Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Politics, Theology, and the Importance of Dialoguing Well

You might remember that in 2003, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks said that she was "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." There was a huge outrage as thousands of people began protesting their music and radio stations began banning their songs. The members of the group even received death threats because of this statement. Eventually, there was a documentary made about the whole ordeal called Shut Up & Sing.

I don't remember thinking much about all of this when it happened, but now I can say I am deeply troubled by the depth of criticism they received.

I don't like much of the political conversation that goes on in our world. There is constantly an us vs. them mentality and I think most of it lacks humility and compassion on both sides. The Dixie Chicks situation is yet another example of how we can forget that others have a right to their opinion without being openly ridiculed and mocked for it. Let's give others the courtesy that we would want from them.

At the blog, Christ and Pop Culture, Nick Rynerson penned a helpful post explaining the dangers of letting politics shape and inform theology. Here's his conclusion:
Within this reaction to the Dixie Chicks and subsequent events, I see a very deep and important national flaw that should not be overlooked: the inability to dialogue well. Dialogue in the public area is so often reduced to cliché rhetoric (things like comparing political opponents to nazis). This goes back a long time in American history to the common school movement, where disagreements in theology and politics were smoothed over in an attempt to bring people together but ended up superficially burying issues that would erupt in divisiveness and anger later on.

Nashville country music over the years has picked up some political baggage in its underbelly and remains a politically shaped entity to a degree. American evangelical Christianity has picked up some similar cultural and political tendencies, making goings-on in the country music world important to understand for the American Christian. Evangelicalism in America has attached to much of it a fiscal, moral and political conservatism that often gets directly glued to orthodox theology and has a tendency to be seen as just as important (not to mention the ethnocentrism that underling much of the American church that also often gets confused with conservative theology). I have had plenty of conversations about politics with well-meaning fellow Christians where my lack of political affiliation and my skepticism towards the policies of Ronald Regan were seen as lack of spiritual maturity. It is so important for Christians to work through the relationship between politics and faith because if we do not, we run the risk of doing to the gospel what the Judiazers did 2000 years ago. It does not matter a lick what cause, party, legalism, or idea we do this with and it has disastrous consequences.

Regardless of political beliefs, we need to discuss, dialogue and ask questions instead of blacklisting. If we are to live in a politically polarized world we must 1.) remember the transcendence and importance of our Savior above all politics and 2.) have a sense of humor. If anything can be learned from the Dixie Chicks disaster it is that politics can bring war. And only Jesus brings lasting peace from the war of American politics. And through the security found in Jesus can politics be engaged in both boldness and graciousness because, eternally, there is nothing at stake. This great gospel also frees you up to convince people you are a fascist for a few laughs if you want (maybe, that last point is debateable).

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