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Politics and Faith: Does the Bible Endorse One Side?

Is this an oxymoron?

An insightful piece on the Black, White, and Gray blog on Patheos. Bradley Wright explains why he is a “political agnostic”. Here is a taste:

With presidential elections coming up, we’ll hear a lot more about every aspect of politics, including its link to religion—especially Christianity.  I would like to step back and ask a very simple question: Is it possible to derive a distinct political position or affiliation from the tenets of the Bible?  My answer is “probably not.”

Trying to fit Christian beliefs into a specific political stance seems to be putting a square peg into a round hole—it just doesn’t fit.  There are two major problems in trying to translate Christian faith into politics.

The first problem is which aspect of the faith do you want to emphasize?

Some parts of Christianity resonate with the right.  Poverty comes from being lazy, but hard work brings wealth, according to Proverbs 10, which could be used to argue against welfare programs.  God knit us together in the womb, Psalm 139, which could support an anti-abortion position.

Other parts of Christianity resonate with the left.  Jesus told a rich man to sell his goods and give them to the poor (Matthew 19).  After Jesus died, and his followers started the church, what did they do?  They sold all their possessions and redistributed the wealth to those in need (Acts 4).

Still other parts of Christianity seem to pull us away from political involvement altogether.  Jesus didn’t speak much about how Roman governance should be reformed, and when he said to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” (Matthew 22) he seemed to supporting the political status quo.

Christianity presents a clear, coherent message on how we live, but it just doesn’t readily translate into any one political stance.

The second, and perhaps more daunting problem, comes with making policy.  Once we know what are values are, which do we translate into government policy and which do we keep in the realm of private life?

I know that I have a lot of friends on both sides of the issue. Reading my Facebook feed when political news comes up is always a study in contrasts (like the Occupy Wall Street protests right now). I always feel Wright’s tension at those times. Both sides make points that I feel connect well with my faith. The difficulty is trying to figure out where we draw the line between personal lifestyle and public policy. You can read the rest of his piece here.

One comment on “Politics and Faith: Does the Bible Endorse One Side?

  1. This article puts in different, perhaps better words, what I’ve been trying to articulate for a while.

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