12.11.12

When winning at politics means losing something better.

The response to my last post has shown that there are a few things I should probably clarify, in terms of what it is I'm trying to say. I have done plenty of that already in the comments section, but decided to do a followup post that addressed everything together.

Only, when I told Aaron I needed to do it he said he'd write it for me, since he'd already been working out a response to these things.

So, I give you a guest post by my husband. I think the first. This is how my philosophically trained theologian husband writes. It's pretty dense. Read carefully.

Also he's a goof.
Enjoy.

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Political discourse and action are important, they just are not the ultimate point.

Ends do justify the means only if the means are fully in line with, might I say derived from, the end. Carrien's and my criticism of the current political discourse comes from the observation that the means employed are not consistent with the proper end.

The end we have in mind is the full manifestation of the Kingdom of God in this world. "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."

Yes, strive for righteousness in government. At the same time, do not fall into unrighteousness in your interactions with others who bear the image of the Most High God.

I hold that the high purpose of government is to limit the evil actions of broken people in a broken society. This is a very conservative position, as I understand conservatism. What I see on the Right is something that the Right has accused the Left of for some time. That is the shifting of the role of government from a role of limiting evil to the role of producing righteousness. This seems to me a significant shift in conservative ideology. The shift is from, "The power should be limited to the basic enforcement of laws to protect the people" to "If we can get the power we should use it. Now we must get the power so that we can use it to make the people righteous (in the way that we define righteousness.)" This is the very thing that the Right has criticized the Left for. This, in my mind, lays too much power in the hands of government.

I do not believe that there is a political solution for the problem of the brokenness of people. I do believe that the government has the responsibility to limit the negative effects of the real brokenness  of the people upon one another.

Yes, get the best people into the government so that we have better policies and laws for the protection of the populace. But our more fundamental goal is to heal the brokenness of the people. The current method of political discourse and action does not move in this direction. Moreover, given the more fundamental goal of healing the brokenness of people our considerations ought to be more circumspect and pragmatic. (Carrien's note: Since what we are trying to do is heal people we should look at what we're doing in politics, and evaluate whether it is actually working. Not how we want it to work, but what has actually been accomplished so far.)

For example:

African Americans in inner cities and projects do live in a country where it is possible to rise from there to greatness. And some do. At the same time there are real structural social and psychological hindrances that really do apply to those African Americans. They were slaves of white people. The Democrat party fought to maintain that slavery. The Republican party fought to abolish it. The Republicans won. Then white America utterly failed to treat black folk as fellow humans, shunned them, and relegated the majority to the margins. Living in poverty and on the margin affects cultural horizons. That is, if a group of people get beat down long enough they loose the cultural ability to get back up. The beat-down moves into the psychology of the people and folks loose the ability to think long term and with a sense of self-agency (this is endemic in impoverished cultures globally.) Now, it is true that the larger American culture is built around taking initiative and making something of yourself, but here you have a subculture where the psychological structures that enable that have been abused into regression.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I am in no way asserting any inferiority in African Americans or inability. I am recognizing the reality and the effects of cultural abuse.

That is the situation now. What is done is done. What do we do from here? The dominant position from the Left is to establish social support in the form of handouts while the Right mainly reiterates the refrain of opportunity. The first perpetuates dependance. The second neglects the effects of abuse. Both fail to recognize the complexity of reality.

Our goal should be to maximize the ability of everyone to achieve greatness so that we can together become ever greater. In this case neither the hand-out nor the reiteration of ideals achieves this goal. The actual solution lies elsewhere. The situation calls for a more circumspect and pragmatic solution.

This situation, mutatis mutandis, holds for many sectors of American society and the polarization between the Left and the Right oversimplify the issue.

To hit another hot-button issue, look at abortion. Abortion is horrible. I don't think that anyone except the most callous will disagree with that. Our fundamental goal regards abortion should be to reduce the incidence of abortion. Let us look at it pragmatically. How well have the current tactics of the Right worked to achieve that goal? By analogy, how well did criminalizing alcohol work to limit its damaging effects on society? As horrible as abortion is, in the real world it is in fact a complex issue. It is good and right to be saddened and even angered by the incidence of abortion in America, or anywhere for that matter. We must ask the question, how do we actually, in the real complexity of this real world achieve the goal of ending abortion? I have no confidence that legislation criminalizing abortion alone will have the desired effect. What is required is a deeper cultural shift, and I'll bet the effective solution to this does not include screaming "baby killer" at people.

The Left defends the rights of the woman. The Right defends the rights of the unborn baby. Both of these are right things when taken together. The real solution is much more along the lines of healing the complexity of the broken situation that results in the opposition of mother to child.

Most issues in the political arena are of this sort.

This rhetorical oversimplification in the hands of, and to the service of, ideology is pervasive in the political arena across many issues. It is a poison that taints the discourse. It is a poison that is strengthened by ideology on all sides. When we swallow and spread this poison we do violence to our fellow humans, all of whom bear the image of God. Any victory won this way is only a Pyrrhic* victory.


