Becoming politicized saved the Church

Greg Forster has written a very interesting three-part series at The Public Discourse giving an overview and interpretation of the history of Evangelicals’ engagement in politics.  (Here are part one, part two, and part three.)  Foster’s goal is to overturn the conventional wisdom about this story, allowing us to understand why religious conservatives have been so consistently ineffectual in politics and how to change this.  I agree that the conventional wisdom needs overturning, but I don’t think he goes nearly far enough.

Throughout the century of American history Forster covers, the main concern of Evangelicals politically active qua Evangelicals has been to halt and reverse America’s slide into secularism and publicly-sanctioned immorality.  Foster respects his subjects’ concerns, but he sees the story of conservative Protestant resistance as one of inevitable failure.  Evangelicals, Foster claims, misunderstood the nature of the threat.  They imagined that liberal apostasy was a matter only of a wicked elite, that America’s conservative Protestant communal consensus remained intact among the “moral majority” below.  If this were the case, all one would need to do is to overturn the hostile elite and install a new one, a straightforwardly political process that should be fairly easy in a democracy.  However, what Foster calls the “Protestant schism” wasn’t nearly so lop-sided.  America’s moral consensus was completely shattered, so that any claim from one side to speak for the country’s shared values comes across as arrogant usurpation.

All of this is pretty reasonable, and Forster tells his story with deep knowledge and insight, but what should we do about it?  We must rebuild America’s moral consensus, Forster says.  I agree, but he and I seem to mean different things by “building moral consensus”.  To me, it means Evangelicals (and Catholics, although we Catholics should recognize that this is primarily their country, not ours) need to convert the unbelievers to orthodox Christianity and political traditionalism, convince them to repent of their liberalism, and establish laws, customs, and social sanctions that safeguard this moral consensus.  Forster, on the other hand, seems to mean rebuilding a consensus by watering it down till we can come up with something both liberals and real Christians can accept.  (UPDATE:  In fairness, I should say that it’s not entirely clear that this is what he means.  He says that Evangelicals can still advocate for their particular beliefs as long as they don’t claim to speak for or to the national consensus.  There seems to be a tension here, since one would think the goal of full Evangelical activism would be to align our moral consensus with what they regard as the full truth, but doing so would make it too narrow for liberals.  Below, I choose to discuss the more objectionable interpretation to Forster’s essay, an interpretation that does not align fully with his own beliefs.)  We shouldn’t try to make traditionalism/conservatism a guiding political philosophy for the nation, because “America is not a traditionalist country”.  Here Forster reminds us that America’s political independence was the work of Deist, Freemason traitors. (He doesn’t use exactly those words.)  Forster also encourages Evangelicals to avoid “partisanship” and look for common causes with the liberals who are trying to corrupt our children.  Supposedly, Evangelicals’ close association with political Reaction is what makes them unpopular.  Above all, we are to avoid “hostility toward those outside our group”.

And so, despite its promising beginnings, Forster’s essay ends up basically endorsing the conventional wisdom it promised to overturn.  I claim we can make better sense of the last two centuries of political-religious history if we reverse some common assumptions to be in better accord with what we know about human nature and the historical record.  Let us also not restrict ourselves to the American context, since a similar battle has raged across Europe.  (I know and care more about the French experience, which affects my choice of examples.)  Let’s go through these assumptions one by one.  (Forster himself doesn’t endorse all of them.  My point is not to refute his articles–which I largely agree with–but to discuss beliefs about Christians in politics more generally.)

