Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blinded by Might 2: The Rigidity of Boundaries

In my latest reading of Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can't Save America, by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson, I was thinking about flexibility and the rigidity of boundaries.

Cal Thomas said that a reason that it's hard to bring the values of the Kingdom of God into the political realm is that this world's kingdom is about compromise, whereas the Kingdom of God is not about compromise.  So you'd think that Cal Thomas is for rigid boundaries: right is right and wrong is wrong, and it's difficult to bring this mindset into an arena that requires compromise on right and wrong.

But there are other places in this book where the authors seem to imply that the boundaries don't have to be overly rigid.  Ed Dobson refers to the platform of the Moral Majority, and it emphatically denied that it wanted to take away the rights of homosexuals (but it also said that it opposes so-called "special rights", whatever that means), even though it regarded homosexuality as wrong.  Dobson also mentions a book that he wrote on politics in which, although he affirms that the church should be concerned about societal justice and righteousness, he acknowledges that issues are complex, that there are not always simple solutions, and that Christians can arrive at different political stances.

(UPDATE: Later in the book, Thomas criticizes Dr. James Dobson for being an uncompromising zealot, and Thomas says on page 128 that the "principled politician...sees compromise as a short-term tactic to reach the same long-term goal.")

Thomas criticizes the tendency of the religious right to demonize the other side.  He notes his own friendship with left-leaning TV producer and writer Norman Lear, and he tells a story about how Ted Kennedy visited Jerry Falwell's college, and people there treated him with kindness and respect.  In a later chapter, Dobson tells about his background as someone from Northern Ireland, and he appeals to the situation there as an example of how the marriage of politics and religion can have deadly consequences, as people identify Jesus Christ with their own political stance or agenda and thus demonize the other, and perhaps even marginalize the Gospel.  I doubt that Thomas and Dobson would see this talk about not demonizing the other as a promotion of compromise, for they'd probably regard kindness as one of the Kingdom principles that should not be compromised, but which can easily become compromised when Christians become obsessed with political involvement.  But, to me, what they say about kindness and reaching out to the other side appears to manifest a support for less-than-rigid boundaries, on some level.

The thing is, as Cal Thomas notes, political involvement not only encourages people to demonize their opponents, but it also may lead them to be overly nice when they need to be a prophetic voice for truth.  When Christians want to gain influence among the powerful, after all, there is a chance that they will fail to make bold stands for righteousness, or to call on leaders to repent when the leaders behave immorally.  In this case, Thomas seems to think that boundaries should be rigid and definable.

I myself am for a commitment to principles, but I'm also for taking half a loaf rather than none, staying to fight and speak for righteousness on another day, and trying to see where others are coming from rather than assuming that problems are simple and have simple solutions.  In terms of when I should do what, and how much I should do that, I guess it would depend on the situation.

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