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May 08, 2007

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Sam Carr

I think I agree with your assessment though not all of your conclusions. Individual freedom and individual action go together. Where i find myself lacking is in applying Jesus's teaching of God's kingdom to my actions.

It's always attractive to try to build a movement and to make these issues political and that means very often choosing between a 'right' and a 'left'.

The comparison of Wallis and Dobson is also appropriate.

The question really is how to properly engage with 'the way' of Christ?

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Sam.

"...though not all of your conclusions."

That just means I haven't worked on you enough yet. :)

"Where i find myself lacking is in applying Jesus's teaching of God's kingdom to my actions."

Ain't that the truth for all of us.

What I find annoying about Wallis is not so much his stands on particular issues. I disagree with lots of folks on issues. It it that he (and cohorts) offer their policy agenda up as the test for being a true believer, just like the Religious Right does with their agenda.

RonMcK

At heart, there is not much difference between the christian left and the christian right. They are both committed to the use of state power. The only difference is in what they use state power for. One group wants to beat up the rich to help the poor. The other group wants to beat up Iraqis.

Anyone whose first solution to any problem is to bring in state power is dangerous, christian or not.
Ron

Sam Carr

Agreed. We must also explore what stewardship means in a bit more depth especially as far as 'ownership' is concerned and in terms of a communitas approach to solving problems like poverty and injustice.

We are one body with one Lord whether we know it or not.

Dan Anderson-Little

Mike,
I am troubled by your statement "I think Jim Wallis is to the Religious Left what Jim Dobson is to the Religous Right." While both of them are articulaters of a particular point of view and a set of policy recommendations, to compare Wallis to Dobson is to be blind to the enormous influence that Dobson and other leaders in the Christian right have had and continue to have with the current administration. Jim Wallis has no constituency to deliver--as you say, his ongoing readership is relatively small. The other big difference is that Wallis (as far as I can tell) does not engage in the demonization of others, except for those in power and that is a group that Jesus and the Old Testament prophets did not hesitate to criticize and even condemn. While no governmental program can eradicate poverty and human misery, government can actually make a difference in the lives of the poor. It is a sin, that in our country, literally millions have no guaranteed health care. Of course there are a whole tangle of issues and dynamics that perpetuate poverty--but the people who are hungry and in need of care are not statistics--they are people to we as Christians are obligated to help--and in a country of 300 million, I do not see how government cannot play some significant part.

To be sure, Jim Wallis has his problems--but please do not diminish the enormous power of Dobson et al. by equating him to Wallis.

Michael W. Kruse

Ron, what I find odd on the American scene is a curious mixture of government action and Anabaptist theology (which is supposed to be separate from the government.) Why can't they all be reasonable and consistent ... like me? :)

Michael W. Kruse

"We are one body with one Lord whether we know it or not."

I have sermon that I have used a couple of times where I suggest that many people ask how we can become one in Christ. Moot question. We are one in Christ. The only question is what are we going to do about it.

Andy

For the record, I'm no fan of Dobson or Wallis. Both, I think, allow themselves to be used as Christian masks for secular political objectives, in a sordid exchange for access to power.

That said, it should be noted that Dobson's principle concerns weren't political until relatively recently. For decades, FOTF has produced resources for childrearing, crisis intervention, etc., some of which I've found quite helpful.

Leaving the demagogues aside, and acknowledging that politics have had a hideously corrosive effect on all involved, I do think that there's a significant difference between the self-identified constituents of the Christian "right" and "left". Bar the average conservative Baptist or Presbyterian from ever again uttering a word about public policy, and he or she still has a robust, comprehensive worldview that shapes every facet of life (for good or ill). Do the same thing to most of the progressives I know, and they're not left with much at all.

Michael W. Kruse

Dan, my point of intersection is that both Dobson and Wallis have become religious spokespersons that seem to baptize particular ideologies with proof-texts. Yes Dobson is in a more powerful position but Wallis is where Dobson was in the 1970s; courting a political movement that was in ascendancy and becoming an integral piece of the that political movement.

I also think both the size and the clout of the Religious Right is greatly exaggerated, and therefore Dobson’s influence. Andrew Greely’s “The Truth about Conservative Christians” helps break this down a bit. I think the Republican Party mostly uses Dobson and Dobson has little true impact on most policy decisions. However, I do agree he has a larger following at the moment more influence than Wallis, because Dobson’s types are the ones in power. I would also ask which of the two has had a nationwide runaway bestseller about political action.

Yes, Wallis has good intentions of helping the poor. Good intentions have to married with sound policy. The issue isn’t whether or not government has a role. The issue is what policies actually accomplish the objective. Reasonable people can disagree about the effectiveness a policy but this is not what Wallis is saying. He is saying you back debt forgiveness for developing nations, increases in the minimum wage and legislation requiring businesses to pay a “living wage” or you are a sinner exploiting the poor. Support his program form healthcare reform or you are violating biblical justice. How about his rhetoric on climate change? I am on the Sojo mailing list. I find them every bit as trivializing of their opponents as the stuff I have seen from Focus on the Family and every bit as good at de-contextualized proof-texting their positions from the Bible.

So in short despite the relative disparity in influence between the two Jims (which I think is shifting) I think the comparison is valid.

Michael W. Kruse

"Do the same thing to most of the progressives I know, and they're not left with much at all."

Interesting comment, Andy. Having recently read books by Arthur Brooks on giving and Andrew Greely on Religious Right politics, I think there is much greater diversity of people on left and right then we often give acknowledge. I do agree that there is a faction in the church for whom social action is virtually all there is to being a Christian (Just like there are others who believe it is all about "saving souls.")

Sam Carr

In your comments on Wallis, yes, agreement on what needs to be accomplished may be very there, but a lot of discussion amongst Christians on options, scenarios, 'rival' projections and so on should be the basis on which we decide what is most likely to be in line with God's kingdom and what will accomplish kingdom objectives, and that may not be the same as just what works.

In a recent post on Ben Witherington's blog, he discusses liberation theoology in S. America in the light of the Pope's visit there. Many of the same questions arise, there is indeed a biblical basis for liberation theologies but unfortunately that has become wedded to Marxist thinking. The Marxism comes in because free market approaches in developing countries generally results in the few super rich exploiting the heck out of everyone else.

Debate is badly needed and it should start with what the gospel is all about, not what is left, right or center politically.

Michael W. Kruse

“Marxism comes in because free market approaches in developing countries generally results in the few super rich exploiting the heck out of everyone else.”

These nations already have the super rich exploiting everyone else. It dates back to the hacienda system of Spain and Portugal. Free markets did not create the situation. When we engage in free trade with these nations the powerful elite keeps the profits and, because they are above the law, the use their resources to keep their hold on power inhibit trade from developing within their own nation. Free markets are predicated on well institutionalized property rights and the rule of law. The problem is not free exchange. It is that these elites block the emergence of the institutions that will lead to economic freedom in their countries.

That said, I agree with your basic point. A little more dialog and a little less ideology is sorely needed.

John H. Armstrong

Michael,

I just discovered your blog via your citation of my work on "The Christian Left." I also see the Acton involvement on your site. I would love to get to know you and would be delighted if you email me at: JohnA1949@comcast.net.

I will keep looking over your blog site as well. I see a great deal that I resonate with personally. It seems we are both catholic, ecumenical, mainline reformists who love Christ, the kerygma, the ancient creeds and the Great Tradition. Check out our site at www.act3online.com and my blog at www.johnharmstrong.com and then perhaps we can "chat" by email and get to know one another.

Pax Christi,

John H. Armstrong

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