  1. Liberals only hate Christians because we’re conservatives.  This is backwards–since its birth in the 18th century, liberalism has always attacked the Church, has worked to confiscate her resources and socially marginalize her, and has loudly and angrily rejected her moral code.  (They are the ones who, without any provocation on our part, perpetrated the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, enslaving the Church to an atheist State.)  Conservatism, meanwhile, means preserving these things against liberal attack.  It’s absurd to think that Christians individually or the institutional Church could be neutral in this contest.  Liberals don’t hate Christians because we’re conservatives; they’re liberals because they hate Christianity.  Nor is this irrational animus; if the ideology of liberalism is true–with its elevation of autonomy and equality to supreme values–then Christianity (a hierarchical, communitarian, and moralistic faith if ever there was one) must be repudiated.  Liberals of course do express outrage when Christians defend themselves, but let us have our causality straight:  the counterattack is not the cause of the initial attack.
  2. Association with a political establishment (the Ancien Regime) has made Christianity unpopular.  There is no proof of this.  It assumes that the common people in olden times were actually liberals yearning for democracy and feminism.  There is no evidence for this.  Historians, being Leftists, are apt to impute their own sentiments onto the silent masses of deceased humanity, but they have no warrant for doing so.  There were no opinion surveys two hundred years ago.  Why, for example, should we assume that being associated, even “closely associated”, with the monarchy made the Church unpopular?  In fact, there is no reason to think that kings have historically been unpopular.  More often, they have been seen as a more benign force than the local lord.  The cahiers de doleances gathered from the French populace on the eve of the revolution show no evidence for a widespread desire to liquidate either the Church or the monarchy.  Ordinarily, association with government power doesn’t make a group resented; rather, it tends to lend that group authority.  Consider the Leftist creed of anti-racism (which, as we all know, really means hostility toward whites).  Has anti-racism suffered from its endorsement by government power?  Has knowing that a single warrantless accusation of racism can destroy a person’s career generated hostility in the subject population?  Far from it!  Official endorsement (the “Constantinian treatment”) has been a great boon to the anti-racist creed (even Forster accepts it completely uncritically), as it has been to every other ideology fortunate enough to be given the benefits of state coercion.  Whites don’t just say that ethnic loyalties (among whites) are evil and that the West has a “shameful legacy” to be atoned for; they really mean it, the poor dolts!  Of course, now the populace think it a shameful thing that the Church is (or was) associated with “feudalism” and Reaction.  That’s because those things lost, and the commoners are repeating the new official ideology, as commoners always do.  The lesson is not that Christians shouldn’t take stands that will make us unpopular with our descendents.  The lesson is that you need to win, and then you get to write the history books and decide what those descendents believe.
  3. Association with one side in political conflict his been bad for Christianity.  It has hampered our witness and kept out people who would make excellent Christians except for their dislike for our totally optional political stances.  If you believe my correction to point 1, then you will know that Christianity’s rejection of liberalism is not option and that in order to get liberals to convert to Christianity while remaining liberals, one would have to eviscerate the Christian faith.
  4. Association with one side in political conflict his been bad for Christianity.  It has kept us from being a purer faith and diverted our attention away from the really important matter of eternal salvation.  Sociologists have noted the importance of fostering a sense of identity, a strong consciousness of being different from the surrounding society, as key for a subgroup wanting to preserve its integrity and not dissolve into the larger society.  Hence the function of distinctive dress, avoidance of specified foods or technologies, and other public “flags” used by many religions.  Here is where the conventional wisdom is most wrong.  The association with social conservatism has been a wonderful thing for American Christianity.  I would even say that without it, there would be no orthodox Christianity left in the country.  And I don’t just mean morally orthodox; I mean literal belief in the Trinity and the Resurrection would have all but disappeared without the pro-life movement.  Engagement in the culture wars gave Christians a sense of their alienation from secular society.  It fostered a crucial–and crucially good–sense of “us versus them” that has given us psychological strength to resist the powerful pressures to conform to the secular establishment.  Another bonus, whose importance is often missed, is the moral authority of Leftism has been diminished in the eyes of Christians who become social conservatives.  This makes it easier (psychologically, not logically) to stand firm when the Left attacks us on strictly theological and ecclesiological issues such as a hierarchical priesthood and the authority of Scripture and tradition.  Liberal Christians wishing to cling to orthodoxy are in a much more difficult position.  They must argue that a group of people (liberals) who historically have always been right about everything have now gone wrong in making the same sort of arguments they always make, while the monstrous defenders of slavery and tyranny are finally right about something because of the same sort of arguments that have always been wrong in the past.  An example from an American Catholic, myself, illuminates this.  Some years ago, I first encountered the claim that the Church should be restructured to be more “democratic” so that unelected prelates couldn’t tell us what to do.  Now, there are good theological reasons why this is a bad idea, but the first thing that popped into my head (and this was when I was still a neocon who thought democracy a good thing) was “Good God, no!  If we did this, the Church would endorse abortion the next day, and that must not be allowed to happen.”  This is still a pretty good argument, I think.  There may possibly be some merit to Protestant and Orthodox claims that the Catholic Church doesn’t have to be organized in as authoritarian manner as it is, that orthodoxy to Revelation doesn’t strictly require it.  That’s a debate for another day, because it’s quite clear that today, right now, the Church must maintain its top-down structure to resist complete apostasy.
  5. Christians can best build a moral consensus to our liking by eschewing polemical negativity, social sanctions against immorality, and political coercion.  Has demonizing their opponents done the liberals and anti-racists any harm?  It’s hard to see how; I sure wouldn’t mind my side and their’s trading places.  The fact is that social exclusion, law, censorship, and punishment have always been and always will be the way a moral consensus is solidified and defended.  Thus, Evangelicals who do these things–and they really don’t do it very much, much less than anyone else I would say–are trying to do what Forster says we should be doing, building moral consensus.  Of course, there’s a positive side to the consensus-building too:  indoctrination and propaganda.  To be successful, and ideological movement must wield both swords, as the stories of Christendom and Leftism show.  Necessarily, establishing a moral consensus means making those outside of it uncomfortable and unwelcome.  Myself, I’m not interested in any political movement that doesn’t involve pushing liberalism outside the bounds of communal consensus.

26 thoughts on “Becoming politicized saved the Church

  1. Forster’s proposal has already been tried. It was called Liberal Christianity, and all it succeeded in doing was giving a Christian veneer to Liberalism for as long as such a veneer was useful, and in converting Christians into Liberals (think Hillary Clinton’s Methodism). In nineteenth-century America, Liberal Christians said that Christianity had three fundamental tenets: freedom, benevolence, and universality. Of course these were perfectly compatible with the revolutionary slogans, liberty, equality, and fraternity, which on this side of the Atlantic came to be known as Americanism. Believe in these principles (or Americanism), as well as in a deistical Supreme Being and a gnostic “divine spark” in each of us, and you were a Christian. Now all of this was heretical–
    Socinian, antinomian, Pelagian–but this heresy was supposedly justified as the only means by which Christianity could survive in the modern world. With the ongoing collapse of Liberal Christianity, this justification has been removed, and all that remains is the heresy.

    • Hi JMSmith,

      I’m afraid that by only focusing on part of Forster’s essays I may have given an unfair impression of the whole. In my telling Forster does come off as a run-of-the-mill liberal Protestant, but that’s actually not the case. I’ve just added a couple of sentences above to try to correct this impression.

      To be fair, Forster is only talking about Evangelicals’ moral consensus-building activities, He’s quite clear that they don’t need to abandon their own conserative and orthodox beliefs. He even thinks it’s okay to speak for them in public, although he objects to the way Evangelicals do this now. I’m sorry for not getting all of that across in my summary. I left it out because I’m a bit confused by it. Sometimes he talks like the only thing he objects to is Evangelicals pushing conservatism as if it’s already part of the consensus, so that al he’s demanding is a change of rhetoric to acknowledge our current divisions. Other times he’s complaining that the consensus Evangelicals are pushing is too narrow because only Christians and traditionalists could sign onto it. In objection would seem to be more fundamental, and I’m not sure how it fits in with his saying that Evangelicals are allowed to advocate for anything as long as they don’t claim to be speaking for all of us. “X is true” implies that everyone should belive X, so X should become a part of the moral consensus. It’s a pretty good series, so I recommend my readers to go form their own opinions of it.

      • I agree that Christians are not necessarily conservative, if we use “conservative” in the generic sense of resistant to change. If I had the good fortune to live in a society that was, year after year, growing less and less pagan and more and more Christian, I suppose I would be a progressive. So we might say that there are possible worlds in which Evangelicals, or Christians generally, are not conservative, but I find it very hard to see how they could be other than conservative in the world we actually inhabit.

        Presumably the first priority of every Evangelical (or Christian generally) is to maximize the likelihood that their children and grandchildren will experience conversion, know Christ, and be saved. All of the other good things we may hope for them are real enough (vanities vanish, but until they do they are not nothing), but they are of secondary importance. So this is the question, so far as I am concerned. Which political program maximizes the likelihood that my children keep the the faith, reproduce, and successfully transmit the faith to their children? At present that political program is conservative.

        I think you are right to point out that the Church became staunchly counter-revolutionary only after it was attacked by the revolutionaries. That was what happened in France, and much the same thing happened in the Protestant churches in the U.S. If American pulpits had been manned by Tories, the War for Independence would have failed. But then, by the 1790s, orthodox Christianity found itself under sustained attack from leftists who didn’t think the revolution had gone far enough. As a rule, I’d suggest, Christians should not ally themselves with people who wish to destroy Christianity (loving one’s enemy does not entail helping him out with a charitable act of suicide).

  2. “Liberals don’t hate Christians because we’re conservatives; they’re liberals because they hate Christianity.”

    Perhaps, in a loose sense. However, it would be better to say that liberalism is incommensurate with religion because the latter always presumes a natural, hierarchical order presiding over the social. Traditional religions (I’ll exclude modern-day sham religions in the discussion–until the end*) posit a natural order existing prior to man. How could they not? Consequently they teach man’s dependence upon a natural law coincident with the divinely propagated natural order. Also, they demand a life (both personal and political) dedicated toward its end.

    Liberalism, of course, views individual men (not the same thing as man) as existing prior to any social order, and views whatever order is present as a product of men. It is really a big question for many liberals whether there is even any sense in speaking about a natural order at all.

    Christianity (in whatever traditional variant), or any other real religion for that matter, will always be anti-liberal. Efforts to merge Christianity into something compatible with liberalism must always fail, but turn it into something that is unChristian; nor will it be very satisfying to the true believer, either religious or liberal.

    Two additional points: until about the Enlightenment, and through its genesis and subsequent development, Christianity always manifested within a certain secular context, that is, a political sphere as hierarchical and as traditional as the religion itself. This fact cannot be underestimated in importance, and its implications must be pondered.

    Finally, in their natural forms, all religion and all politics should be symbiotic. Today, with regimes mired in political liberalism resulting in secular universal democracy, plus weird and very unnatural multiculturalism, the expectation that a natural organic Christianity will ever recover its past is pretty slim. That is why the importation of Muslims into the West is so dangerous. These folks understand how religion and politics are united, and Western liberalism cannot offer up any good defense against them.


    * Ironically, it is perhaps within China, a Communist one-party state with a relatively homogenous ethnic population [no matter how different they are, they are all Chinese], where a symbiosis of religion and politics could possibly flourish. However, it would take quite an effort for Chinese Communism to embrace such a seeming contradiction, especially since it, like Western liberalism, has assumed the artificial guise of region. But not an impossible effort, as the evolution of Deng Xiaoping’s Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has shown, vis a vis Maoism. It is not out of the realm of possibility to think that an outfit such as Falun Dafa (a merging of new age flying-saucerism with more traditional Buddhist-Taoist forms) might meld with the state in order to form something of the sort. But the future of traditional (and even Communist) China depends upon how much KFC and Coke is imported, and how well television and the Internet is censored–after all, modern Western influences are quite subtle and pernicious for any tradition, and from 1949 through about 1980 tradition was abandoned in China leaving something of a vacuum.

