Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Politics: Worship and Sacrifice- making a judgment

Evil is first and foremost a perversion of our freedom. Freedom is not primarily from, but for. We are free for a reason and that reason is not to be self-determining, that is, autonomous. Self-autonomy is hell. We are free for love. We are free in order to love. Our culture and its individualism, which is something that the both the Left and the Right appeal to in different ways in these United States, is something we, as disciples of Jesus, must transcend. Our current political environment places Christians in something of a double-bind, between rejecting the free-market and economic individualism of the Right, which has given us the healthcare debacle and the ever-expanding gap between rich and poor, and the moral individualism of the Left, which has given us the unlimited abortion license and eroded the family by seeking to radically redefine marriage. The list could on in both columns, but I hope my point is made clear by these examples. This is what places us, as Jesus' disciples, at the crossroads of prudential judgments as voters, this is where politics as the art of the possible slaps us in the face, buffeting our kingdom sensibilties.

Again, perhaps the main reason he is striking such a chord is that Sen. Obama at least speaks the language of hope, which is the language of overcoming polarization, the language of coming together, of overcoming rank individualism. There would be something wrong with us if we did not find such appeals not only intriguing, but attractive. We must tread cautiously, however, because messianic politics is dangerous, disillusioning, and frequently deceptive, as is all idolatry. It remains a matter of judgment, given the vast amount of information we have about his specfic proposals, whether he, to borrow a crass cliché, walks the walk, or whether, despite the rhetoric, as Sen. Clinton emphatically asserts, it is politics as usual, or all smoke and no fire. It seems to me that both Sens. Clinton and McCain are more comfortable with the language of the possible, which is perhaps the most realistic and comprehensible political idiom.

The devil, Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas points out when writing about Jesus' temptations in the desert, comprehends something that "is seldom acknowledged particularly in our day," namely "that politics is about worship and sacrifice" (Mattthew 54). "The devil," he asserts, "is but another name for our impatience. We want bread, we want to force God's hand to rescue us, we want peace - and we want this now. But Jesus is our bread, he is our salvation, and he is our peace. That he is so requires that we learn to wait with him in a world of hunger, idolatry, and war to witness to the kingdom that is God's patience. The father will have the kingdom present one small act at a time. That is what it means for us to be an apocalyptic people, that is, a people who believe that Jesus's refusal to accept the devil's terms for the world's salvation has made it possible for a people to exist that offers an alternative time to a world that believes we have no time to be just" (Mattthew 55).

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