|(Sermon-prepping, in Starbucks)
Politically, America is deeply divided. As a follower of Jesus, how do I evaluate this? What do I do about this? How shall I think about this?
I am doing two things, personally.
1) I have identified certain guiding principles; and
2) I keep studying and learning. For me, this means disengaging from social media arguments, and finding the best scholarship available that can help me, in the first place, understand the issues. And, BTW, I in no way claim to have great understanding. But it is, I believe, growing. This means I am mostly uninterested in people who want to argue political issues without first putting a lot of work into understanding those issues. This may not be you, but it is me.
A FEW GUIDING PRINCIPLES
- Change hearts first. When hearts are changed, systems transform.
- Focus on issues, not political alignment.
- Understand before you evaluate. This takes time. This means I often hesitate to jump on someone's political bandwagon. Because, I don't yet understand the issues. (I'm not saying I never have done this. I am saying I don't want to do this. This will upset some people, some of whom understand less than I do.)
- Attack arguments, not people (no ad hominem abusiveness please). Evaluate arguments; formulate arguments. Love people.
- Lift up Jesus, the one who changes hearts and minds, and from whom we Christians acquire our ethics.
- Deepen your abiding life in Christ, as the first thing to do. All relevant, Spirit-led action comes from ongoing attachment to Christ.
- When the Holy Spirit identifies a socio-cultural need and burdens you with it, labor in the Spirit to achieve transformation. For example, my church family helped begin a soup kitchen that provides a meal every day of the year, serving 75-150 a night. For example, my church family has been involved in serving and raising support for ministries that rescue women out of sex trafficking. For example, Linda and I have, over the decades, provided free counseling for needy marriages and families (this is ongoing, to the very moment I am typing these words).
- Study and grow in learning about the relationship between following Jesus and political involvement. This will assist you in transcending shallow, uninformed, hate-filled debating. Here are some resources that have taken me deeper.
SOME RESOURCES THAT HAVE HELPED ME (These are resources I have read and studied, and have helped me better understand the relationship between religion and politics. Surely there are more. What books have helped you?)
- I'm now reading Amy Chua's (Yale U.) Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. Wow. Excellent, illuminating. America needs to rediscover a national identity that transcends our political tribes.
- See Jonathan Haidt's book Can't We All Disagree More Constructively? (Which is an excerpt from Haidt's Righteous Mind.)
- I loved Lukionoff and Haidt's excellent The Coddling of the American Mind. Haidt and Lukionoff help us understand, e.g., microaggressions and hatred and the American culture of "safetyism."
- Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion. Probably, everyone should read this before opening their mouth about politics.
- Brian Benestad, Five Views on the Church and Politics (Begin, perhaps, with this book. Anyone from my church who wants to read this and discuss with me, over coffee of course, please let me know.)
- H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (Arguably, this is THE classic text which nicely forms intelligent discussion. How is Christ relevant to the world in which we live now?)
- John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (This is essential reading for any who would engage in the discussion about how Jesus would have his followers respond to the political world we live in.)
- Greg Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church
- Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and Why the Left Doesn’t Get It
- Jim Wallis, On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good
- Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity (In evangelical Christianity, this is one of the classics. Read the four gospels as background, making note of all Jesus says about our relationship to Money. See also Ben Witherington, Jesus and Money.)
- Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (What should Christians do when allegiances to the state clash with personal faith?)
- Robert P. George, Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism (George, Prof of Law at Yale U., and a follower of Jesus, is a brilliant scholar who teaches us, among other things, how to civilly discourse about hard issues.)
- Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel (In a discussion with Greg Boyd he strongly recommended this book of readings to me.)
- Francis Beckwith, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (I read this book last summer and learned much from it. Beckwith’s chapter on human dignity is brilliant. [Christian Smith’s chapter on human dignity in What Is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up is stunning.] Beckwith is Prof of Jurisprudence and Philosophy at Baylor U.)
- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
- Charles Colson, God and Government: An Insider's View on the Boundaries Between Faith and Politics
- Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited.
- James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree
- Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People
- Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? (If this book doesn’t break your heart and burden you for the poor, we’re going to have to give you an EKG.)
- Pellegrino, Schulman, and Merrill, Human Dignity and Bioethics. Arguably the book to read on: 1) What is human dignity?; 2) Is there such a thing as human dignity?; and 3) If there is, does it make a difference? Collected essays by a great variety of scholars.
- Wayne Grudem, Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture
- John Corvino and Ryan T. Anderson, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination
- John Corvino and Ryan T. Anderson, Debating Same-Sex Marriage
- Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom
- Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues In a Changing Culture
- Dan O. Via and Robert Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views
- Ed Stetzer, Christians In the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is At Its Worst. I just purchased this - thanks Bob M. for the recommendation.
And, I have said things that, upon reflection, have caused me to disagree with myself.
I'm now working on...
Technology and Spiritual Formation
My two books are:
I'm now working on...
Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart
I am editing a book of essays on the Holy Spirit, authored by my HSRM colleagues. Hopefully this book will be out by the end of May.
And, when all this settles, Linda and I intend on writing our book on Relationships.