    Whatever the real or imagined situation is over there, a melding of a true (or even quasi) religious-state could never happen in our West, since liberalism, already disguised in the form of an ersatz religion, is now quite impenetrable, and few would tolerate the real thing anymore.

  3. Liberalism and Christianity are in no way opposed, liberalism is based on a certain form of Protestant Christianity, starting with the Puritans, continuing with the Quakers and the Methodists. The liberal social and political environment, including feminism, is a direct product of Victorian Methodists.

    • The descendants of the Puritans underwent a schism between 1740 and 1800, with one party espousing a Calvinism that was more rigorous than their parents’, another party moving towards Unitarianism, and from there to liberalism, and lots of individuals trying to find a middle ground in the Baptist, Methodist, or Episcopal Churches. Puritanism does not simply evolve into liberalism. The Unitarian branch is the one to watch, but it had to mix with Rationalism, Transcendentalism, and Socialism before it became liberalism. You’re right to point to the Quakers, since they contributed the Gnostic elements. I think it is hard to argue that Unitarianism is the fulfillment of Puritanism because Unitarianism is, essentially, all the Puritan heresies rolled into one (Arian, Arminian, Antinomian).

  4. Liberals don’t particularly hate conservatives or Christians. What liberals hate is traditions and traditionalism. Those Christians who aren’t traditional (liberal Christians) don’t bother liberals. And those non-Christians with strong traditions do bother liberals. Bonald, you might find this poll I posted on gaia interesting. I asked people whether they are liberal or not, and what they thought of the Old Testament and New Testament. The result is that liberals disapprove of the Old Testament more than the New Testament.

    • It is true that liberals don’t necessarily hate religion as such, but it has to be reduced to therapy or a private hobby.

  5. Although I have been sometimes (not always) attacked here for strongly advocating that Christianity and conservatism have lost popularity because of a change in sentiment which was itself caused by increased prosperity and safety.

    But there is one thing that my theory implies: the people of the past were highly religious and they liked their religion conservative. Liberalism was not a reaction against the bad behaviour of the religious establishment. If you didn’t like the people running the old religion, you started a new one. You didn’t become irreligious (or liberal).

    • The Man Who Was: I agree with you completely that the increased prosperity and safety of recent times has been a major factor in the increased pervasion of liberalism. Prosperity is among other things an increase in the margin of error. That’s why we like prosperity: it’s easier to relax from time to time, and to spend time on play – including, “let’s pretend” – when one is prosperous. But prosperity doesn’t introduce or promote error directly. All it does is increase the moral hazard of error, by reducing its apparent immediate cost. The indulgence in error is still a moral undertaking. So, prosperity does not determine us to error.

      It’s hard for me to recall when exactly it was that your argument from prosperity was attacked, so I can’t say for sure, but it seems to me that if it was, the attack was on its apparent reduction of moral error to biological and economic factors, leaving the moral agent out of the equation altogether. This may of course have been a misreading of your position.

  6. @Bonald – reading your piece the things that came through – again – was the conviction that democracy is a major cause of these adverse trends, and that the situation we are in cannot (or, almost certainly cannot) be solved by a democracy.

    I think *we* would agree on this.

    But generally Christian politics assumes that the way forward is via democracy – eg first to convince people of Christianity and reactionary politics, then get them to vote for it, then… etc.

    This is to put democracy above Christianity – whereas the politcs ought to flow from the truth of Christianity; and the politics be a means to that end.


    @TMWW and Kristor – re peace, prosperity, safety etc as a cause. This is surely an element. But I think the general phenomenon of ‘distraction’ is perhaps the key element – especially via mass media, but also such mass media created and shaped phenomena as fashion, youth culture and leftist political culture (people living as if being filmed for TV).

    One way of thinking about this is a comparison with hunter gatherer societies when they get access to alcohol – I mean societies without historical explosure to alchohol, alcohol naive societies.

    A scenario has been replayed during the past couple of centuries from North to South and East to West. In almost every situation there is a catastrophic inability to use alcohol in moderation with horrific bingeing among a large percentage of the population. Unless there are VERY strict social controls excluding alcohol, then there is a rapid cull of those susceptible to the drug.

