Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Religion and politics

I read a big article this afternoon from this Sunday's New York Times Magazine that was rather interesting. It presented a lot of anecdotal evidence for a number of trends in the political activities of American Evangelical Christians, including the possible disintegration of the so-called "religious right."

The article, written by David D. Kirkpatrick and entitled "The Evangelical Crackup," covers a number of influential Evangelical pastors who are moving away from their traditional loyalty to the Republican Party and starting to "lean left" in their politics and their preaching.

I'm not going to say whether this leftward trend is a good or a bad thing, because I think that the alliance of Christianity with any specific political ideology is a dangerous and foolish enterprise. This is not to say that I believe that religion should be completely divorced from politics, that Christians should not take a stand on "political" issues, or that one's religious convictions should not have an influence on how one votes. This is because to take Christianity seriously is to hold certain beliefs that cannot be compartmentalized and contained within the "religious" portion of one's life. Likewise, there is no such thing as a purely political issue, since politics influence the lives of everyone, not just of politicians.

As I say, though, I think that it is dangerous for Christianity to ally itself with any specific political ideology, whether Republican or Democrat. The main reason for this is that the beliefs of Christianity -- at least as I understand them -- do not fit neatly with the platforms of either of the prevailing political parties in the United States. While both parties support policies that Christians can and should get behind, they both also get it wrong on plenty of important issues. For a Christian to give his or her unreserved loyalty to either party for the sake of some element of that party's platform is thus to give implicit assent to a whole host of positions indefensible from a Christian perspective. This situation, I believe, leads to the temptation to modify one's theology to fit one's political positions, rather than the other way around.

I think it's a much safer practice for Christians to support specific policies or candidates -- regardless of their "conservative" or "liberal" pedigrees -- rather than committing themselves to a given political party and all its baggage.

No comments: