Having briefly spoken with Krista following her lecture in Chicago on October 14, I can attest to her own gentleness and inviting ways. A lady who was tired listened to the thoughts of this stranger and shared more of her own. Thank you, Krista. You inspired me to subscribe to the podcast of Being. Having listened to the interview with Richard Mouw, I was helped by his analysis of evangelical history. Its marginalization in the 20th century, he says, helped fuel efforts like the Christian Coalition and the Moral Majority, with the goal of taking the country back from the cultural changes that threatened to subvert the evangelical notion of righteousness. What he didn't address, at least not directly, was the effect that effort has had on the nation's political discourse. The phrase "taking the country back" is being used by everyone from Tea Partiers to left-wing Democrats. What it means is: "We're going to restore our agenda to a central place in the life of the nation." But the pluralism that is emerging means that our national life will have to be collaborative, if the republic is to endure. Current electoral politics denies this possibility, as candidates demonize each other in hugely expensive advertisements. I would have appreciated it if Mouw had examined the decision by evangelicals to use the Republican Party as a vehicle for their aspirations, and the corresponding decision by Republicans to utilize evangelicals to deliver votes. It wasn't, and isn't, that cut and dried, but something very much like that has happened. As a parish pastor, I often say to confused parishioners who approach me for guidance, "Today's Republican Party is not the party of Lincoln or even of Eisenhower." How can we decouple religion from partisan politics, or can we? It seems to me that a healthier role for religion would lie along the lines suggested by Reinhold Niebuhr and others--to call government to be an agent of justice, and justice requires balancing competing interests. What could evangelicals do to help us get there? What would they have to give up? Would it be, in Niebuhrian terms, the pretension that anyone can take the country back, since it belongs to all of us? What would other Christians have to give up? Could it be, in Christ's image, the readiness to point out the splinter in the Other's eye while ignoring the log in our own?
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