    It seems that all human societies have been, and currently are, going through this selection sieve, of how they respond to alcohol.

    Maybe modernity is something similar – although modernity is so difficult to sustain that it has already begun to collapse (whereas by comparison the production of alcohol is a very simple and low level activity).

    My point is that there are some… temptations?, that some humans simply cannot resist if exposed to them repeatedly – sooner or later they will succomb, and then their will is overpowered. Modernity is a one off choice, like crack cocaine – and there is (for many people) no turning back from the addiction so long as the ‘drug’ is available.

    Modern society is therefore, by this argument, as unable to choose to reverse its decline in the context of its own ubiquitous temptation as an average crack addict is unable to reform himself while living in a crack den.

    To continue the evolutionary analogy, either things will continue until the susceptible ones have eliminated themselves – so that modern people from viniculture nations such as France and Italy have become relatively immune to binge drinking and its social costs (although still suffering much from the medical effects of heavy alcohol consumption – usually late in life).

    By analogy, those susceptible to modernity, those who become addicted, will eliminate themselves (while inflicting collateral damage much like binge alcholics do with violence, road traffic accidents, deglect of children, economic parasitism – those addicted to modernity inflict secular leftism).

    Or else, the societies and forms of social organization which create and sustain the irresistable temptations will collapse – leaving behind the equivalent of societies that exclude alcohol on pain of severe sanctions. In this case, those sub-cultures which vehemently reject modernity and its distractions will survive and serve as the seed for regrowth and repopulation.

    This analogy leads to a concpetion of our intellectual elite as drug dealers, and of democracy as the voting of addicts.

    • “… and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

      There is no purely natural solution to the problem of addiction to sin, as AA long ago began insisting. The *only* long term solution is transcendent. It depends upon a complete re-ordering of life’s priorities. The addict *cannot* save himself. His only salvation lies in loving God with all his heart, and soul, and mind. His old categories of thought must be just blasted, utterly rejected. Such is repentance. You can’t put new wine in old wineskins. The old skins must be discarded. The Body of Death must be sloughed off.

      And, yes: a democracy of addicts is bound to disaster. As the only salvation for a man is transcendent, so also for his people. We *cannot* “save” this society. The notion that we can is, indeed, the very Babelonian prideful kernel of our basic moral disease. We must leave it behind altogether, in favor of a new sort of society. We must leave the dead to bury the dead.

      As the saint is no longer about himself at all anymore, but is on his Father’s business, so the sanctified society is not about itself anymore at all, but about the glorification of God. Only by aiming at Heaven may we ever inherit Earth.

      Nor ought we to grieve the loss of the beauties of the West. These shall most of them persist through the change, and be ennobled thereby, or reborn altogether. There will still be cathedrals; Maxwell’s equations will still stand; Bach will remain.

      • Yes – I agree. But would add that AA works in societies where alcoholism is encapsulated, and can fairly easily be avoided.

        The analogy would be that we are in a society of alcoholics (as it were) in which it is the non-alcoholic world that is encapsulated and can easily be avoided.

        So modernity is everywhere except encapsulated groups, such as the enclaves of Amish or Ultra Orthodox Jews.

    • I think the distraction thing is real. What it doesn’t explain though is why there isn’t more religious “distraction,” i.e. popular art. In other words, I don’t think this is mostly a supply side issue. I made the point before to Jim Kalb before: religion used to be as great a passion as sex, yet that passion has almost entirely disappeared. For distraction to really work like it has, the religious passions had to have already been massively attenuated.

      • My interpretation is that the religious impulse is still there but overwhelmed by the power of culture.

        This is analogous to the fact that maternal instincts are still there, and female modesty is still there; but such things are currently almost invisible due to being overwhelmed by the power of culture.

        And the power of the culture is essentially the mass media/ communications.

      • But that still doesn’t explain why the culture is what it is. Its a bit circular.

