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Finding Faith in Faith

This blog is dedicated to exploring the intersections of faith and politics, the intricacies of religious culture and the struggle to balance devotion to a higher being and to oneีs culture.

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Name: jrichard

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

A politics and religion perspective

My main fault as a political strategist is that I see myself as a Christian first and an American second. And I take this extremely seriously.

The second fault is that I cannot believe (as some seem to) that philosophy and policy are inherently linked. I think we often grant that solid philosophy undergirds solid policy (a distressing relationship when you realize how little philosophy is instilled in each new generation in our culture). But I don't think we often pause to consider how policy affects philosophy.

What I'm suggesting is that our actions change the way we think, what we believe and who we are as a people. And we don't even seem to notice.

What drives my frustration about contemporary politics is how classic they really are. We haven't changed. We're nothing new. We're still the same petty people that have always existed.

The Greeks, The Romans, The Germans, The Americans? More alike than different. Sure we have different languages, and different names and even different ways of organizing resources, power and cultural expression. But we are the same: Self-interested, self-motivated and self-congratulatory.

We think that because we CAN change a culture, we must. We think because we HAVE great military potential, we must use it. We think power implies authority.

I think often our national creedo is a turn on a popular phrase: "Where there's a WAY, there's a will."

I guess what I'm saying is that when it comes to policy, I am less concerned about the nation's interest and more concerned about the nation's soul.

What we do becomes who we are.

History rhymes. And as I alluded, the most compelling rhyme I know is the one I can read about most frequently in my apartment. It's in every Bible I own.

It's the story of a people being ground into the very earth by a repressive super-power. About a factionalized society that led to differences in skin color (interstingly enough, by singling out the fair skinned as deviant), differences in culture and differences in opinion about policy to become causes worth killing over.

And in the midst of this struggle is born a lowly Jew. A Jew granted more power than any mortal had ever possessed. He had in his grasp the ability to cast Rome from Jerusalem. He had in his grasp the power to remove the local government that was starving its own people. He had in his grasp the power to cast the religious elite from their holy perches.

And when he was presented these problems and asked what his policy was going to be, he refused to change the top of the mountainous problems. He instead began to feed the poor, heal the sick and strengthen the weak. And when struck, he turned the other cheek.

He was begged by his own disciples to claim his authority, to draw his sword and vanquish his enemies. And he refused. And began to teach the people about the real meaning of life. And about compassion.

And they killed him for it. But even in that moment, he showed mercy.

And through the actions of his life and the acceptance of his own death, he made changes that outlasted the Roman Empire, the Jewish tribunal system, the Sanhedrin Council, the Temple itself, the priestly order and each of the various rebellious movements in turn.

I hate to boil down my personal foreign policy to simply "What Would Jesus Do?" It sounds so trite. After all, these are serious and complex problems that demand serious and complex solutions. Not just feeding the poor. Not just healing the sick. Not just turning the other cheek.

And what to do about that madman Saul? Condemning and killing Christians by the dozens at a time because of what they believe? Stop him? Kill him? Replace him with a kinder, gentler sociopath?

I'm glad it didn't happen. Think how different the gospels would ring without Paul.

God uses people to change the world. People use people to gain power. And usually at the expense of their souls.

My foreign policy is unAmerican. People might not think we have authority if we stop demonstrating our power. It might get us all killed in the end. Or worse, crucified.

I could only hope. Crucified in body, saved in soul.

Because that's what I believe we've been called to, if necessary. Changing hearts by serving people. Not by forcing them to bow to the false idols and false creeds that stem from our (self-interested, self-motivated and self-congratulatory) way of life.

Our sense of being a good American and being good Christians come into direct conflict when we try to justify picking up a sword to force injustice to stop. And we waffle and flounder because we're human. And we give in and look for easy, decisive answers (answers that usually just create even more difficult and murky problems for the next generation).

And we become afraid. And we doubt that God can really be watching over us with all the misery, so we set out to remove the misery through our own means (whether to prove God exists through our results or prove he doesn't by our efforts is open to interpretation).

That's the way I feel about it.