of avoiding the responsibilities necessitated by one's beliefs.

I almost led off the sermon with an illustration from the Saddleback forum hosted by megachurch pastor and popular author Rick Warren on August 16. By most accounts, John McCain came across looking a lot better than Barack Obama. I certainly felt that was the case. I'm no fan of McCain, but I felt that he came across much more decisively and straightforward than Obama did that night. I chose to not go with this illustration, because I didn't want to get lost in the liberal/conservative dualism so common in our culture. Although many people would call our church liberal, I would reject the label because of how limiting it is and all of the negative connotations associated with it.

Nonetheless, as I stated in my sermon, those who prefer simple and straightforward religious claims (usually labelled as conservatives) reject more ambiguous positions as watering down the faith, being wishy-washy or even committing heresy. Those on the opposite end view opposing views as simplistic, naive or even prone to political manipulation. I would hope, however, that there can be room for both mystery and humility along with sure statements of belief.

Speaking of Rick Warren and the Saddleback forum, I've heard a couple of good things on NPR about both that are worth passing on:

1. Fresh Air with Terry Gross has an interview today with Dan Gilgoff who writes for Beliefnet and runs the God-o-meter blog. He makes the interesting point that despite all the talk of new issues for evangelicals like HIV/AIDS and Darfur, Warren still stuck to traditionally divisive social issues like abortion. He also points out a McCain ad "The One" makes use of traditional "antichrist" imagery to disparage Obama in the eyes of evangelicals. I guess I'm a long way from the Left Behind set, because I didn't really even think of that.

2. The great show Speaking of Faith had an interview aired this weekend with Rick Warren and his wife Kay. Despite the good things Warren has done such as giving away his fortune and focusing upon HIV/AIDS in Africa, I was still very uncomfortable with the way he described himself as prophet to the leaders of the world. I think I would get along much better with Kay.

Also, The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on Warren. In it Warren is quoted as saying there is no real evangelical left and dismisses Jim Wallis and those like him as spokespeople for the Democrats. He even says the only real difference between him and James Dobson is one of "tone" rather than theology. I found this discouraging to read for many reasons, not the least of which is that once again one of the most important ministers in the country is one that espouses a narrow and exclusive form of Christianity.

Grace and Peace,


No comments: