05 February 2009

Politics and religion shorts

In the last couple of days, we've had a flood of news related to politics and religion. I only have a few minutes for this week's post, so I'll let the sources and other commentators carry most of the burden. But before turning to them, I wanted to play once more with my old fantasy question: what if Christians really made an effort to collaborate globally on the seeds of war and other crises?

During the Lebanon war of 2006, I tried to put some words around this idea. Today, I'm reduced to a diagram:

This idea has ancient roots, but the person who really got me thinking about it was Justo González, whom I quoted here ...
We must learn how to trust the church--unfortunately, this is the weakest link in the chain. By this I mean the church universal that hungers with the dispossessed in Ethiopia and with the uprooted in El Salvador. What was happening in the Philippines was known and decried for over two decades by Christian leaders all over the world. Yet most church people did not come to believe it until they saw it in the network news. By then, thousands of Filipinos had died as a result of our disbelief!
(Complete article is here.)

Friday PS: The fantasy graph above is my answer to the perennial question intended to one-up pacifists: "What would you have done in Hitler's case?" One problem with this question is that it assumes we can only act at the moment when armies are already on the march. The history of successful nonviolent campaigns for social change, such as in the Philippines and Eastern Europe, includes years of prayer and risky prophetic action on behalf of biblical values. How might we organize a more comprehensive set of research and mobilization resources so that these successes might become the rule rather than the exception?

Jim Wallis, about
a year ago, in
Portland, Oregon

The New York Times reports "White House Faith Office to Expand." Sojourners co-founder and magazine editor Jim Wallis will be a member of the associated advisory council, according to Sojourners, Politico, and elsewhere.

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown points out that these council members are likely to disagree, quoting Obama campaign advisor Shaun Casey: "These are people who are not used to going along to just get along." The prospect of conflict among faith representatives on a political council doesn't fill me with dismay, as long as there is commitment to civility and to their assigned tasks. If they conceal their convictions, they're not much good as a council. I imagine that, individually, council members will hope that their opinions might at least occasionally help to form better policies. This seems a reasonable goal, and worth a certain amount of noise and static. When politicians exploit church leaders mainly to curry popularity, the picture may look more peaceful, but what's really been gained?

Another New York Times article: "Vatican Move on Bishop Exposes Fissures of Church." What happened to the Vatican's legendary gifts of diplomacy? Conflicts between religions are proper and inevitable when the issue is competing theological truth claims; in fact, on this level their debates are useful to themselves and each other. (Otherwise I have no idea what I am communicating beyond those already predisposed to agree with me.) But nobody of any religion has a license to participate in the dehumanization and objectification of anyone, past or present. If you assert that the Holocaust didn't really happen, we have the right and obligation to say that you don't speak for our community. I'm glad that the Vatican eventually made that clear, but wonder how they didn't see this mess coming earlier.

So now let's combine the two topics above:--"If Obama Were Pope." Actually, I sympathize with much of Pope Benedict's campaign for a more direct and honest expression of Christianity's claims, both theological and historical, in the public arena (instead of a meek, relativist role). But that program will fail miserably if not pursued with humility, courtesy, and an incredible attention to historical accuracy.

The Internet Monk interviews the author of Fall of the Evangelical Nation.

Iraq reflection from Christian Peacemaker Teams: "What Choice Did They Have?"

Friday PS: Research suggests that "Europe does religion without the politics." What really intrigued me was this counter-stereotype textbite: "On average, nearly three-quarters (74%) of people surveyed in Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Switzerland and the UK think of themselves as religious or very religious."

Thanks to novaresearch.eu for the reference.

Blues from Barcelona: Another version of "It Hurts Me Too." (Compare to Eric Clapton's two weeks ago.)

No comments: