Café Cook 16

      A lot has been written about the post election trauma the electorate seems to be experiencing.  Our ministry as a matter of policy does not engage in endorsing candidates of any party and so we have not and will not here.  

     However, we can and do talk about politics in general because it’s important to our lives and faith in various ways, and specifically we want to say some things about how some Christians are reacting (and can act) in response to the surprising turn of events. 

    It seems safe to say surprising because apparently 75% of the electorate did not expect the results they saw.  Another factor in the surprise is that the candidates were thought to represent very differing visions of America—and one of those visions of America was largely embraced by the media, academe, and...Hollywood.  Futher, the pollsters said the results were a lock and it turned out (quite obviously) they were almost universally mistaken.  Being this wrong cannot be good for the profession.

    And there was that matter of the hyperbolic rhetoric of the candidates and their surrogates.  What seems to have dominated the media “advertising” was negative.  That course was not unlikely because negative campaigning has “worked" in the past and changed the minds of the uncommitted.  Post election, it seems both sides are doubling down on their view of their opponents, where inflamatory and sometimes apocalyptic language dominates.

    Our response to the election is a little--maybe a lot--like a Rorschach test.  We see what our minds and worldview prepares us to see.  In the terms of informal logic there’s a lot of “self-sealing beliefs” when it comes to politics and religion.  There is also a lot of pivoting when it comes to answering tough questions from both sides of the aisle.  

    And Christians who voted were divided and remain divided about how to think about all this.  There are Christians who are politically conservative and other Christians who are politically liberal.  The numbers between the two in Christian circles are not roughly equal, but the whole subject of diverse political orientation is reminiscent of a clever quote from no less than C.K. Chesterton: 

The whole world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives.  The business of the  Progressives is to go on making mistakes.  It is the business of the Conservatives to prevent those mistakes from being corrected.”

There is a kind of levity in that observation that is medicinal.

     However, there is another quote floating out there that seems relevant: 

                    “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, unless you lose.”  

That’s especially true if you have invested in demonizing the opposition—and demonizing the opposition has been the mantra of political expediency that has a long and distinguished history on both sides of the aisle.   Letting the "other demon" be in control of things that affect you is intolerable.  

     Who among us can untangle this Gordian knot even within our own community?  We certainly cannot do that here with any nuance—nuance that the subject deserves.

     Granting the reality of these difficulties, here are some things that may be of use in our Christian community to ponder in the meantime.  Space will not allow for everything that needs to be said or for qualifying every aspect of the suggestions we make; so, we leave it to your analysis and discretion to do that:

  • Isn’t there a place for getting in dialogue with other Christians about how they see their political views emerging from our text?  What can Biblical scholars bring to the table about this?
  • Isn’t this also a time to reflect on the relative importance of the things of God and the things of this life—the City of God and the City of Man?  Augustine did so when the unthinkable--the collapse of the Roman empire--became a surprising reality.
  • Can we learn to “fight” among ourselves in a healthy way that doesn’t poison the well of our internal dialogue?
  • Do we not have to remember that after the election we have to go on loving people—including those we conceive as our (political) enemies?
  • Can’t we lower the rhetoric a bit within our own community?  
  • Is it possible we are not "reading out" of Scripture what the text as a whole says about politics and are instead using Scripture in an attempt to justify our views.
  • Is it possible that politics have become more important to “locating” our faith, than our faith “locating” our politics?
  • Finally, it is hard not to think of the election prognostications (allegedly based on hard evidence), as being in some sense a result of group think.  After all the pundits, academe, pollsters (with few exceptions) called the election one way, and those who called it another way amounted to “crackpots.”  The few “crackpots" who called the election the other way won.  It has got to give pause to those who speak of the assured results of scholarly research.  Maybe that’s the most important lesson for scholars to learn and that’s not a happy thought for many of us.



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