RELEVANT’s Burning Issues: Politics

Posted on April 23, 2008


The May_June 2008 edition of Relevant Magazine posted 7 burning issues: Injustice, Homosexuality, Faith, Politics, Culture, Consumerism, and War.

POLITICS: Is Either Party Right?

1. Brian McLaren: We need to get beyond the idea that Christians should be in one party and not the other. We need committed Christians in each party, calling their political party to a higher standard…Our identity as disciples of Jesus must go way deeper than our identity as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists or whatever. And our identity in Christ needs to go deeper than our identity as Americans or capitalists or whatever.

2. Jim Wallis: Cardinal Bernardin often spoke about a “seamless garment of life,” from womb to tomb;…Christians should embrace a consistent ethic of life, rejecting the selective moralities of Left and Right where only some human lives are considered valuable.

3. Cindy Jacobs: I have issues with both parties, but one thing I do not have any issues about is that the Bible is God’s word…I will always support the pro-life candidate because we already have almost 50 million unborn children who have died since 1973.

4. N.T. Wright: If I may comment as an outsider on your present election, [1] I think one of the healthy things about it is that the Christian Right is not able to say, “Here is one candidate whom we must support because he is clearly God’s choice.” That is extremely good and healthy because the minute people think this candidate or that candidate must be God’s choice for America — or the world — they are rushing downhill into a kind of unthinking utopianism.

5. Nancy Ortberg: A Christian is not suppose to vote on one issue. It’s tempting, but [it’s important to have] the whole picture in mind, to think who is best suited to run the country and take it in a direction that we would support. Christians ought to be political and active, [but] I don’t think we should prescribe for people what that means.


Again, I take issue with the question posed by RELEVANT. That kind of question only exacerbates the polarization that happens so quickly and easily in politics, and while there will always be disagreements, pitting one against the other is only antagonism, not helpful discourse.

I did, however, appreciate the contradictory responses, specifically by Jacobs and Ortberg. I personally side with Ortberg, believing strongly that one-issue voting is unintelligent and myopic, and it ought to be redeemed towards embracing a fuller sense of “good news tension” between all the issues at hand. Wright’s comments are apropos to that as well.

Wallis’s comment was interesting, but I believe a bit short handed. Christians who “embrace a consistent ethic of life” do vote party lines. They’re that decisive. Logically, if you believe strongly in a direction, it makes sense to align yourselves with a side that holds firmly to that end, thus the partisan identification. So, while I appreciate the sentiment from Wallis, and agree that we ought to have integrity in life and in politics, a convergence of the two, it seems that it already exists by default, and that the issue is not consistency in life, but what kind of a life we’re living in the first place.

[1] for those unfamiliar with N.T. Wright, he is an Anglican Bishop in England.