In the same room?

From washingtonpost.com:

Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?

Great question! Makes me wonder whether these conservative and liberal Christians are even in the same "room" (see earlier posts and comments).


Igford said...

Chris, would you agree that whether we help the poor domestically or internationally is not a Christian divide, but rather a political/individual divide?

Is this article subtly attacking a political issue (welfare spending cuts) by suggesting that conservatives don't support welfare because they would rather help people outside of the United States than inside? Because that's not true. The two aren't even comparable. To understand a republican, you first need to understand the difference between government mandated taxes and free-will charity. The article suggests that the difference is WHO we help, and that's just not true. The difference is in HOW we help.

Chris Spinks said...

Igford, your last paragraph, I believe, is on to something that needs exploring no doubt. But I would have to answer in the negative to your initial question. We cannot somehow extract our Christian identity from the political views we hold. So, it is BOTH a Christian AND political divide. I am a little nervous about labeling it an individual divide, because politics and Christianity are always and already community affairs. As to the article, I am simply intrigued by the question asked in it. It has done its part by making me (us!) think about the differences between these Christian groups. BTW: Thanks for the communal reflections we have going on these ideas!

Igford said...

Well, I'm glad that I asked that question then, becuase I wasn't sure if I need to expand my comments for that or not.

The Christian side of us says "we need to be helping others." I think that is the side that all Christians, right or left, would agree on. But nothing about our Christian faith commands us to do it a certain way. So when some of us want to do it one way and some of us want to do it another way... well... that's not a division of faith. Is it? So to answer your question of "are we still in the same room?" my answer would yes! Definitely we are, as long as "room" is a metaphor for our Christian beliefs, and not a metaphor for how we want to pursue it.

How we go about helping people... well... that's where we are all different. Some of us like to help people in different ways. And while something like domestic welfare seems like a great idea to some people, others of us feel like it might not be the best way. It doesn't mean we don't want to help. We all have our eyes on the same destination, we just differ on the best way to get there.

Actually, I think I may have just switch my view of the article. After rereading it, I think it does do a good job of explaining both sides. I especially liked this quote:

"There is a [biblical] mandate to take care of the poor. There is no dispute of that fact," he said. "But it does not say government should do it. That's a shifting of responsibility."

I think that is my own view of the situation, but you might disagree. That's ok with me if you do.

Chris Spinks said...

I find it interesting that when it comes to things like helping the poor many people will shift the burden from government to churches, individuals, etc. (the gist of the quote Igford cited), but when it comes to things like homosexual marriages, abortion, etc. churches are all too happy to have the government step in and mandate things. I do not mean to paint Igford with these colors necessarily, and I know I am painting with broad strokes. However, this sort of thinking says on the one hand government is not responsible, the church is (e.g., poor) and on the other hand the government is responsible for legislating the church's wishes (e.g., homosexual marriages). I tend to think a consistent ethic is needed. More on that later perhaps. In the meantime I would highly recommend Jim Wallis' God's Politics.

Igford said...

Chris, I agree completely!

That's why I usually lean toward the libertarian party. I might personally be against abortion or gay marraige, but who am I to make that decision for people I don't even know? At any rate, I certainly don't think any religious group should be able to directly influence legislation.

One of the biggest problems amongst Christians is the "my way is the way everyone else should be doing it" attitude. Well, you know what? How would those guys feel if they lived in a nation where the majority was muslim and all the females were forced to cover up their skin in public? Would Christians want to live there? Then why do they feel the need to enforce their own rules on everyone else? That's not the message in the Bible.

I'd be pretty pissed if Mormons got prohibition passed simply because THEY viewed alcohol as bad. So why should I care about getting laws passed that force my beliefs on others? All it does is enforce the negative stereotype that being a Christian is about rules and regulations and nothing more. That's baloney!

Anonymous said...

talking point: legislation reflects morality.

Igford said...

counter point: A) Whose morality? B) No it doesn't.

Example: It is immoral to lie and cheat. But lying and cheating are only against the law when it prohibits authority from properly governing (ie. cheating on taxes or lying under oath).

You can force all the non-christians around you to abide by your morals all you want, but that doesn't make them a Christian. So what is the point? Are we just trying to avoid temptation? Do we need an Adultery Law in order to keep us from committing Adultery? If that is the case, then that is very sad and doesn't speak very highly of our actual faith.

Just something to think about... Sorry this got so far off topic. Chris, I'm not trying to hijack your blog and turn it into my own soapbox. Honest.

Chris Spinks said...

Igford, I don't feel the blog has been hijacked...yet.

I would not mind Anonymous making himself or herself known.

I think we should be clear about Anon's statement, "legislation reflects morality." Whether we like it or not, this statement is true. But do be clear that reflection does not mean replacement. Igford's examples are dead on, but they speak more to legislating immorality and they seem to equate the idea that by legislating morality/immorality we can somehow convert people to Christianity (or any other religion of choice). Also they seem to understand the phrase "legislating moality" to mean legislating all moral elements. For instance, Igford says lying and cheating are immoral acts, but they are only illegal acts under certain conditions. This is true, but that does not mean that the laws that do in fact legislate against lying and cheating under certain conditions are not in any way legislating morality. Yes, one could force others to abide by one's moral code and still not convert them to the faith that underpins this moral code. But, if there are laws (which there are in every society) then there is some sort of moral code underpinning them. The moral code may or may not be an outgrowth of a religion. That doesn't matter. We should be clear not to conflate morality and Christianity. In America (and I would venture to guess in a good many other countries) the moral code that lies beneath our laws is a hodge-podge of various Judaeo-Christian values mixed with a variety of philosophical convictions that have influenced our peoples and lawmakers. Still, no matter, the legislation we have in our country (and any country or society) reflects morality, maybe not the full and complete moral code we as individuals subscribe to, but a morality nonetheless.

All of this to say that I think Anonymous and Igford are both right, but they are speaking to two different things. Anonymous says LEGISLATION REFLECTS MORALITY. I believe that is unavoidably true. In other words, look at a society's legislation and you will get a reflection of that society's corporate morality. Igford seems to be saying that we cannot LEGISLATE MORALITY. That too is true. We cannot make a law that says you have to hold to this moral code or die. Let's be sure we are talking about the same thing. I don't think we are. The key is in the verb - either reflecting or legislating. The first happens no matter what, the second cannot happen no matter what.

Igford said...

Well said. I probably took the "legislation reflects morality" comment the wrong way. Clearly our laws do in fact have moral roots. And even new laws can be introduced based on what we precieve as ethical behavior (post-Enron fiasco).

Great summarization of the two points.

donna said...

well, annonymous would be me. i accidentally hit a wrong button when i was typing in the goofy word identification dealie and didn't realize it until just now. sorry 'bout that.

somebody said that talking point to me several months ago and the phrase has stuck with me. it's more just a discussion starter than anything else. :)

Chris Spinks said...

Thanks Donna. Your discussion starter worked, at least for Igford and me.