one striving for God's reign to come to earth, bringing his peace, wholeness, completeness, and health to all aspects of life.

Tiptoeing into a Political Discussion

So I generally have nothing to do with politics.  And this is not a polemical post for or against any political views on any side of the map.  I try to be as anti-Republican as I am anti-Democrat, and that doesn't mean I'm an Independent!  I just happen to be of the opinion that politics, as a fully human institution, are frail.  And each politician and political party takes its own stab at what it sees as the "right" way, or the appropriate platform(s); to assume that any politician or political party could "get it right" in every way, or to assume that one could find a party that expresses perfectly all of one's own convictions, is ludicrous.

As I said, that's my opinion.  I speak the above paragraph in humility, knowing I don't have it figured out.  In fact, I know next to NOTHING about politics, specifically because I tend to stay out of it and see the whole endeavor as fairly pointless.  If you are passionate about a particular political party, my goal in this post is not to bash your party, and it certainly isn't to upset you.  Instead, I hope you will pause to consider whether there should even be a "your" party.  Said differently, when you fully support the "party line" of any political party, should there not be areas of dissonance, where you find yourself disagreeing with some of the platforms of "your" party?  What are parties, after all, or party platforms?  Aren't they just conglomerations of ideas and stances held by a majority of a group that holds to similar patterns of thinking?  For example: put me in a room with 10 people who think in a similar way to me (perhaps all Bible students with similar family backgrounds from similar parts of the country), and we could probably come up with a list of beliefs that a majority of us hold to.  That would be our party line.  But certainly there would be beliefs that I didn't quite agree with, where I was in the minority.  Just because that's my "party," shouldn't I still think critically as an individual about what I believe?

Here's what stoked all of this thinking and stimulated this post.  There was an article on Drudge Report about the Tea Party, and this article was quoting from German political theorists who were commenting on the political situation in America.  I found all of their quotes very interesting.  (I am just learning about the Tea Party, and I found the article informative and helpful.  You can see the full article here).  In this article, the German business newspaper Handelsblatt was quoted as saying this of the situation in American politics (and specifically of the Tea Party), from an outside (perhaps fairly objective) viewpoint:

"Glen Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are part of an opposition movement outside of Congress which is moving mountains. This is a revolt against 'Obamaism,' which is seen as representing big government, more taxes, a higher deficit and not enough 'Americanism.' Day by day, it puts more and more pressure onto those at the top."

"In the US, people ... spend time and money supporting the Republicans. Unlike in Germany, in America, which never had a Hitler, being 'right-wing' is not taboo. 'Right-wing' represents Reagan, religion, the free market, individualism, patriotism and small government. In reality, it is an impossible mixture: National pride, God and tradition are conservative 'us' values. The profit motive, competition and a weak state are 'me-first' sentiments ... . But this mixture of conservative values and neoliberalism works well in America, where it transcends social class -- that's the difference to Germany."

Pay attention to the last three sentences.  I am not wise enough about politics to know whether I agree with his (or her) assessment, but I find it fascinating that they claim an "impossible mixture."  An "us-first" mentality (evidenced in the author's eyes by national pride and religion) is held side-by-side (due to the Republican party line) with a "me-first" mentality (evidenced by a motive for profit and competition in the business world).  How can this be, without at least a mild amount of dissonance?  How can there be so many politically-minded people who hold to both a me-first and us-first mentality, without sensing there is something awry in this party line?  Or to consider another example, how can the Democratic party be so passionate about "caring for the least of these" by providing for those in need (seeking to provide health care or welfare, for example), yet at the same time de-value life by condoning abortion?  And how can Republicans value life by being anti-abortion, yet de-value life by being pro-death penalty?  The questions could go on.  

In my opinion, party platforms are nothing more than a group of beliefs held by a majority of people who group themselves together, and if we are thinking people we should NEVER be comfortable with all of the assumptions of "our" party...  

If my words offend you, I do sincerely apologize.  I know people get very heated about politics.  You are certainly entitled to your opinions, and if your opinions include the belief that your party's party line is 100% correct and does not contain any of these "impossible mixtures", you are entitled to disagree with me.  But it is my opinion that every party contains these impossible mixtures, and that none of us should ever be at home in a political party--especially if we call ourselves Christians and are called to a way of thinking drastically different from that of the world around us (1 Peter 2:9-12).  

Those are my thoughts.  I'm 100% confident they are not all correct!  Just trying to stimulate us to think and ask questions.  I don't have the answers.  If anyone tells you they have the answers, especially on an issue as complex as politics, walk away slowly...  :)

Serving Others From a Position of Weakness

I ran across a great quote from Karl Barth in my reading today.  In case you don't know, he is a very well-known German theologian, probably the greatest theologian of the 20th century in many minds.  He wrote a HUGE work called Church Dogmatics that I believe is supposed to be a systematic theology (expounding on all the basics of the Christian faith), and he also wrote many other works.  This quote comes from his commentary on Romans, and he is commenting on Romans 2:1, which says, "You, therefore, are without excuse whenever you pass judgment on someone else, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things."

Barth says, "Whenever thou dost erect thyself upon a pedastal, thou doest wrong; whensoever thou sayest 'I' or 'we' or 'it is so', thou dost exchange the glory of the incorruptible for the image of the corruptible (Romans 1.23)... The removal of thyself from the burden of the world by some pretended insight or vision does but press the burden of the world more heavily upon thee than upon any other.  By striding ahead of others, even though it be for their assistance, as though the secret of God were known to thee, thou dost manifest thyself ignorant of God's secret; for by thy removal from thy fellows thou dost render thyself incapable of assisting even the most helpless among them.  By beholding folly as the folly of others, thine own folly cries out to heaven" (Romans 56).

Though I disagree with Barth when he states that this is what Paul means in 2:1, I love his thoughts.  I especially resonated with the statement that when we remove ourselves from the burdens of the world by some pretended insight, striding ahead of others even to help them, we show ignorance.  To help and serve and love others, we cannot claim positions or power or wisdom or knowledge or prerogative.  We simply must offer our help to them as one sinner serving another.  When we act like we are in some sense an expert, like we have something to offer, it is then that we are furthest from being able to make any impact on the needs of others...  It is then that our "own folly cries out to heaven"!