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Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

When Faith and Politics Collide, Pt. II

This is a theme that keeps haunting me. How to integrate faith into the world of politics. I am not talking about the upfront, in some ways, easy stuff. I am talking about the nuanced things. The type of political behavior that often goes unchallenged by those of us who claim a position of faith.

Yesterday I was driving home after taking out a loan to fill my up tank. Doing my best to stimulate the economy if you will. And listening to the radio. I happened on a radio show hosted by a guy named Mark Levin.

If you have never heard this guy, he is certainly worth a listen, catch him here. Anyways, here is what struck me. Levin, a former Reagan Administration official, is so angry, I can't see how he keeps it together. He is mocking of others, belittling, harsh, and at times, just plain mean.

And he offers the objects of his ridicule, the opportunity to come on his show so that he can "set them straight" and say it to their faces.

So that is the politics side. Let's take a look at the faith side. At least from a Christian perspective and what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...

..."You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

Now as I read this stuff, a few things jump out at me. Especially the "love your enemies" words. I grew up in a church where the minister (that's what we used to call them before we switched over to pastor) one day preached on this passage. And then he prayed. For the people and soldiers of North Vietnam. And that day, people left our church, never to return because they did not believe we should pray for those Communist heathens. Despite Jesus' words.

The "do not murder" words present a different dilemma. Not those words per se, but the second part that equates our thoughts with deeds. As I read this, if I wish evil, bad, or misfortune on someone, I am as bad as a murderer. Because it is a heart issue. And for me, heart always precedes action.

Mark Levin certainly did not have a Christlike attitude on his radio show. But that's okay, because as far as I know, he is not claiming Christ. And I know that there is difference between radio people like Mark Levin and Michael Savage, and the Rush Limbaughs of the world. But it is a difference of degrees.

So here we go with the questions. Why is it that so many Christian conservatives like these guys? I don't think anyone can reasonably say that people like Savage and Rush do not mock those who have different views. A quick listen to any Paul Shanklin parody will prove that.

Is God happy with the attitudes expressed by these people? I would say no. Because I believe you can hold to most of the political ideas of these hosts and share them in a way that pleases God. Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager are evidence enough of that.

Now before you conservatives get all foamed up and ready to scream at me, I'd be remiss if I did not mention that yes, the other side is guilty of this too. And perhaps more so.

The manner in which Revs. Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pflegar have excoriated their political enemies is, in my opinion, inexcusable. Not only have their words been mocking and hurtful, they have been shared from the pulpit. By people that essentially have taken an oath to be witnesses of all that is good about God. We can agree to disagree about the substance of what they had to say, but the manner in which their messages were shared was filled with condescension, ridicule, vitriol, and evidence of a mean spirit.

For people of faith, how does any of this show love for our enemies, or for those who disagree with us? How is God honored by these guys, and more importantly us, when we hold them up as beacons of what we believe?

Comments on "When Faith and Politics Collide, Pt. II"


Blogger Patrick M said ... (6:37 AM) : 

Dave, you almost make my head hurt with the moral dilemmas. Almost

Politics, by its nature, is a divisive and often contentious business, creating enemies along many lines. Our faith tells us to love our enemies. I see the problem.

So I'll have to go with anecdotes and examples:

The difference between Rush and Savage: Attitude. Rush, while he is often contentious, usually engages people to focus on the positive. In other words, he fosters a feeling of good will, even while disagreeing. Savage, on the other hand, is pissed. And he lets the full measure of his anger hang out. Therein lies the difference.

Parodies: Again, it's intent. The point is to press a point in a humorous way. Admit it, you smile when the parodies come on.

Ted Kennedy: I don't like him. You'd be hard pressed to find any conservative that can say anything good about him. Until he got cancer. The secret is to remember that, no matter how much we disagree, most of us got to our ideas honestly.

Even Jesus knows when to fight: (Matthew 21:12-13) This is where Jesus goes and cleans out the temple. Proof that talking peace is not always appropriate.

So I guess it's a balancing act. Be as fiery as necessary to make your point, but be careful when you attack people. It should always be in fun.

Which reminds me about a plan to solve global warming by shading the planet with Barack Obama's ears....


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (12:51 PM) : 

Lest we forget, sometimes humor can go too far and also be hurtful.

But I don't usually see that line until I have crossed it, unfortunately.

So... did you hear the one about...


Blogger Patrick M said ... (1:36 PM) : 

But crossing the line is sooooooooo much fun.

You should see some of the pics I've gotten.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said ... (9:24 AM) : 

The manner in which the Revs. Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pflegar have excoriated their political enemies is, in my opinion, inexcusable. Not only have their words been mocking and hurtful, they have been shared from the pulpit.

