October 20, 2005

On Reconciliation

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 6:21 am

Ah, yes…to reconcile or not to reconcile? A tough question indeed.

While writing the previous post, I wrestled with the paragraph headlined “we must not demonize conservative Christians”. The headline of that graf is entirely of my own making — those words were not uttered at the conference. And perhaps this was not a theme throughout the Via Media conference. I only remember for sure one speaker that spoke of this — John Danforth — and he is the one speaker that has prompted some controversy among attendees.

It turns out that an article by the Episcopal News Service on Danforth’s talk has caused some concern. From a post at CrossLeft by Jo Guldi, an organizer of the event:

What the Episcopalian News Service did *not* convey in their much-quoted article was the firm rebuttal that the Senator received. As a panelist at the table that replied, and as the organizer of the conference panel to which the Senator was invited, I am appalled by the Episcopal News Service’s “tweaking” of the evening’s story to its own ends.

So the panelists who replied to Danforth had to answer the question: what does the Christian do about poverty? Does the Christian lobby for political reconciliation at all costs? Does the Christian tell both Christian right and Christian left to sit down?

Words can be slippery things at times. “Reconciliation” can evoke different connotations in different people. To Episcopalians facing denominational turmoil over the ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop, reconciliation evokes compromising with those trying to break their church apart. But to me, reconciliation does not mean compromise. It does not mean selling out, or giving up, or silencing our voices. It is not a bad thing.

Jo answers her own questions later in her post.

I argued that theological reconciliation — the duty of one Christian to speak to another, much neglected in these days of polarization — differed greatly from political reconciliation.

I agree, and will take it even further. The founding meme of this blog is a response to conservative Christians that imply, or even baldly assert, that given my political views I am not a Christian. I refuse to commit this same sin in return. I disagree strongly with conservative Christians on politics, and I differ from them on many theological grounds. But we are saved by God’s grace, not by our works, and justification by politics is just another form of works-righteousness. We are all saved, and not by our own doing, or our political beliefs.

Conservative Christians are my political enemies, but are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be [children] of your Father in heaven.

This is what I mean by “reconciliation”. Let’s not treat them as they have treated us. Let’s recognize and celebrate our common faith in Christ, even as we fight against each other tooth and nail in the political arena.

15 Comments

  1. I read the article written by Dana Wilkie for which you provided a link and Danforth’s speech, or at least her accounting of it, seemed very reasonable and realistic to me. You are claiming, I suppose, that she tweaked the report because she failed to record the rebuttal? It seems to me that she was giving an account of Danforth’s speech, not the rebuttal(s) to it.

    I took her accounting of it as a stark warning, which I think is not uncalled for, that Progressive Christians not engage in the same rhetoric which they resent among Conservative Christians. This has been my problem with what you have espoused from the beginning, you hate the perceived persecution of the Religious Right so you want, in part, to establish a Religious Left to do unto others as they have done to you? Sorry, that has smacked of hypocrisy to me from the outset and still does, if my honesty perturbs you and others then so be it.

    You claim you want to reconcile by recognizing that the Religious Right and Left celebrate a common faith in Christ and yet you want to attack the Right’s political and moral stances which are foundationally set on that very faith in the political arena under the banner of Progressive Christianity and counter their values and morality with your own values and morality as though your Christian values and morality are on a higher plane than theirs.

    The way I see it is this: You don’t agree with the political views of Conservative Christians so you accuse them of hijacking YOUR faith, of speaking for YOU, when all Conservative Christians are doing is speaking on behalf of their OWN convictions. YOU are bringing the battle to THEM by attacking them with such a charge. They have merely stood on THEIR principles. You should and can stand on your own principles and give voice to your own Christian convictions. By doing that it is unnecessary to attack Conservative Christians for doing the very thing you are now embracing. There will always be those on both the left and right who will attack the other’s faith, they EACH make THEIR choices, YOU make yours, and I make mine. We are all individuals.

    For years I have heard it coming to a head that the various Churches are either inclusive or exclusive. God’s Word is inclusive and exclusive, is full of right and wrong, good deeds and sin. To love people is not the same as to accept and embrace the sin in their lives. Please, do me a favor, don’t embrace the sin in MY life and tell me it’s okay, that God loves everyone and accepts everyone just as they are, that is true however, God is constantly working in our lives to prune away those things which He does not accept. I know that in MY life when I stray, when my focus gets off of God and onto what I want and I find myself making excuses for sin in my life, God has a way of bringing me back into line, either through circumstances in my life or a word or action by another in my life. Sometimes through his scripture, sometimes through a Pastor or a fellow believer. Danforth is exactly right, the Religious Right has valid and pertinent arguments, Progressive Christians also have valid and pertinent arguments. Both groups can play a role in the bettering of our society, if either side is reduced to a debate against the other about why one or the other’s moral objectives are “better” and “holier” than the other side’s values and moral objectives, then both sides lose.

