More on Christian Politics

In an extension of comments on Mere Orthodoxy, Matthew Loftus challenges a previous post of mine:

As to politics, I would treat it like art: there are some who say that Christian art is that which has an explicit Christian theme; it’s about or illustrates Christian belief. A second school thinks of christian art more in terms of the artist who is Christian so that individual objects or projects may not be “Christian” but nonetheless reflect the mind of the maker who in fact is Christian. In politics, I’ve found the latter to be the better approach. rather than trophy legislation, legislation that rarely works, there is the basic task of helping the community better run its affairs — and that calls for an eye for justice and and ear for mercy.

Loftus writes

I think you’ve made a false dichotomy there– I’ve run into very few people, even on the internet, who would favor your former approach. I think it’s way more useful to talk about more specific things,

On the question of politics, one can read (at least I have) a variety of conservative comments that those who differ from the conservative position are somehow not real Christians. The corollary of that being something close to the notion that this or that political position is the “Christian” position. (In art terms, more pictures of Jesus or at least dispersed light a la T Kinkade).

Now, I’m speaking as an old politico of Democratic sensibilities here: the manner of one’s conduct in politics is far more likely to actually build the Kingdom and win others to Christ, than the advocating of a particular, let alone exclusive policy position. The temptation of partisan politics and of the cultural wars is to transform the making of winners and losers (bright lines are a necessary component to political decision making; you have to take a vote) into something harder edged, more Manichean if you will. So we lose ourselves and demonize the other side; our casual political smack-talk becomes the creation of an untouchable Other. This is spiritually treacherous terrain.

And rhetorically, the appeal to higher values is so very tempting: it seems to offer a trump card. God, Liberty, Equality is on my side. Not surprisingly, this trump card easily becomes a sort of disguised coercion. And I think this has been part of the dynamic of the cultural wars, that the smell of coercion rather easily encourages those on the other side to not simply resist, but reject. For want of better words, this outcome deeply offends me. And this is perhaps also Evans’ point.

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