Jesus and political involvement

Deutsche Version: Jesus und das politische Engagement

 

Yesterday evening, I participated in an interesting inter-religious dialog about how one’s faith shapes one’s political views.

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In America, the Religious Right (mainly constituted of Conservative Evangelicals) considers that the Good is defined by an inerrant Bible they venerate (and sometimes almost worship), regardless of all empirical evidence.

I consider such an approach extremely misguided. The Bible speaks with conflicting voices on many topics, and Conservative Evangelicals have always to pick and choose which verses to take at face value, which in turns determines the set of contradictory verses whose meaning has to be distorted.

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My regular readers know that I very often criticize the New Atheists and their claim that Religion is the worst poison of the world which ought to be wholly blotted out.

I think that they too are utterly misguided and fail to recognize that the main cause of religious atrocities and evil is not a supernatural belief in and of itself BUT the concept that whatever God (or the gods) allegedly decrees is good and ought to be meticulously applied, regardless of the horrors it might involve, a point stressed by no one less the last Pope Benedict.

 

To my mind, religious atrocities would rapidly cease if all believers seriously took the thought that God is morally perfect, that is far more loving and just than the best human being who has ever lived.

 

During His earthly ministry, Jesus made it clear that all laws exist for the well-being of mankind and are not arbitrary in any way.

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“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Mark 2:27 

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

This is why a Conservative Christian opposing homosexuality is not being faithful to Jesus if he just states “Homosexuality is wrong because God decided so according to His good pleasure.”

No, IF homosexuality is wrong, then it is wrong because it is harmful for the individual and society and get in the way of becoming a loving and caring person. They should provide us with empirical evidence backing this up.

 

All political decisions from a Christian standpoint should aim at promoting the well being of one’s neighbors (that is the whole mankind), alleviating their suffering and encouraging them to become loving people.

But we live in an extremely complex world and it is often pretty hard to figure out which sets of laws would really be useful and which should be avoided. People starting with different presuppositions will reach in good conscience conflicting convictions, and we should all withstand the self-righteous temptation to view them as either dumb, ill-informed, irrational or wicked, a point well developed by progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser in his book “You’re Not As Crazy As I Think: Dialogue in a World of Loud Voices and Hardened Opinions”.

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11 thoughts on “Jesus and political involvement

  1. Lothar,
    This is a very good post.
    In the middle ground there is common sense.
    I like the idea that decisions should be made
    according to how much love they generate.
    This is the golden rule.

  2. To my mind, religious atrocities would rapidly cease if all believers seriously took the thought that God is morally perfect, that is far more loving and just than the best human being who has ever lived.

    During His earthly ministry, Jesus made it clear that all laws exist for the well-being of mankind and are not arbitrary in any way.

    This is why a Conservative Christian opposing homosexuality is not being faithful to Jesus if he just states “Homosexuality is wrong because God decided so according to His good pleasure.”

    No, IF homosexuality is wrong, then it is wrong because it is harmful for the individual and society and get in the way of becoming a loving and caring person. They should provide us with empirical evidence backing this up.

    All political decisions from a Christian standpoint should aim at promoting the well being of one’s neighbors (that is the whole mankind), alleviating their suffering and encouraging them to become loving people.

    Erm… cool. Seriously, sounds great!
    But I can´t help pointing out that what you describe here regarding love, goodness etc. is most definitely a consequentialist position (I have no problems with that at all, but I wonder how you reconcile that with being a Catholic) and specifically seems to be a version of utilitarianism. And that is highly inconsistent with your earlier claims that materialism cannot provide a grounding for objective moral truths, it doesn´t matter whether you believe that moral truths correspond to something like platonic forms or something other that would be incompatible with materialism, the “grounding” that you provide here (i.e. what exactly makes a true moral proposition true) is the exact same that many (if not a majority of) materialists would provide, you would only disagree with them on what the precise nature of moral propositions is, but you certainly wouldn´t disagree with them on what makes them true.

    • Marc is very much not a Catholic. I think this post has some stuff and some stuff that, while not “bad”, I don’t necessarily agree with, but he comes at things from a progressive Protestant point of view, not a Catholic one.

      • Are you sure? I realize that Marc would make a highly unorthodox Catholic, but I was rather certain that Marc mentioned that he was one in earlier threads…
        @Marc:
        Could you clear up the confusion? 😉

      • Keine Sorge, ich versteh dich 😉
        Aber du gehst doch sicher in irgendeine Kirche oder? Wäre “nominell katholisch, aber im Herzen Freidenker” eine passende Beschreibung?
        Du musst natürlich nicht antworten, ist ja schliesslich privat.

        • Nee, also ich kann durchaus zu katholischen Messen gehen, würde mich aber als Katholischer keineswegs bezeichnen, weil die Kirche an einigen schlimmen Dogmen (wie Zölibat für Priester, das Verbot von Priesterinnen, die ewige Qual in der Hölle, und so weiter und so fort) festhält, die jeder Katholiken für gut halten muss.

          Sonst bin ich vielmehr ein Querdenker als ein Freidenker. Und wenn man die Wurzeln von Wörtern betrachtet, könnte man mich auf Englisch “queer thinker” nennen 🙂

  3. This is why a Conservative Christian opposing homosexuality is not being faithful to Jesus if he just states “Homosexuality is wrong because God decided so according to His good pleasure.”

    You keep asserting this (see your quote above). It’s interesting you think the “Conservative Christian” believes, Homosexuality is wrong because God decided so according to His good pleasure., but provide no empirical evidence other than a bare assumption. Really though, while I’m no Calvinist you still have think through God allowing X in first place. The Calvinist can account for X, can you? Or, are you simply hand waving? You want to label the “conservative” as an Evangelical product never mind that there in fact Roman Catholics who do not agree with homosexual marriage. Even more humorous is the fact you end up quoting the Bible as some sort of assent to moral truths.

  4. Lotharson, you say (again) that I very often criticize the New Atheists and their claim that Religion is the worst poison of the world which ought to be wholly blotted out.

    Can you show me a source for this claim you attribute to New Atheists (because in all my readings by New Atheists I’ve never across this)?

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