    We are all members of the Body of Christ? Each of us has a gift to use in order to glorify and serve God and the Church, but most importantly we must all be obedient to God. It may be Conservative Christians’ calling to worry about societal questions surrounding the radical gay agenda and abortion, it may be Progressive Christians calling to bring poverty to the forefront, that may, indeed, be our respective roles. I feel all of those issues are of value and that the Christian voice should be heard as a part of those debates. As the cliche’ goes, “you do your thing, I’ll do mine,” by each of us doing the thing for which God has called us, and not pointing fingers in each others’ faces and fighting over the Christ, that we all serve, we may be able to accomplish some awesome goals. This is an old, old argument you see, one which the Bible speaks to:

    “For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary, and those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”——
    1 Corinthians 12:14-25

    But, hey, if you’d rather fight?

    Comment by Jacke — October 21, 2005 @ 7:14 am

  2. Correction:

    In my previous post in answer to Bob, I credited him with making a statement regarding the “tweaking” of a report written by Dana Wilkie, a freelance journalist, for Episcopalian News Service.

    The statement which was made concerning the “tweaking” of the article was actually quoted by Bob but made by “Jo” in an article found at CrossLeft, my apologies to Jo for not originally crediting her with that statement.

    The link to Jo’s article at CrossLeft was provided in Bob’s original article.

    Comment by Jacke — October 21, 2005 @ 10:17 am

  3. Jacke –

    I love the verse you ended with…I wish you had stuck with that theme instead of starting off by accusing me of hypocrisy. I believe you are way off base in that regard.

    As a blogger, I have an extensive paper trail, or a digital one anyway. I have said that:

    1. I respect and honor conservative Christians’ religious faith (as much as I’ve blogged lately on this topic, I’m surprised you accuse me of attacking their faith.)

    2. I strongly disagree with conservative Christians’ politics. I recognize that their politics is based on their convictions and comes from their faith, which is why I have said that I also disagree with their theology. (Disagreeing with their theology does not mean I don’t respect their faith.)

    Conservatives and I are very much the same with respect to nbr 2…we both are speaking of our convictions based on faith. However, regarding number 1, we are very different.

    I take particular umbrage at being accused by conservative Christians of not being Christian because of my politics, or the implication that a Christian can only arrive at conservative stands on social issues, hence the title of my blog. (I know you have said that you have never done this, but many others have.) I have criticized conservatives for not respecting the fact that I am a Christian. In turn, I have been careful to not disrespect their religious faith, going so far as to have blogged here that conservative Christians are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t understand how you can construe this as hypocrisy.

    Unlike conservative Christians, I recognize that Christians come to different places than me politically. To make sure that readers know I don’t presume to speak for all Christians, I have qualified myself as a “progressive” Christian, but you don’t like that label. And now you don’t like the fact that I criticize the politics of conservative Christians.

    Jacke, I believe your real underlying objection is to a theologically orthodox, politically progressive Christian faith.

    As Martin Luther said, here I stand; I can do no other.

    Comment by Bob — October 21, 2005 @ 4:41 pm

  4. bob, your patience is amazing.

    Comment by fleur — October 21, 2005 @ 6:02 pm

  5. My comments to Jacke on a similar recent post on her blog appear below. I may not have as much patience as Bob, but I think I am compassionate. Theologically I am perhaps more liberal than Bob and many of the posters. I don’t even know if Bob would consider me a Christian by his definition. It doesn’t matter to me, and apparently it doesn’t matter to the posters here because I am in complete support of the aims and goals of this blog. Perhaps there are other reasons it matters little if at all to most of the posters here. I don’t know. But Jacke seems to be particularly disturbed by the fact that, although I completely support her in her spiritual walk and understanding, with all due love and respect, I will not come to complete agreement with her on everything. I am sorry if that is offensive to you, Jacke, but I think that coming to a truce on some issues is the best you and I can do.

    Message under discussion:

    At bottom, Jacke, your question seems to boil down to, “How can you call yourself a Christian if some of your views differ significantly from my own?”

    The fact that all “Christians” are not one hegemonic group (not that they ever were, but we won’t go into that here) is disturbing to you. Why can’t we all agree that there is one meaning and one meaning only of the term?

