Friday, September 12, 2008

Citizens of both the CIty of God and the City of Man

First off, as my third post today, you can probably tell it's been a really slow day. Not much else to do, other than read different blogs and articles. Maybe the economy will pick back up Monday, and our bank will allow us to start lending money again.

Anyway, once again, Justin Taylor pointed me to a great article. This time it's by Joe Carter as he writes about combining Christianity with politics. As an evangelical Christian, he believes they should mix, but believes it's often done poorly. He comes up with ten points that I think make it a valuable article to read. Here are a few paragraphs:
"1) As a matter of political liberty I believe there are justifiable reasons to support such issues as prayer in schools and public displays of religious symbols. But I can't imagine that on the Day of Judgment I'll hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant--you have faithfully fought to keep the Ten Commandments in the courthouse." More likely we'll all be asked why we didn't spend more time concerned about our neighbors in Darfur or fighting the global AIDS pandemic. Perhaps we should rethink our priorities and put the first things first.
3) In a classical statement of ecumenicity, St. Augustine once said, "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love." Those of us on the religious right should adopt a similar principle and clearly define the boundaries between what is essential and what is non-essential in matters of policy and politics.

Protecting the sanctity of innocent human life and defending the traditional definition of marriage are clearly essentials. Those matters are based on principles that can be clearly derived from our traditions and holy texts. Other issues, however, are often less opaque. For example, can someone be a part of the "religious right" and not support the war in Iraq? The fact that question can even be asked shows how we've muddied the waters. While I personally think that, on the whole, the war was morally justified and a necessary humanitarian intervention, I can respect those who disagree. Indeed, the alternate opinion may be as rooted in Biblical and conservative principles as, I believe, is my own position to be. We must be careful and deliberate about where we draw the lines of political heresy.
10) Our beliefs are often informed by tradition and sacred texts. This does not, as our ideological opponents often claim, make them invalid. But it does make it necessary to translate them into common political vernacular when we bring them into the public square. Premising a political argument on "Because the Bible says so…" is rarely effective or convincing. Fortunately, God provides us general revelation--conscience, rationality, empirical observation--which is often more effective in expressing his foundational principles in a way that all people can accept and understand. We must use these tools to make obvious the connections that are often overlooked. For instance, we can use logic to show how same-sex marriage affects children and religious liberty or use empirical research to show how family structure influences poverty. It is not enough to be correct in our views; we must also be persuasive.

And finally, we must recognize that America is not a "Christian nation", though we should aspire to be a nation where those of us who are Christians are admired as good and noble citizens. America is not a "shining city on a hill", though we should let our light of freedom be a shining example for the entire world. America is not the "greatest blessing God gave mankind", though it is a great nation worthy of our conditional adoration. Patriotic sentiment has its place but we mustn't let it expand beyond its acceptable borders. We are citizens of both the City of God and the City of Man and must always be careful not to confuse the one for the other."

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