When Right Hands Take What Left Ones Give

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David Cassidy posts at PCA Conversations that is more or less a plea to beat certain swords into plowshares. Whatever problems of nuance here and there, there is much for a two kingdomite to laud about raising a hand to the yet maintained notions amongst many that the function of the church is somehow legislative or political:

“…then we are called as never before to faithfully preach the Gospel in word and deed [nuance alert], pass on the Faith to the next generation, sacrificially build communities of the Faith, and live out a witness to what we believe, rather than merely seeking the Kingdom’s implementation through political means.”

But as the post and comments taken together bear out one can’t help sensing that we are not out of the proverbial woods with respect to the quest to de-politicize of the faith.And I wonder if, instead of plowshares, the swords have simply gone from steely daggers to those plastic toys with which boys simply pummel each other.

One can certainly smell it coming from the kitchen, and Cassidy finally comes out and puts the main dish on the table: abortion. To the extent that this issue has so galvanized how even fellow Reformed forget themselves in how they understand the church’s mission, what seems apparent is that one kind of politcization is being traded for another. True, slowly but steadily many can see that the follies of institutional prosthetizing have yielded nothing but small- to large-scale efforts in damage control. Many yet hold on of course. But more honest evaluations seem to understand that Constantinianism has done the gospel no appreciable favors.

Yet those who understand this much still appeal positively to things like the so-called “culture of life”:

“Having said that, I would suggest we pay careful attention to our work among the poor and voiceless, how we champion a ‘culture of life’…”

As long as Cassidy also wants to also make the point that “we” means those within and without the PCA, while they both employ the term, what Protestants mean by it is very narrow, while Catholics have a much broader understanding. Catholics may know the overall mission is compromised in this way but are simply happy for the bench strength. Nevertheless, what I don’t think is appreciated is that language like “the culture of life” is just as politically charged as any legislative efforts Cassidy means to deconstruct, perhaps even more. Politics isn’t just about spoken legislative influence but also unspoken cultural power. The de-politicization of faith has still lost when it is conceived that winning certain worldly battles in the halls of justice isn’t as important as winning them in the hearts of people.

This is why I can never help but think that would-be two kingdom apologetics rarely take into account that politicizing the faith can be done either in the outside-in institutional or inside-out organic ways. It is not as if anyone is innocent of politicization just because he trades his petition clipboard for soaring rhetoric. That is just a change in tactic, not intent. Telling people that a better piety will start adopting children is still an outworking of the assumption that true religion makes bad people good and good people better. And what subsumes is still the pervasive notion that true religion really is, if not a primary function, at least coextensive with a worldly program of ethics. It seems that a moralized politics is yet easier to diagnose than a politicized religion.

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3 Responses to When Right Hands Take What Left Ones Give

  1. chris donato says:

    “Telling people that a better piety will start adopting children is still an outworking of the assumption that true religion makes bad people good and good people better.”

    Were you listening in on my Sunday school class yesterday? Point taken. But damnit, I’m teaching through James!

    By the way, “railing” is just “dissent” with a little bitterness mixed in for good measure. They’re hardly distinguishable to me, since I’m constantly about the business (in my mind, anyway) of playing the contrarian.

  2. Zrim says:

    My hay fever disallows me to sleep on the book of James anymore. Who knew straw was so potent? So much for osmosis; now I just have to read it. I still refuse to adopt any kids though–something about minding my own business with the two I have. (Good thing my wife and I didn’t heed my parents’ the-earth-is-overpopulated activist pleas years ago to only have one child. I’d be so cornfused.)

    By the way, since I’m hardly described by my wife and mother as a “bitter” person, (conscientious) “dissenter” will just have to win the day.

  3. drollord says:

    On the side: I’m glad to see you didn’t convert to monsters in the posted gravatars(?). Schizo-tangrams work better.

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