Thursday, January 10, 2008

Faith and Politics

So last night we began a new adult-ed class, 4 sessions, on Faith and Politics. We are being extremely careful, of course. No candidates are discussed. No sides are taken, at least by the teachers (me, me, Richard, me). No partisanship is allowed, at least from the front.

But still, this is an interesting topic, don't you think? I think so--the overlap or intermingling of two important parts of our identities as Christian Americans. How do these things relate to one another? How do we engage in our political system in a faithful way? What do we expect of the government, what do we put into the government, what does God have to do with all of this?

Interestingly, the class was pretty quiet for the first...35-40 minutes or so. There was immediate agreement on the functions of government, what they do and what they should do. No one felt there was a fundamental conflict between "we the people" as a foundational principle and "Jesus is Lord" as a foundational principle. Now, maybe this is due to me being FAR too tired to explain my question well. Maybe it's due to me wanting the first session of the class to be discussion and info-gathering for me rather than info-giving. Maybe I should have started with how Reformed people have historically seen the government, its role, and our role in it--more teaching and less asking. But that didn't feel right (which could also be related to my level of tiredness). In any case, I just have to wonder--do other people not think about these things? Is it so far out to be having this discussion? Or are other people just so uncomfortable talking about it that they won't talk at all? I'm intrigued. If I had been having this conversation anywhere else besides in the sanctuary of a church of which I am a pastor, I would have thought the conversation would have gone VERY differently.

I'm tempted to send the questions to some of my seminary friends and just see what happens. I think the email exchange would be much more heated than the sedate, matter-of-fact conversation of last night.

A HUGE bright spot in my night, however: when asked what are the biggest "issues" facing the world today, everyone in the room, almost simultaneously, said "poverty." And the discussion went on to include "lack of understanding, or trying to understand, people different from ourselves" and "lack of humility." None of the usual hot-button issues. Maybe that is my clue about my people...


  1. Faith and politics is such a hot-button issue that I'm not surprised that you didn't have good discussion at the first session. It takes a pretty high level of trust for most people to talk about these topics in a group. With only four sessions, I'm not sure this will change much unless the participants already have relationships conducive to this kind of discussion. I'm sure you'll have a much better discussion with your seminary friends because that level of trust is already there.

  2. I would have certainly said 'poverty,' but I also see a certain amount of our world leaders posturing to show off whose "you-know-what's" are bigger and brassier. Not a good way to foster good foreign relations. Then there's the whole fair trade, which I guess relates to poverty, but also human rights and conditions. I could go on, as you well know. Hmm, guess you'd better send me one of those emails. :)