    Well, the dictionaries list several, and they are not all in agreement. But they are all valid definitions of the term. I spent a great deal of time on a blog some months ago defending the idea, and got absolutely nowhere.

    I am “Christian” in a sense of the term, “New Age” by some definitions, “humanistic” by others. I am not going to stop identifying myself as Christian merely to make life easier for you.

    I am not out to change your mind. If your understanding of Christianity is what gives meaning to your life, hang on to it as long as it works for you. Live your life as you believe God wants you to, and do not take to heart the opinions of others.

    7:52 PM

    Comment by wildwest — October 21, 2005 @ 7:14 pm

  6. Bob, I have always stated that I respect you for your willingness to listen to the other side of the issue. You do not have to approve of my theology, my beliefs, or the color of my hair. You owe me nothing.

    I have intended to say, for some time, that when I first visited this blog that I had somewhat of a chip on my shoulder and I have planned for some time to apologize for that. My position in that regard has softened, somewhat, because I have come to the realization that those of you who frequent this blog have strong convictions and believe what you are doing is right.

    It probably would have been better had I not used the word hypocrisy, however, the idea that Progressives don’t like the fact that Conservatives are speaking out regarding their moral beliefs in regards to politics and so they are doing the same thing is something I can’t get my mind around, perhaps it would be better if I merely said that I can’t understand it. My deepest regret is that we cannot all embrace each other, regardless of our politics, but that we must continue to consider each other as brothers and sisters in Christ on the one hand and enemies on the other. It’s just my humble opinion that the solution would be for Conservatives to allow Progressive Christians the freedom to stand on their principles, even in a political way, and vice versa, I don’t get to make that decision for anyone but myself, though. From the last statement of your post, you seem to be saying that you have an unwillingness to do that, and you know, that’s okay, because I think your theology is wrong in that the Progressive stance on helping the poor of the world seems to rely far more on secular government payouts than on individual Christians being obedient to the call on them to provide personally for the poor, and I cannot understand how you come to the conclusion that gays should be allowed the “special” right of marriage to same sex mates or serve in the ministry, I just don’t personally think it is helpful to the Body of Christ to make derogatory statements about each other in public and in the media. While I have said that I feel that the progressives have a valid agenda regarding aid for the poor, but that I disagree with their “cure” for that condition, you seem to be unwilling to consider that conservatives too have a valid agenda. There are very real reasons conservative Christians have this agenda, if you are ever interested I’d love to share those reasons with you. The only one in this group who has ever expressed an interest in why I oppose gay marriage is wildwest, though I think you all understand why I oppose abortion.

    wildwest has misunderstood why I take such an interest. It has nothing to do with me being disturbed that the whole Christian world doesn’t agree with me. Perhaps he thinks I am naive. I am quite aware that there are many denominations who have a myriad of beliefs but yes, I do have difficulty understanding why and how a Progressive Christian picks and chooses which scriptures are valid and true and which can be throw out because they can’t trust the touch of man which was involved in the translation.

    What wildwest, I thought, had a grip on is that I am curious and that I would like for there to be an open dialog between Progressive and “Conservative” Christians, dang I hate that label! And I do genuinely question why you WANT a label while I have come to the end of my rope with them. Maybe I care too much about people, I was recently advised that I shouldn’t take to heart the opinions of others ;). I am keenly interested in the opinions of others and honestly, I hope that never changes.

    Following was my reply to wildwest. Since he shared his answer, I will share mine. That is only fair:

    wildwest said…
    At bottom, Jacke, your question seems to boil down to, “How can you call yourself a Christian if some of your views differ significantly from my own?”

    Nope, I didn’t say that anywhere. I have stated clearly what I believe and I am curious about what those who call themselves “Progressive” Christians believe.

    I am quite comfortable in my beliefs and do not want to change them, however, that does not mean that I wish to stop learning. Is there something wrong with me asking what Progressive Christians believe or trying to come to an understanding of what Progressive Christians believe?

    I am by nature a curious person, yes, I have very real questions about how Progressive Christians draw certain conclusions and I have made that plain from the first day you saw me post something, wildwest, but NEVER have I said that if one doesn’t believe exactly as I do that they cannot be a Christian and I do not believe that to be the case.

    I think you are trying to put those words in my mouth so you can write me off. If you want to write me off, go right ahead, but don’t make up an untrue statement to base your judgement of me on so that it will be easier for you.

    Are you back from vacation?

    It’s nice to hear from you again.

    Bob, I am also sorry that it stresses you that some Conservative Christians claim you can’t be a Christian. I am on record as saying that is wrong so I don’t know what else I can say. I’m just one person.

