Friday, March 02, 2007

Politics in Church

The Washington Post reported a study that showed that the political polarization of the country was very pronounced. There is not much of a politically centrist portion of the population. I don't doubt it.
People who because of rules, regulations or custom, are supposed to talk or write about current events in a non-partisan way are put into a very difficult position by this polarization. One such group are the elite pundit corps of columnists and commentators, who are supposed to be neutral and objective. Apparently, their strategy for dealing with this situation is to pine for the good old days of bi-partisanship and dream about a John McCain-Joe Leiberman Unity Government.
Another group professionally disadvantaged by the collapse of the middle are ministers. The issues are too grave to not talk about them. The old "plague on both their houses" doesn't hold water any more, because one party wages illegal wars, tortures people and claims unprecedented executive power and the other one doesn't live like Fransciscan Monks and occasionally swears in public.
The middle is not a reasonable position anymore. The folks in the middle of the road are the ones who have not been paying attention very much and are simply adverse to having an opinion. And there are very few of them left.
Ministers have to move from being non-partisan and above the fray to a place where they speak their minds on current events and still try to maintain right relations with people who disagree with them.
It means not going for cheap shots, being very serious, being as factual as possible in the presentation of one's evidence, and setting a goal of being able to summarize the position of those with whom you disagree in terms that they would recognize their own position. It means keeping a good humor and not getting tribal about loyality. It means being very transparent about one's own thinking and the murky areas of it. It means talking about current events to raise important issues and not to rally the troops.

3 comments:

Bill Baar said...

....one party wages illegal wars, tortures people and claims unprecedented executive power...

Once you've charged all of this, isn't it a little hard to keep right relations with those who disagree?

I've been involved in personal actions and once one party's called the other bastards and worse, it's kind of hard to go back to negotiations. You're better off getting the lawyers and going to court.

Same thing here.

LT said...

You quote me in what I intended to be an example of the false-even-handedness that somehow is supposed to be the norm of neutral preaching. I sought to satirize the very large differences between what the two parties stand for these days.
The problem, Bill, is that, while speaking in this case satirically, I do honestly and earnestly believe what I am saying. What you have quoted is close enough.

I cannot be in right relationship with the congregation I serve, or you, if I pretend that I don't think what I think, because some of them or you don't think it. After all, this is not a small difference over a local issue.

Robin Edgar said...

Well there are actually rather too many "liberal fascists" (to use your term) in the U*U religious community. I dare say that the U*U liberal fascists up here in Montreal are suffering from arrested development. . . ;-)