Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

If you saw my post on "Church and Politics" yesterday, Obama's State of the Union gives us a good chance to apply it. Was there, for example, anything in his speech that the church should specifically take a position on? Using Mouw and Henry's criteria, I don' t think there was. As individuals we might have more or less informed opinions, but I can't think of anything in the speech where the church should take a specific position.

So on issues like health care, Supreme Court decisions on corporate giving to campaigns, whether or not filibusters are appropriate, how to stimulate the economy, even environmental legislation, Mouw and Henry would say the church should not advocate a specific proposal or approach. Rather, the church stands for general principles--we should make sure no one goes without food, clothing, or essential medical treatment. We should be good stewards of the world God has given us. Etc.

The only potential item is seems to me that even comes close to a church position item was lifting a ban on homosexuals serving in the military. Yet it seems to me that even this issue is different from the church taking a position on whether God favors homosexual behavior. Even this issue seems to be about people rather than practice. Coercive Christian traditions such as the Calvinist tradition might feel compelled to say "no," even though we are talking here about the presence of individuals in a secular, non-Christian institution and not about Christians or what takes place in the church. Questions of how people will behave around certain other people again fall into the area of "individual expertise" (namely psychology and sociology) rather than general principles the church sets down.

Other traditions that believe in free will, "persuasive" Christian traditions such as Arminian ones, will more naturally let individual responsibility and action take its own course in the secular arena while trying to persuade individuals to Christ. All of that is to say, it is not at all clear to me that even this is a subject on which the church would take an official stand if the general principle Mouw and Henry set down is valid. Individuals certainly may, with varying degrees of expertise and or sense of God's leading them.

What do you think?


Angie Van De Merwe said...

The Church has "established" that the family consists of a male and a female, who procreate to "fill the earth and sudue it". This is considered by the conservative as a literal "mandate" of "dominion" or "stewardship".

But, the world and its needs are not "ideal" in how the union "looks". And where "dominion" (I don't like the term) and "stewardship" "fall out" will be the social and political context. Fortunately, we live in a country that has "protections" in place, so that civil liberties, and justice will reign, and not political ideologues, who irregardless of resistance, insist that they will dominate others, under their ideological persuasion.

::athada:: said...

Could you be more specific about what it would mean for "the church" to take a particular side - a denominational resolution? A local, ecumenical gathering? A pastoral resolution at one church community? A non-profit headed by prominent/persuasive religious folks?

Thinking in terms of non-profits: you can appear very successful (or raise funds) without clear results... thus drawing a line on legislation makes wins/loses clear.