Monday, January 7, 2008

A New Kind of Conservative

I'm at home today, caring for sick little girl. No big thoughts to share, but I'm posting someone else's to share so that you may ponder.

The author is Joel Hunter (link here and here), and it's from his recently published book "A new kind of Conservative", obviously playing off "A New Kind of Christian" by Brian McLaren.

Sort of reminds me of something I found on the internet a while back: "They will know we are Christians by our boycotts, moral outrage and self-righteous indignation...hey! Wait a minute!"


A New Kind of Conservative
Joel Hunter
Excerpt from A New Kind of Conservative

Truth is stranger than fiction; truth is also stronger than friction. It seems logical to assume that Christianity is strongest when it is most forceful. It also seems logical to assume that if the Christian tradition is under attack, believers should fight back. It is almost inconceivable that, at a point when religion is most desperately needed, they would detach ourselves from religious terms. It would be so natural to respond to mockery with a counterattack.

Both Jesus and the religious crowd were threatened, but the two reacted differently. The Jews tried to protect their religion by complaining to the authorities. They organized as much political force as they could muster. They mobilized a campaign to save the country—a campaign based on accusation, negativism and fear. They won the debate and missed the point.

Jesus, on the other hand, offered no defense. He was not interested in justifying Himself. He was interested in truth: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). He used no religious talk. He used the highest universal goal—the truth—and was confident that those who were seeking the truth would understand Him. Such a strategy made Him vulnerable; such a strategy made Him invincible.

It is sobering today to find Christians choosing the political strategy of the crowd instead of that demonstrated by Jesus. It will cost us more than we realize.

Christians who choose to defend their religion rather than seek the whole truth will lose three very important capacities: (1) the ability to see God outside of their own tradition; (2) the capacity to influence people in any positive sense toward God; and (3) the opportunity to grow in faith.

When voters choose to limit themselves to the singular strategy of defending a religious tradition, they minimize their capacity to positively influence other people toward God. When they are so narrowly focused upon their own concerns, they cannot expect others to truly hear them. When the religious crowd presented its concerns to Pilate, he did not investigate. Instead, he promptly declared, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). How could he decide so fast?

Pilate reacted not to their statements but to their motivation. He could see that their motivation was envy (see Matthew 27:18), that their political ends were focused upon their own benefit. He had no desire to help them or to join them in their goals.

Christians who defend a religious tradition are similarly dismissed. And why shouldn’t they be? The world doesn’t give a hoot about Christianity, and they will not give one until they perceive that Christians care more about all people than their own interests. If evangelicals in politics cause people to dismiss Christianity because of their defense of it, how tragic that is!

We are called to be witnesses (see Acts 1:8), to point beyond ourselves. Christ shows us two important prerequisites to witnessing. First, we need to get rid of the counterattack mentality, which not only kills our own search for truth, but it also kills everyone else’s as well. Jesus quietly and calmly told the truth when under fire. The truth was His strength. He did not need any other justification: “But Jesus made no further answer; so that Pilate was amazed” (Mark 15:5).

The second prerequisite that Jesus modeled was His use of nonreligious language. Religious terms can shut people out. Why then do Christians often insist on speaking Christianese? They may hope that quoting Scripture to back up their points, or shouting “Amen!” to a speech, will communicate something of the Spirit to people. It does communicate a spirit—a spirit of exclusion, because the words they’ve chosen convey the meaning they intend only to those of their own group.

The search for truth in any issue or candidate puts religious and nonreligious people on common ground. As any Christian who is honest admits, the revealed truth of Scripture does not automatically transfer to the contemporary issues of our nation. Scripture does not replace the gathering of facts. It does not save us from the need to calculate the consequences of our vote. Scripture does not relieve us from the need to draw truth from those with a different perspective. All truth is God’s truth. The search for truth is hampered by special lingo that would make communication unwelcome or more difficult. Any statement that sounds religious rather than moral creates walls.

A true test of Christianity in politics is this: Are a great variety of people benefited by our political stance, even people who are not of our faith? We are following the footsteps of Christ when we work hard to assist others, even when their political stance is different from our own, and when we talk in terms that communicate to everyone.

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