Listening to the Right and the Left

People who sit on the left side of the American political aisle consider me a conservative. Those on the right seem to think I’m a liberal. Of course, neither assessment is accurate, but their views of me are quite understandable.
My aim is not to locate myself in any of the political camps of this world, but rather to be devoted to the kingdom of God. (I’m not sure how often or how well I succeed, but that is my aim.) And the consequence seems to be something like this:
When I listen to the voices of the right, I find myself in half agreement with just about everything I hear. When I listen to the left, I find myself in almost complete agreement with about half of what I hear.

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11 thoughts on “Listening to the Right and the Left

  1. I have the same problem! “Lefties” think me too conservative; “Righties” think me too liberal. I’m actually rather proud of this; I think people generally tend to swing too far in either direction.

    Conservatism seems to me to have its foundation in wordly wisdom: the handling of money and how to make it grow, promoting punitive actions to discourage wrongdoing, etc. It seems to promote temperance, prudence, obedience, and other such necessary, but inadequate, worldy virtues.

    Liberalism seems to be striving for something greater…and looking to the wrong entity to provide it. It emphasizes mercy (except to the unmerciful), tolerance (except toward the intolerant), and (mandated) provision for the weak and poor. The problem I have with liberalism is that it presupposes that man is inherently Good (a lovely but deadly idea), and that, therefore, man is his own savior.

    Ultimately, I would argue that both Conservatism and Liberalism (as defined in terms of American politics) fall drastically short of ideal. Liberalism, on the surface, seems to follow the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself more closely than Conservatism, but its closeness to the truth, I think, makes it more dangerous for falling short.

    I suppose I tend to agree with Conservatism in practice but not in spirit, and Liberalism in spirit but not in practice!

  2. Kc,
    I found myself in agreement with your statement about being focused on the Kingdom of God. May I suggest we (Christians) set to the side politics and focus on biblically teaching. The politics becomes almost unimportant.

    What does the Bible teach us? First, let’s look at our position. We are bond servants of Christ. We are to spread the Good News. To take care of the widows, to feed and clothe the needy. This is just the beginning obviously. We live in a country that has more freedom and opportunity then has ever been dreamed of at any time in history.
    Shame on the American Christians for taking and taking the blessings of God and not giving. We work a job that pays for our wants and needs. We show up to church once or maybe twice a week. The rocks are screaming out, because we are not. Angelina Jolie is doing our work.

    While we think about and discuss the proper course of action Millions of children and adults live in Real poverty. There are also the hundreds of thousands of Christians’in China daily being persecuted. This list is endless.

    Are we scared or lazy? I personally believe the main reason we have no action is we are self serving and ungrateful. May I again make a suggestion? Today, take a step that befits someone else. Preferably, a step that sews a seed.

    Sorry, slightly off subject. Heavy on my mind.

    • Hey, Trent —
      Let me start my response by saying that, on the one hand, you are really saying the same thing I am saying or would say, just from a different angle. But on the other hand, the difference in angle is very important. So important that it turns out to be more than just a matter of perspective or emphasis. It affects our mode of representing our King in this world.
      The things you suggest we do as we set politics to the side are all intensely political. Politics, after all, is not truly the same thing as the American political process of elections, stump speeches or even the business of legislation on capitol hill. Much less is it the gamesmanship of the political entertainment media. Since all these things are substantial parts of what goes together to make culture, they do matter, for better or worse. But I would agree with you that, compared to simple (?!) biblical faithfulness to our Lord in the small corner of the world where He has placed each of us, all that political noise is quite unimportant and, in fact, distracting from our primary kingdom work.
      At any rate, the true, essential definition of politics is simply the interactive outworking of life among people in community together (domestic policy?) and between communities (foreign affairs?). Thus, although we might use the phrase “church politics” in a pejorative way, it really just means the church living as community.
      Here’s the real issue, as I see it: You mention taking care of widows, feeding and clothing the needy, people living in poverty, and the persecution of Christians in China. But all of these things are intensely POLITICAL!
      In fact, even our preaching of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ is a very political activity. It is about nothing less than the advancement of a kingdom which is set against the kingdoms and principalities of this world. As the church, we do not seek to overthrow earthly governments. (And I wish I could say that none of us spend much time or energy trying to effect change by using the world’s own political machinery. Sadly, too many of us think that we advance the kingdom of God by gaining seats in Washington or Salem and so forth.) But it is very true that God’s kingdom means to take root in the hearts and minds of people — and to do so in the context of community — to such a degree that the world will be made uncomfortable and will come to hate us (I John 3:13).
      Evangelism is a political activity, because it means a shifting of citizenship and allegiances. And all evangelism, if it is biblical, is merely the start of conversion. Let me offer a few brief words from a book that I just received as a gift from my daughter:

      “Repentance, which is the beginning of conversion, is also the beginning of the gospel. The good news that another reality is breaking into the world demands a fundamental transformation of all who hear it…. [C]onversion is political. Turning to God is not only about the inner condition of our souls; it also has to do with the external form of our life together in community. Conversion is a way of life that must be practiced.”
      — Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

        from Inhabiting the Church: Biblical Wisdom for a New Monasticism
  3. Hi Kc,

    I found your response very interesting. If I understood correctly, you said all is politics and it can not be removed. No matter what there is always politics, even if it is just the relationship between two humans. My concern in your response is that it seems to have a negative undertow. I almost felt it had a submissive acceptance.

    As I see it God calls us to action. Plant, water and harvest. The bible shows us over and over the relationship between God and Man and man to man. Why is this important? Nothing moves or happens without a relationship or connection. The only way to improve the relationship is through action. Action is required by our God.

