Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Can Theology and Politics Mix?

Can theology helps us make political decisions? Now there are those who want to claim that all their political decisions derive from their theology. Others claim the two are irrelevant and neither can affect the other. I would maintain the truth is somewhere in the middle. Based on  C. S. Lewis, I would make a distinction between two aspects that go unto making political choices. There are the basic moral principles that tell us how we should behave. These can and should be informed by theology. But there is also the purely practical aspect of what works. This is something based on experience and observation, and theology does not say much about it.

One of the problems that arises out of this is that it is easy to confuse the moral principle with the method. You can say, anyone who is for this principle must endorse this program. To make things more complicated, we find that politics can be broken up into into various agendas endorsed by different political parties. It is often difficult to disentangle a particular issue from these broader agendas. It is therefore possible to confuse the principle with the program and then feel forced to defend an entire political agenda because it advocates a particular program. And it is quite possible to end up advocating positions as necessary that you picked up as part of the larger package of the agenda.

For example, I am opposed in principle to our present societal stance of abortion on demand. I am then faced with what what political steps I should take based on this, which has quickly led me into the second area of practical politics. One of the obvious questions I have to ask is which political candidates and political parties I should support in order to further this issue. And I am also faced with the question of whether I can accept the other items on their agendas. Often it is easy to simply swallow a particular agenda in its entirety if it endorses some of the key issues I support. And for the Christian, it is sometimes possible to lift up the whole agenda as a moral requirement, when in fact there may be very few things on the list that are clearly required from a Christian perspective. Therefore, I am convinced that we need to evaluate each issue individually and to ask what, if anything, is required from a Christian perspective. So, in future posts I intend  to look at various important political issues and ask how the Christian faith impacts them. My hope is to look at what Christianity really does teach on these types of issues. And then to ask whether we should endorse any particular political agenda in its entirety. For I think we need to be careful not to end up affirming things we do not really wish to adopt in order to find someone to support us on other issues.

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