      • Man Who Was@ I think there is a serious problem with the low quality of much contemporary Christian art; but I would not use the word “distractions” to indicate true Christian symbolics. My thinking on this question is based on Pascal, who wrote that every man is subject to a disquieting awareness of “his nothingness, his forsakenness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his impotence, his emptiness,” and that he is thereby driven, either to God, or to “divertisments,” which is to say distractions. Christian symbolics should always keep us on track, keep reality and the really important questions directly in front of us. The symbolics of “culture,” on the other hand, mainly serve to divert our attention and prevent our thinking about Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

        I drive past a Protestant church that has one of those press-letter signs on which uplifting mottos are posted. The other day the motto was “Don’t worry! Be happy!” That strikes me as a distraction. It’s opposite is the message one used to see outside Protestant churches, namely “It’s later than you think.”

  7. Well, my understanding is that the culture is what it is due to science and technical breakthroughs, which were due to a mixture of functional specialization (a choice of the West, at the Great Schism) combined with evolution of human psychology (along the lines described by Greg Clarke in Farewell to Alms, and Cochran and Harpending in 10000 year explosion) in European populations.

    Science and technology created the various features of modernity – increased productivity of food and stuff, increased capabilities, culminating in the mass media which is now the dominant social system.

  8. This is so wrong I don’t even know where to start. Christianity transcends politics — utterly and totally. (“My kingdom is not of this world”). Christianity can no more be restricted to one sort of political ideology than it can be restricted to one race or gender. If in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is also neither liberal nor conservative. Someday our present-day political set-tos will look as meaningless as the strife of Blue and Green in Justinian’s Constantinople. And instead of insisting on a political orthodoxy as a test of faith — the 21st century equivalent of throne and altar — you should recall the tale of Jonah who was sent to preach among his people’s enemies, and tried to run away from it. (And when he did preach to them they did not become Hebrews, but remained Assyrians — yet some were still saved the Bible assures us). Saying “Oh, let’s just write off the liberals” is not allowed under the Great Commission. You too need to become all things to all men, that you may save some by the grace of God.

    • Christianity cannot be reduced to politics, but it does have political implications. It must oppose its own social marginalization and the official promotion of sin, both of which are essential components of the liberal project. Christians do wish to save liberals, but we can’t save them as liberals, because their ideology is necessarily and explicitly anti-Christian. If they are to accept the true faith, plain logic demands they repent of anti-clerical ideology.

    • There are certainly many political questions to which there is no Christian answer. Christians may very well disagree over whether to approve a bond issue to build a new high school, or over the candidate best qualified to serve as county Sheriff, etc. When some overly enthusiastic Christians attempt to make such questions a religious test, other Christians should certainly tell them to be quiet.

      It is also possible to imagine a political situation where all political questions were neutral from a Christian point of view. In that situation, no politician or political party would promote policies that fostered sin or persecuted the Church or the faithful (or at least no party was a standout in this respect). Something fairly close to that situation existed in the U.S. as recently as fifty years ago.

      So it is possible for Christianity to be irrelevant to politics, but it is not possible for it to “transcend” politics. If we remember that Christ likened himself to a sword, it will be clear that He is the source of new solidarities and new divisions. We can certainly argue over whether there is a Christian answer to any particular political question, and if there is, over what that answer is; but I don’t think we can say that there never could be a Christian answer to any possible political question.

      One last remark. Christ does not transcend good and evil. That is what nihilists do. Christ (eventually) defeats the Devil.

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  10. Your problems with liberals and liberal Protestants may be justified, however your biggest problem should be with the Pentecostal/Charismatic and “born-again” Protestants on the Right. They maintain that faith is contingent on a mystical experience of the individual and go on to express dogmas that make each individual a church unto themselves, and as such, they heap much derision on Christian traditions with professed doctrines and creeds and “rituals” (always said with a bad taste in their mouths). They may hate liberals on the left, but they hate the Roman Catholic church and High Church Protestants, just as much.

  11. Pingback: preventing reverse psychology in the future « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci


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