    I really am saying forget the consequences (politics) for the sake of the unforgiven soul. Let us not go out of our way looking for trouble. We have al seen that to many times.

    I was told by a Greek man like yourself that the word Paraclete (Holy Spirit) is also used to signify the man who literally had your back in battle. He would move as you did. I have always felt strange about the phrase so often used, “I am waiting for the spirit to move me.” There are various rendition of this idea. The “Biblical story” (KC terms) is always about action. So, the debate should never be about politics instead it should be about the relationship with our Master and his dictates to us.

    The most important question to ask on the job (in life) is not “What am I getting?” The most important question to ask is “What am I becoming?” Jim Rohn

    Sorry, I know you hate it when I crunch your ideas to a sentance.

    • My excellent cousin — Take a close look at the expansion of my thought in Beth’s comment. She has put it perfectly — even better, in fact, than I did in the initial post. As far as my response to you is concerned, if you took me to be advocating inaction, then you mistook me. You know when I hear people say, “You can’t legislate morality,” my response has always been to say, “On the contrary, you can’t legislate anything else.” Life itself, the way spend our moments and days, is always ethically charged. And so it is that the kingdom of God is always political.

      • Uhhhhhhhhh… It’s a KINGDOM…? 🙂
        That it’s a kingdom means that it is political by definition. And as I said before, all politics is a matter of ethics.
        As children of God by faith in Jesus, we have the privilege and responsibility — really, the great calling — to be God’s representatives in and to the world. This means that we care about politics.
        I was taught in my Bible College Ecclesiology course about the church’s four “E”s — Exaltation (worship), Evangelism, Edification (building up the body of Christ), and Enlivenment (Christian involvement in culture). I would say (along the lines of John Howard Yoder) that our task as the people of God in the world is kerygma or “proclamation.” This encompasses our whole mission in a single concept. We are to BE the church in worship, the church in fellowship, and the church in testimony.
        Our testimony is that the true King of kings is at work redeeming His fallen and rebellious creation. All people are invited to come into His kingdom as we set about doing His work in the world. This work includes faithful testimony to the powers and authorities of this world. So we speak up on issues like violence, whether it be against those who are wearing the uniform of “enemy” states or those who are merely guilty of being in the wrong womb at the wrong time, testifying that our Lord — and ultimately, theirs — is a God of life and peace. We speak up on issues like the proper care for the plot of God’s earth given to us and show that abuse of the environment was never the purpose for which our Lord gave it to us to manage for Him. And so on it goes.
        So whether we are worshiping together on Sunday morning, sharing the good news of salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus with a friend on Tuesday afternoon, teaching one another more about our Lord in a Bible Study on Wednesday evening, or expressing our Lord’s words to our culture on the steps of a state capitol building on Thursday morning — in all of these things we are BEING the church, the ekklesia, the gathering of the flock of God, living out the story of God and His people in the world. This is faithful proclamation, kerygma, and it is all intensely political.
        “In that day there will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘HOLY TO YHWH’. And the cooking pots in YHWH’s house will be like the bowls before the altar. Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to YHWH Tsebaoth…” (Zechariah 14:20-21). If we look at this in light what the Lord said about the proper place of worship in John 4 and “the ends of the earth” in Acts 1, we see that He intends to have His holy kingdom extend to everyone and everything. The dishes in the cupboards in this house in Hillsboro, Oregon are to be “holy to YHWH” (which I would take to mean that they should be feeding visitors often [Luke 14:12-14]). 🙂 Very political stuff…
        As far as ethics goes, I would merely offer the practically universally understood definition of the term: the study and/or application of moral values. Together with aesthetics (the study and/or application of fascinating values[e.g. beauty vs. ugliness, excellence vs. mediocrity]), ethics makes up the branch of traditional philosophy known as axiology, the study of values. If you have doubts that the kingdom of God is profoundly interested in matters of axiology, I’m not sure what else I could say to that…

  4. A quick retort: Please let us not posture, and flex our pride. How seriously we take ourselves. Point of clarification, the reason some of you find yourself without a camp in this world is because you are getting caught up in societal labels. This can invoke confusion, and make us ineffective for the Kingdom of God, and our day to day reality in the flesh. As stated in Beth’s paragraph she finds herself not belonging to either political group, and K.C. concurred that for himself. That is not at all surprising! Neither do I find my self in either one of those political entities. First of all, a conservative is not a republican in the current time. A sincere believer saved by faith belongs to the Lord Jesus polity, not some worldly group. We should be defined simply by what we believe, and stand for, or against. I believe in freedom that God has blessed us with, and the responsibility we have to preserve it in God’s holy will. To be idle is to waste your talents. The Salt flavors everything not just what feels good. Let us not mince words my friends, and simply state what we know to be true, and what we believe in, but do it with love, sincerity, and letting nothing stand between us, always working to resolution. I am surprised at all our academic accolades, and how pitiful we are as heirs of Christ Jesus. We have much delusion about ourselves as it lucidly appears. May the Lord have mercy on us. We are a wretched, stiff-necked, haughty people. Maybe a field trip to see the sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God! Come on, let’s finally be for real!

    • By the way, “conservatism” and “liberalism” are close to the same from a different perspective. Compare most politicians from either group, but the individual beliefs they stand for is what separates them. Many politicians are made in the image of their father the devil. It is a muddled business. Yet we are not helpless victims, we are Sons of the King! Thank you for the time on the soap box.

  5. By the way, your latest comment digs into the nuts, and bolts a bit more. The single best response I have seen from the founder of this blog. Well done! This is a great start to dialogue upcoming. I was awaiting testimony to the truth, and see it emerging. Now more specifics can be discussed, implemented, and blessed by the Holy God of the Bible.Thanks.

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