Friday, August 1, 2014

The Dilemma

Republican and Democratic parties are not merely uncomfortable affiliations for people of faith; they are prisons that divide us and prevent our working together for good.

Right vs. Left:  the Right...

The Republican Party portrays itself as the political home for people of faith.  It is also, ostensibly, our pro-life party.  Given the primacy of that issue for many Christians, it has attracted large numbers of evangelicals and conservative Catholic voters.
The Republican Party, however, fails to acknowledge or address social and economic issues within our culture. They aggressively support corporate and wealth interests while describing themselves as conservative.  Instead, as John Gehring puts it, the GOP has embraced an extreme form of "economic libertarianism and [the] tireless defense of struggling millionaires."

That economic view, increasingly dominant in Republican thinking over recent years, poses problems for Christians given our faith's concern for the poor and emphasis on community and justice.  

George Monboit (no friend of religion's role in politics) describes the GOP's position as "a pitiless, one-sided, mechanical view of the world, which elevates the rights of property over everything else, meaning that those who possess the most property end up with great power over others. Dressed up as freedom, it is a formula for oppression and bondage. It does nothing to address inequality, hardship or social exclusion. A transparently self-serving vision, it seeks to justify the greedy and selfish behaviour of those with wealth and power."
Is he right?

Right vs. Left:  the Left...

The Democratic Party is the bastion of this left-liberal cultural consensus. Pro-abortion, heavily invested in divisive identity politics, committed to a libertine approach to many moral and social issues under the guise of individual freedom.  
Of particular concern, it is prey to centralizing tendencies, preferring federal authority over allowing states and communities to manage their affairs.  In some ways, it is even overtly hostile to religion itself - this is not an attractive destination.
British theologian and political philosopher Phillip Blond notes that, "the current political consensus" in the United States is "left-liberal in culture and right-liberal in economics. And this is precisely the wrong place to be."   
Is his analysis accurate?
Perhaps this 'consensus' explains why thoughtful believers find themselves torn by political debate, uncomfortable with what's missing, and hard pressed to find an honest way forward. 
In an objective analysis, the Christian vision of social and economic order is perhaps near the opposite of this current consensus.  
 An interesting dilemma, one for which no answer less than a lifetime in length will resolve.