Alibris Secondhand Books Standard

Monday, April 17, 2006

left and right hands

Recently at Wesley Blog, Shane Raynor posted about a speech given by Mel White. White is the founder of Soulforce, a gay-rights organization.

As so often happens with topics like this, the comments have deteriorated into a religious right vs. religious left flamefest.

My own comment was:
I agree with Josh that these political labels don't do us any good. When we label ourselves or others as "religious right" or "religious left" we are putting our political affiliation above our faith. I'm no better than anyone else about it; I find myself falling into that trap more often than I'd like.

I don't know what it is going to take, but I'd like to see the body of Christ come together. We've gone far beyond the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing; the left hand and the right hand have taken up arms against each other. Surely this isn't what Jesus intended for us.

There was a time, back in my teenage years and early twenties, when I called myself a conservative Christian. Then I went through a phase in my late twenties and early thirties when I called myself a liberal Christian. Now I don't know exactly how to label myself. The theological worldview quiz classifies me as emergent/postmodern. I don't really like that label. Still, a dislike of labels is one of the characteristics of postmoderns, so maybe I do fit there.

Politically, I lean toward the Democratic party. But increasingly within the last several months I'm seeing the importance of remaining loyal to Christ first, and relegating political ideology to the back seat. Political parties won't save us. Politicians can make a difference in our lives, for good or ill, through the policies they promote. There are some things the state does very well, some things it could do well but doesn't, and some things it should stay away from. I don't want to get into a detailed discussion about what goes into each category. Suffice it to say that there is a necessity for government in an orderly society, and a necessity for personal freedom.

That said, I think that for Christians looking to build the kingdom of God, the state can seem to be an appealing ally. In a nation that at least ostensibly promotes freedom for all, it can be easy to fall into the heresy that our freedom comes from the state. Mel White, in his speech, suggested that the Constitution is more important than the Bible, because without the Constitution we don't have the freedom to read the Bible. On the other side of the aisle, politically involved pastors like Jerry Falwell (who happens to be Mel White's former boss) argue that same-sex marriages pose a serious threat to traditional marriages. In Falwell's view, the state must curtail freedoms to keep people from misusing them.

Jesus never saw freedom as something the state could give or take away. When religious leaders tried to trap him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar, he cleverly turned the question around. Borrowing a coin, he asked, "Whose image is on the coin?" Then he added, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

It's not an accident that Jesus used the word image. The implication is, the Roman coins may bear Caesar's image, but we are made in God's image. Give the mammon to Caesar, but give ourselves to God.

That, it seems to me, is a healthy starting point for healing this self-inflicted wound in the body of Christ. If we remember first that we belong to God, that we are made in God's image -- and just as importantly, that other people are made in God's image, even if they disagree with us, then maybe we can move past this left/right split and start an honest dialogue. Maybe nobody will change their mind about the issues, but perhaps we will change our minds about the people on the other side of the discussion.



At 4/18/2006 11:16 AM, Blogger HeyJules said...

Perfectly said.

At 4/18/2006 3:07 PM, Anonymous Rich(luthsem) said...

I am obviously more liberal than I was(My journey from Southern Baptist-Charismatic-free church-calvinist) and now I'm an ecumenical Lutheran. I think part of the problem is people equating salvation with believing certain things like "The Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God" which usually means you are a republican. This may sound cruel but a majority of those from this perspective thinks that if you don't believe exactly like they do then you are going to hell and not a Christian. This is very sad! I have brothers and sisters in the Baptist, Catholic,Episcopal, Methodist, Mennonite, free churches, charismatic, house churches, etc.
Whatever happened to grace? A lot of people accuse us in the mainline denominational churches of dividing the body by saying I am of Luther, Wesley, etc but they are doing the same thing and worse because they are saying they are truer Christians and we are not. They do not recognize that the body of Christ is
diverse and we mightnot all agree on the same thing.
They will know we are Christians by our love hmmm a nice concept but it is found wanting.

At 4/20/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger Questing Parson said...

What a well-thought-out, insightful and penetrating statement of the issue. Thank you.

At 5/01/2006 12:16 PM, Blogger seth said...

I like what the pastor brother of my girlfriend said in a sermon at his church for the homeless: "Label me a Jesus Follower"

What everyone in all of these debates, asinine/relevant/whatever, needs to remember, is that our citizenship doesn't come from the right or the left first and foremost and tell us where we stand - it comes from Above.

That being settled, I think we'll see some more civility (I love Richard Mouw's book 'Uncommon Decency') in our discourse and maybe, gasp, just maybe, a focus on the issues that matter - which, of course, are the issues that I think we should care about ; )

I struggled with the exact same issue 'roundabout' Easter -whether my political leanings shouldn't be left, right, Dem, GOP, but rather 'Other'...even if I do lean democratic. Thanks for the link!


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home