(A sideline on Biblical values: Christians on both sides pick and choose what Biblical values they want to stand for and then attack the others for not standing up for the ones they have chosen. Yes, life is sacred and the protection of the weakest is of highest import in Biblical ethics. This applies to unborn babies. It also applies to the widow, orphan, and alien. The Left chooses to not defend the unborn babies while the Right chooses to not defend the widow, orphan, and alien. Everyone should just drop their bloody-minded self-righteousness. )

When we fight for our ideology we fight against those we disagree with. We subsume them within the ideology we oppose. We dehumanize them. Our fight ought to be for their humanity. Show a little humility and strive first and always to heal the brokenness around you. Strive to win those who you disagree with, recognize that they may have something of value to say to you and that yelling at someone really does not bring any sort of healing but rather tears the rift further and sets both of you on your heels. We are doing a good job of working hard at increasing the brokenness of our society. Is that damage worth getting the power into the hands of someone who has told us what we want to hear?

*A Pyrrhic Victory is when you win a battle at such a high cost that you destroy your ability to achieve your ultimate goal.

******
We both wrote a final post on this topic together. To try and wrap up the discussion somewhat. Check it out. Only You Can Renounce Your Right to Do Good

9 comments:

  1. Hi Geoff,

    Thank you for your concern, and your effort to set me straight in this regard. I do hope everyone reading knows I don't claim to speak for God, never have. I don't believe I do. You have posted twice, both on the original post, and this followup post by my husband that explains what it is we are and are not saying. We're not saying that Christians shouldn't be involved in politics or even fight abortion through legislation. But I'm going to assume you actually read it, rather than say again what has been already said. If not, please do so, as it will add some clarification to the discussion.

    The only thing I am trying to say is that we should be able to disentangle our politics and our faith long enough to realize that politics are not the main way the kingdom of God advances, and everything else I said is illustrative of that fact. As a careful reading of the entire conversation in the comments will show, as well as the follow up post, we're not saying that Christians should not be in politics or fight abortion, we're just asking people to think about what is actually working and be strategic about it. I still don't understand why that makes some people so angry.
    I fully appreciate your concern, and your passion, and the care you showed in posting this. I only hope that the continuing discussion can be about what I actually said.

    Also, you say it is a logical fallacy for me to say we should stop playing the game, and do the real work of the kingdom instead. Then you tell me that this kind of separation between faith and politics is a luxury that only Americans can enjoy with our nice cozy lifestyle and that I should travel a bit to places where the government is rife with corruption because that argument only works for Americans. I beg to differ. As a person who is caring for orphans and refugees in a 3rd world country where the government is most definitely corrupt I argue that the separation is necessary, or the work of the kingdom would not get done. If we spent all our time energy and resources trying to change things by changing the corruption in the government and trying to make it more just from the top down, children would go hungry and die, the communities we are working to strengthen socially and economically would become weaker, and all the work we have been given to do would be not done because we aren't allowing ourselves the "luxury" of making the distinction between advancing the kingdom of God and striving to legislate a more just society. Thankfully, our pursuit of justice takes a much more direct approach of actually feeding widows and orphans, even in the midst of corruption. We intend to bring change from the bottom up, through the children we are actively raising, who will be the leaders of tomorrow.

    Again Geoff, I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Appreciate your concern Geoff, and have given it front attention http://insearchofashamelessgospel.blogspot.com/2012/11/another-position-to-consider.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Michelle1:27 PM

    Just a quick comment to say this is very well said.

    Carrien, you married a lovely man. I wish you both the best in your future endeavors, wherever they take you and your family.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What I posted on Facebook a minute ago:

    So, I admit, I get fired up at some of the wrong things. But then I read things like this:

    http://www.shelaughsatthedays.net/2012/11/so-you-think-winning-at-candyland.html

    and this:

    http://www.shelaughsatthedays.net/2012/11/when-winning-at-politics-means-losing.html

    And they help to shake up my perspective. Politics and policies matter, but the furtherance of the kingdom of God matters more!

    (Thank you both for being willing to touch 'hot-button' issues to help people like me refocus their perspectives!)

    Danielle
    organizationalhysteria.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Found this through someone my husband is connected to on Facebook. (I have been trying to figure out how the stars work, but they only go into negatives for me, which isn't what I want, so forget it!) This really resonates with my own position, but it's nice to see it so eloquently articulated by someone else.

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  6. giroux3214:45 PM

    i get what you are saying and agree! very well said!

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  7. Thank you Danielle for being the kind of person willing to think twice about things. That's an excellent quality.

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  8. Annesta10:32 AM

    Carrien,
    Your original post and your husband's post was clear, well thought out and spoke truth for all to read. Your responses were also equally thought out, kind and full of grace. I have tremendous respect for you and your husband.
    Thank you for keeping our focus on what really matters; bringing God's Kingdom on earth through daily loving others the way He loves us. You have modeled this very well here with this discussion.
    Grace and peace to you
    ~a

    ReplyDelete

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