Last month the politically polarizing founder of the Moral Majority, Rev. Jerry Falwell, died. Falwell has been credited with mobilizing millions of evangelicals to engage the political process. The religious right, as the movement came to be called, has been a dominant political force ever since.
With the passing of Rev. Falwell, and with the 2008 presidential campaign gaining speed, some are wondering if the religious right will continue to hold its political power. Or, is a new form of Christian political engagement on the horizon. We sat down with Brian McLaren to discuss the political scene and how he believes the church should engage.
What encourages you, and discourages you, about the church and its involvement in the political realm?
My sense is that the religious right has hit its high tide. I think on a whole lot of levels it has been somewhat discredited. But I think the true believers in the religious right will go down with the ship, and I don't think they'll be willing to change their thinking no matter what happens. It's become a sort of ideology that has been absolutized and equated with gospel in their minds. I meet a number of people like this, and I like them but I can't imagine them changing. No amount of evidence will change them.
My big concern is that with the collapse of the religious right there isn't a mature and responsible Christian response that will fill the gap in a constructive way.
And I'm also concerned that the religious right will have left such a bad taste in the mouth of both the political world and the culture at large that there will be a reaction against any expression of faith in the public sphere. So this to me is a danger, but we have to do what we can.
What we should be asking is, how do we help our government be the kind of government that is pleasing to God? What I would hope is that people who are in the Republican Party who are followers of Jesus would use every bit of their energy and power to help the Republican Party reflect more and more the values of Jesus. And that Democrats who follow Jesus would do everything in their power to help the Democratic party do the same thing more and more. Now in that way, you are actually more aligned, you're a stronger ally, with your fellow Christian in another party than you are with the people in the same party who have no higher allegiance than their partisan agenda.
So there should be a hierarchy of identity.
Exactly. A beautiful way to put it. But the sad thing is that in many cases because of this polarization of red and blue, liberal and conservative, left and right, people have shifted the hierarchy. So being a follower of Christ has become, in a way, a subset of being conservative or liberal.
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