I had a sidewalk conversation with a friend during the Veterans’ Day Parade. He’s a parishioner in the church from which I retired ten years ago, and we stay in touch. He was surprised, he said, to discover that I have political views, views that are certainly not like his own conservative ones. But he was grateful that my sermons weren’t political. A sidewalk conversation at the end of a parade is a start, but leaves a lot more to be said. Anyway,, I thanked him for noting that my preaching never seemed to be politically partisan. That’s as it should be. On the other hand, preaching that is faithful to the gospel is almost always political in some way, so I sent him a letter that said something like this.
Politics is the process through which we make decisions about how to live together in community, and God has a lot to say about that. To follow Jesus is to enter into the political process advocating for equity and fairness with a bias for the poor and oppressed, and for responsible stewardship of the resources God has put into our hands. TheTen Commandments, Two Great Commandments, New Commandment, and the Sermon on the Mount leave no doubt about what following God in Christ Jesus means when we contribute our voices to be heard among others in the political debate.
The problem comes, it seems to me, when it’s assumed that to follow Jesus means to be liberal, and to be conservative means selfishly narrow-minded. Or to be conservative means adhering to the higher (biblical?) social standards, and being liberal means to be so morally loose there are no standards. Or that liberals only want to spend other peoples’ hard earned money, while conservatives only want a small government that doesn’t do much. We have drifted into that kind of bifurcation, and it’s not healthy. How is it that to be liberal means being a far left socialist, and to be conservative means being a far right tea partier? Whatever happened to center-right and center-left?
Do followers of Jesus have to choose one side or the other? No! They don’t choose to be liberal or conservative, they choose to follow Jesus, and there can be conservative and liberal ways to do that, but each is commanded to respect the other. They are to be willing to work with each other for the common good. It’s a commandment, not a suggestion.
For me, with a thirty year career working on behalf of business interests, there are some criteria to be met when proposals are made. They begin with the assumption that government is not the enemy, not the problem. I like government. Big government, just because it’s big, isn’t bad and doesn’t bother me. Small government, just because it’s small, doesn’t make it good. Irresponsible government does bother me. Government is the necessary means through which community is formed, and decisions made about what kind of community it is to become. When a proposal is made, I want to know: 1) Do we need it?; 2) Will it work?; 3) Can we pay for it?. They aren’t easy questions to answer. They demand verifiable data. They understand taxes to be investments in our collective future, not robbery of my private money. They place a premium on the idea of responsible stewardship. They’re debatable.
There is one other value important to me. As someone who has prospered, and is comfortable with what’s in the bank, I’m aware that in spite of hard work and well planned investments, I can’t claim much credit for it. It’s mostly dumb luck, including the luck of being born into the right family at the right time in the right place. What I own, I own in trust for whoever owns it next. What I consume, I consume with respect for whence it came, and for those who worked hard to make it available. Am I a good steward of what has been put into my hands? I’m tolerably comfortable with it. There’s always room for improvement, but I’m not going to get into a snit over it.
I invited him to take a look at Country Parson. What I think is out there for the world to see. I imagine he will, but probably not very often. Once in a while will do.