But how many Americans knew those two even existed before Senator Obama was running for office? Compared to the millions who listen to and are influenced by Limbaugh every day? I don't know how big an audience Savage has.

The damage people like Wright and Pfleger do is negligible compared with Limbaugh and Savage, therefore, I hold them to a higher level of culpabilty for infecting our national dialog on politics with hate and misinformation.

As for Jeremiah Wright who preached what is offensive to so many Americans, I can only observe that white ministers have done this sort of thing for hundreds of years in this country. Hundreds.

When white people see a black man do it, it becomes threatening.

When you run for office, let alone the presidency, you have to give up much of what you are. It's part of how race works in this country that white people are seen as individuals, and black people are seen as representing one another as a whole.

It's also true that the black church has always been radical, and that black radicalism has been seen as a threat in a way white radicalism hasn't. You look at Pat Robertson and company and you realize white radicalism is utterly mainstream in a way that black radical politics never could be, whether they're even close to as extreme.

But these are the rules we play by in America, and Obama knew that when he signed up.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (9:55 AM) : 

Shaw, the damage people like Wright and Pflegar inflict is in fact much worse.

Because they are operating from the pulpit.

It is not the views that I am contesting, because in reality, I am in accordance with a lot of their underlying assumptions and beliefs.

It is the manner in which those statements have been said. And in this case, their Gospel responsibility to speak the truth in love, and to turn the other cheek.

You see, Rush, Savage, and the others are not claiming Christ. They are not claiming to desire to live by the Christian principles I cited in my post.

Which is where I am at. Nothing you have said, is untrue.

My question still remains, how do we act, respond, or live out our faith in arenas [politics] that can put us in compromising positions if we trying to live out a life of faith?


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (9:56 AM) : 

Shaw, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you more!


Blogger Toad734 said ... (12:23 PM) : 


When has the Christian right in this country ever followed the teachings of Christ??

I don't know how many times I have heard Christians, with regards to the death penalty, say eye for an eye, that homos are sinners, that you shouldn't help the poor or care for the sick etc.

The first problem is that they don't know the Bible or its teachings. Eye for an Eye and the homosexual clauses are for Jews, not Christians. Christians follow the laws of Jesus, Jews follow the laws of Moses. Eye for an eye was a concept of Jewish and earlier Babylonian laws, not Christianity, Christ never practiced this, nor did he practice slavery which was also once defended with a Bible.

If Jesus were here today he wouldn't let Rod Parsley, John Hagee or Rush Limbaugh wash his feet. Now, I don't think Ruch claims to be a Christian, at least not in practice anyway so its ok that he hates gays and lies about stuff.

Jesus was not a Republican, in fact he was a socialist...Very few neo-cons have studied the Bible enough to realize it.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (12:39 PM) : 

Although you did use a pretty big blanket statement, I won't totally disagree.

Much of what you say is exactly what I am talking about.

While Christianity may be right in what they are saying, the manner in which that is said, or shared, can sometimes negate what people are trying to communicate.

One point is missing from what you posted, and it is something I frequently see missing from both sides of the aisle.

Just because one side, in this case, the Hagee's, Rush's, or Levin's do it, does not make it okay for Revs. Wright or Pfleger to do it. Wrong or inappropriate is wrong or inappropriate, no matter who, or when it is done.


Anonymous Gordon Mallon said ... (10:07 AM) : 

Toad, what you posted got me thinking. I currently make my living by trying to keep the government from killing my client. I am opposed to the death penalty for lots of practical, moral, religious, political, and philosophical reasons. I am also considered by most to be somewhere left of liberal in most of my political thought, although I don't claim that particular label. Here is what puzzles me:

I don't think there is any way to justify the killing of babies before they are born, on the scale practiced in the United States today. I see nothing inconsistent with this and my other beliefs, and in fact feel that my other beliefs compel this position. The same belief system that compels me to believe that our troops should not be involved in Iraq, that all people should have equal access to health care, that all people should have equal access to education, that inheritance tax should be 100%, that incarceration should be used for reformation rather than punishment, that the color of a persons skin should be of no more significance than the color of his eyes, compels me to believe that it is wrong to kill unborn babies. The legal fiction used to justifiy this killing, that these living beings with their own heart beats and brains are not alive because they are still inside their mothers, is acknowledge by legal scholars and doctors to be pure political expediency.

I have no idea of your feelings on this subject, Toad, and this is not in any way directed at you. What you wrote however got me thinking. Shouldn't the conservative, government off my backs folks by pro-choice and the liberal, help those who can't help themselves folks be pro life? What a wonderful world we live in.


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