Faith & Politics: God or country—which is first?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0515_Shane_Claiborne_preaching_on_the_road.jpgQUESTION: Who claims that God comes before any other allegiance? Islamic extremists? Silver-haired televangelists? In 2012, many progressive Christian activists, disillusioned with growing poverty in the U.S., also are preaching this message. Jim Wallis of Sojourners is mentioned in today’s column. A kindred spirit is this dreadlocked preacher, Shane Claiborne. He is conservative on some social values, yet supports the Occupy movement and he refuses to endorse any presidential candidate.Faith and politics are central to what it means to be American. We are a religious people, unusually so, compared to most other developed democracies. And, Americans are political—eager to express ourselves compared with other national cultures. With two such powerful forces in tension, we must find some way to align faith and politics.

Should one have sovereignty over the other?

Which comes first: God or country?

Popular author and public theologian Greg Garrett says we’ve gotten it backward. As we discussed yesterday, faith too often is handmaiden to politics. For Greg, the proper order is the other way.

He writes in his new book, Faithful Citizenship:

“While I love my country, I am a Christian first, an American second. That’s why I’ve suggested that in exploring the issues at stake in America, we must be open to the possibility that sincerely religious people are also bringing their cultural baggage to the table and not knowing it for what it is. I have been guilty of this—of coming to religious understandings based on my political beliefs rather than through a close study and prayerful consideration of the Christian witness. And as one who knows it as a possibility, I see it as yet another reason that the public square appears to be full of squawking and very little real listening, of finger-pointing but very little handshaking.

“One example of many: The progressive evangelical author and activist Jim Wallis called Dr. James Dobson’s pointed criticisms of candidate Obama in 2008 particularly inappropriate in ‘an already divisive political environment. We can agree or disagree on both biblical and political viewpoints, but our language should be respectful and civil, not attacking motives and beliefs’.”

Comment today, and join us again tomorrow when we reflect on another excerpt from Greg’s book.

No matter what your faith or belief system is, tell us what you think of the American dilemma in trying to live both with deep faith and intense politics.

Consider these questions today …

Do you agree: faith first, country second?

Would you advise candidates to be respectful of opponents?

Given our culture, would such a choice cost a candidate election?

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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.

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