    I am seriously considering ending any further dialog in your comment section, I don’t feel that anything I say in this forum is particularly welcome or interesting to any of the other commenters. All I seem to do is stir animosity. That might have been my intent at the outset, but it ceased to be my intent some time back. The other part of my heart tells me no, that someone needs to try to somehow bridge a gap and I could be that person, visions of grandeur? Lol. Seriously, I have enjoyed the thought provoking debate, I have learned a lot and I wish it could continue, but it is truly stressful when the majority of commenters seem to be looking for a reason or excuse to call my integrity into question at every turn. Perhaps it would be better for me to continue on my own blog and leave you and your people out of it. I’ll pray about it. Maybe you’d like to do the same? Whatever happens, I wish you all well. My love in Christ, Jacke

    Comment by Jacke — October 21, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

  7. Jacke,

    I’m glad you have softened since first coming to this discussion board some time ago. Perhaps I should clarify my statement: “your question seems to boil down to, β€œHow can you call yourself a Christian if some of your views differ significantly from my own?”” No, you’re not claiming a person with such views is not a Christian. I understand that. My statement is my way of summing up your statement which reads: “I do have difficulty understanding why and how a Progressive Christian picks and chooses which scriptures are valid and true and which can be throw out because they can’t trust the touch of man which was involved in the translation.” You want to know how and why, and there is not one simple answer for *all* “progressive” Christians. I am sure my answer and Bob’s answer would be very, very different. And it is not concise.

    Let me see if I can’t think of some reading material that might enlighten you as to the mindset of a Christian who “picks and chooses” as you say. Would you be interested?

    Comment by wildwest — October 21, 2005 @ 10:02 pm

  8. Sorry I have not been around much–things have been hectic for me lately. But, I did want to add my two cents here. While Jacke may not mean to come across “What Conservative Christians believe politically is right because what they believe meets with my view of theology and therefore Progressive Christians are wrong because what they believe politically does not meet with my view of theology” that is essentially what she keeps on saying.

    She also seems to take some issue with Progressives speaking up for what they believe and seems to think Progressives should just let Conservatives speak for them to keep unity amongst Christians or at least give a united front. I may be wrong, but that is what I get from what she says.

    Now what I find most interesting about that is that if Progressives should do that then we should have only one political party. We don’t need various groups to represent different groups of people. We are all humans. There should be no groups representing the disabled or even minorities. At least by that logic. We should all be unified.

    But, we can’t be. The Republican down the street doesn’t believe as I believe. The disabled person down the street may not feel represented by a group of non-disabled people. Minorities probably don’t feel best represented by a large group of white people. We divide into groups to have our views represented by those that believe like us. Whether it is Progressive Christians or the handicapped. That is why we have pro-choice groups, pro-life groups, and pro-choice not anti-life groups. Some division is necessary for all people to be represented to our government. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t have a democracy, we would have a dictatorship.

    The problem arises when the Republican down the street believes he is right, therefore everyone else has to be wrong–and then starts to believe that only him and his ilk should run things. Or the handicapped person. Or the Progressive Christian, etc. It doesn’t arise because we divide into groups of varying interests.

    Which is why Progressive Christians and Conservative Christians could get along just fine as unified Christians, even of different political beliefs. Well, they could as long as everyone agrees that neither is 100% right about anything.

    Comment by Angel — October 22, 2005 @ 6:27 am

  9. This is what I am talking about when I say that I feel that none of the commenters are interested in what I have to say and to some extent why I feel that rather than having a dialog with commenters that I am under attack. Please note, rather than Angel seeking clarification or questioning me, directly, she chooses to announce what she perceives me as saying, WRONGLY, I might add. Do you think that you cannot address me or ask me a question, Angel, or do you just prefer to talk about me rather than with me?

    Comment by Jacke — October 22, 2005 @ 9:00 am

  10. Jacke, I stated how you come across to me. I read what you say and what I wrote is what I got from what you said. I said I could be wrong, but that is how you come across to me.

    I actually don’t have much interest in having a conversation with you though. I find you hostile and find it incredibly hard to have a conversation with someone like that.

    Comment by Angel — October 22, 2005 @ 4:39 pm

  11. Ahhhh, yes, Angel, the world would be a much grander place if only I could live up to the diplomatic bar you have set. πŸ˜‰

    Comment by Jacke — October 22, 2005 @ 6:02 pm

  12. Jacke, it is obvious you have a major problem with me. Out of everyone who comments on this blog, I seem to be the one you most like to make smart aleck comments to or accuse of attacking you regardless of what I say. So, it must not come to much of a surprise, I wouldn’t think, that I would find you hostile and hard to have a conversation with.

