Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Model for Community Change through Local Nonpartisan Politics

by Jo Ann Goodson, Deep Thought Pub guest blogger

“If you don’t vote Republican or for this candidate, hell will break loose. If we pass Obama’s health care bill, the government will take over your life and God will judge us for funding abortion and disobeying the Ten Commandments.”

This statement represents one of the things I think is so very wrong in our politics today and makes me want to run and hide instead of fighting back. For one thing I really do not like getting involved in politics but I do not have a choice if I really want changes to be made in the way we live in community. There are good things happening but there appears to be so much more that is wrong. I am involved in a group in my city that is trying to make a difference in how we live in community and how we can best help each other. We want a much better place in which to live and have our being. Our group is made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims and folks with no faith. The name of our group is called CHANGE, Community Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment.

We are not trying to make our city Christian. We are trying to organize to bring about social justice, equal opportunities for everyone, good education for our children and promote an environment in which they can better learn, health issues, what can be done about suspensions, dropouts and bullying in our school system. These are only a few things that we are currently working on. Some of the things we want to accomplish can only be done if our city government and CHANGE can work together. Thus I must be involved in politics if I want my wishes and prayers for my city/county to be accomplished.

I think we can be an example of how good politics can be performed. Working together for the greater good of all. Respecting each other and our differences by putting aside our own agenda, whether Christian or other, and working for the good of everyone. We do not threaten anyone with what will happen if they do not do as we say. We compromise and come to a good working plan together. In the end we can celebrate together on a job well done as we look at the results of our efforts. Our national government could take a lesson or two from us. We have accomplished some really good stuff together so far.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don’t be Seduced by Political Power

I Survived the Christian Right
Ten Lessons I Learned on My Journey Home

Lesson 5: Don’t be Seduced by Political Power - I learned one of the warped mindsets of heavily financed political activism is an us vs. them mentality. Today, this attitude continues to fuel the Christian Right in their quest to save America from moral depravity and reclaim it for Christ. Us vs. them mindsets can also be present in left-wing politics, but that is another story.

Within evangelicalism, black-and-white, us vs. them, groupthink is pervasive. I saw that clearly when I was involved in the pro-life movement and Operation Rescue in the late 1980s. The attitude is one of drawing lines: Republican over Democrat, pro-life over pro-abortion, religious America over secular America, etc. But “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”26 Evangelicalism within the Christian Right has always been about taking control, getting the right candidates in, overcoming the enemy (abortion, homosexuals, liberals), legislating the right laws, forcing an abortion clinic to close, and reclaiming America for Christ, all by manipulating the masses through fear and demonization of opponents. If you don’t vote Republican or for this candidate, hell will break loose. If we pass Obama’s health care bill, the government will take over your life and God will judge us for funding abortion and disobeying the Ten Commandments.27

But these are lies, or if you’re inclined to be more gracious, false dichotomies. We live in a pluralistic society. Good politics is about compromise, not taking control. Real influence comes through open-minded persuasion and loving others, not by winning at the polls or banning abortion or suppressing gay rights. Democrats, as much as Republicans, care about decency and values. God works through more than one political party, outside of evangelicalism,28 and in people of other faiths. As comprehensively argued by evangelical author Mark Noll, the historical record is clear that America is not a Christian nation the roots to which we must return. 29 Christianity has had both positive (abolition and civil rights movements) and negative (intolerant, legalistic Puritans and endorsement of slavery) influence on our country.

Do not lust for political power and cultural influence. 30

26 Thomas, Cal, Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America, page 54
27 In a prayer cast organized by the Family Research Council on December 16, 2009, Pastor Jim Garlow claimed the health care reform legislation currently being deliberated in the Senate, violated just about every one of the Ten Commandments!
28 Cox, Harvey, When Jesus Came to Harvard
29 Noll, Mark, In Search for Christian America
30 Ballmer, Randall, Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament