Thursday, February 24, 2005

FaithfulAmerica: Religion and Politics

I'm big on ecumenical organizations, even though I know the shortcomings and follies of such organizations as the National Council of Churches of Christ and World Council of Churches (and in my own Lutheran sphere, the Lutheran World Federation qualifies, given the disparate nature of bodies claiming Luther as their spiritual father). But I think it important that Christians of all stripes recognize their kinship with Christians of all other -- well, at least most other -- stripes. The goal of ecumenical conversation and cooperation must ultimately be the organic reunion of the Body of Christ; the current "denominational" structure is a travesty -- especially when it restricts communion (in the broader and specific term) with fellow Christians of other traditions. At this point, I do not see that a monolithic merger is necessary to fulfill the prayer of Christ, "ut unum sint" -- "that they may all be one." A "communion of communions" -- sort of like the Roman Catholic and Uniate communion -- might very well be a good think, recognizing as it could the lovely variety of races and places on God's earth. But nevertheless, the Churches must overcome their chauvinism, pride, entrenchedness, and arrogance and listen to each other within the brooding breath of the Holy Spirit to overcome their divisions.

That said, I turn to ways in which Christians manage to overcome division to work together in ways that serve the commands of God. This has become the chief focus of the worldwide ecumenical movement, and probably of the NCC, too. But there are, I think more effective projects now extant. And one of them is (a project of the NCC, so watch out for the "liberal" bias, whatever that is).

To quote from their website (or I should say "our" website, since I am a member): is an online community of people of faith who want to build a more just and compassionate nation.

It provides one-click opportunities to impact current political issues and shift the terms of public debate.

It aspires to be an online wing of a powerful, new progressive faith movement, like the ones that fought for independence, abolition and civil rights. is a project of the National Council of Churches with support from TrueMajority and Res Publica. provides news and information about current (admittedly political) issues and urges action on the part of Christians to affect the political process. If it can be faulted, and I know that all my theologically and politically conservative friends will line up to do so, it would be that the organization tends to assume certain positions (which many conservatives call "liberal," but which I find to be quite conservative -- so go figure) without setting out the moral reasoning that leads one to take the steps it advocates. Nevertheless, the organization takes seriously what I think are unquestioned mandates of the Gospel -- viz., to care for the poor, wherever they live, and to tend the earth and her resources. Because the Gospel leads me to a progressivist politics (about which, I continually repeat, I try to remain wary and self-conscious), I have not yet found anything in what the organization has promoted to be a violation of my discipleship. (There have been, for example, no calls for encouragement or even allowance of abortion.)

The organization (a "virtual" community) sends via e-mail regular updates on issues or calls to action. You may check these out or sign up for same by going to the organization's website and following the directions. (If you do sign up, you will not be flooded with posts, I can assure you. And if you're not in the mood to read one, just delete it.)

I personally wrestle with the issue of how to behave as a disciple of Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is never far from my mind right now, and Stanley Hauerwas has carved a niche in my consciousness that will never be otherwise occupied. Both of them make me leery of religiously inspired action. Does it substitute for diligent faithfulness (a redundant term, I realize)? Does it essentially co-opt Christian reflection on issues? These are important questions. Nevertheless, as both realize, we are citizens of the nation and the world, and it as such and in such a situation that we are called to follow Our Lord -- not, for most of us, by withdrawing from the world. (After all, even the hesychasts and ascetics often influenced politics in their region and day.)

And so, I commend to your consideration.

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