    I could probably fill Bob’s comments up with my feelings regarding your agenda over here and your issues. But, this is Bob’s comment section and Bob’s blog. I feel no need to continue with you nor to be bated by you anymore. At this point, I will just ignore you. I think it will be best.

    You, on the other hand, can continue to use what Progressives say to feed your superiority complex and make yourself feel even more right than you already think you are. I am sure it will keep you entertained, much more than I can.

    Comment by Angel — October 23, 2005 @ 8:51 am

  13. Jacke –

    My impression is that you’ve been using this blog as a place to work some things out for yourself, and that is great. You’re welcome to continue to do so. I do have to remind you though, that most commenters on this blog are progressive, so when you comment here you need to expect that people are going to disagree with you.

    Sometimes your comments come off as very conciliatory and friendly, but other times they can strike people as being harsh, at least it seems to me (and Angel, I might add). Given that most people here already disagree with you, if they perceive your tone as attacking, they’re going to reply in kind. Some people (like me) find it easier to shrug off perceived online attacks, but others (like, it seems, yourself) do not. Just remember that none of us can truly know each other just from online exchanges, so any disagreements can’t really be personal. But if it feels that way, then maybe it’s not worth it! We should all feel free to disengage.

    But I like having you around here! I may not always engage with your arguments and leave that to others, but I’ve never regretted your presence here, and would be sorry to see you depart.

    Having said that, it sounds like there may be other online forums that would serve your own purposes better. You might want to check out some of the forums at Beliefnet. They have people of every religious and political stripe discussing anything and everything. Some of their forums don’t allow real debate, but others are set up solely for that purpose.

    But please don’t misread me — I’m not suggesting you stop commenting here, I’m just trying to help you find what you’re looking for. And no matter where you go, people will disagree with you. But given the anonymity of the internet, that’s ok.

    Comment by Bob — October 23, 2005 @ 5:32 pm

  14. Bob, it was a pleasant surprise to find your comments when I popped in just now. I thank you for your interest in me continuing to comment on your blog. The reason I popped in was to say goodbye. The reason I popped in was to direct any and all who might be interested in my true feelings to my blog, I just posted something which I think those here might find interesting, just because it discusses some things I have learned here. While I’m touched by your sentiment, I do think, considering the fact that I no longer wish to intertwine my Christianity with my politics or respond to other’s intertwining of their politics to Christianity, and since that is basically what you do here, that it would be best for me to move along. I think I may have learned what God had for me. Those interested, my new entry at my blog is a fairwell, a fond one, to all of you. I harbor no ill feelings toward any of you and pray that God will bless you all, and any of you who would like to say hello from time to time, you know where I am. πŸ™‚ Much love in Christ, Jacke

    Comment by Jacke — October 23, 2005 @ 6:31 pm

  15. Interestingly enough, I am not what you would call a Progressive Christian. I believe homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9) and I don’t support gay marriage. I believe we are to love everyone, even our brothers and sisters who are gay. But, I don’t believe we are to condone their sin. Or anyone else’s actually.

    I don’t believe that people should have abortions willy nilly, nor do I believe they do. I am sure there are a small percentage of women who have used abortion to terminate a pregnancy that she should have been using birth control to prevent in the first place, but I know that it is not an easy decision and I pray for anyone that has had to face such a decision. Unfortunately, the world is not what we would want it to be. Not every child is wanted and furthermore, there are actual Christians who think we should abolish the welfare system which would make a lot more pregnancies a financial distress rather than a blessed event.

    Which is why I support initiatives to reduce the number of abortions and to give women real alternatives. It is also the reason I am okay with civil unions. The world can have them. It has had them for years. Couples that merely lived together and did not wish to be married had them by default after so many years of shacking up together.

    I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I have done a lot of things that God would never approve of. I have had more than my fair share of Christians pointing their fingers and telling me just how wrong I am, how un-Christian I am, and have seen the hate that can come from amongst my brothers and sisters in Christ. First-hand, no less.

    So, while I may not be a Progressive Christian, I support my brothers and sisters in Christ to speak up for the things they believe in even if I don’t always agree with those beliefs. I have no reason to judge you nor question your salvation. No one else does either.

    I also tend to agree to one of the principals this country was founded on. While I don’t always agree with what you say, I will always defend your right to say it. πŸ™‚

    Comment by Angel — October 24, 2005 @ 11:19 am

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