Today’s SCOTUS Affordable Act decision, faith, and politics
John Westerhoff wrote:
“Stewardship is what we do after we say we believe, that is, after we give our love, loyalty, and trust to God, from whom each and every aspect of our lives comes as a gift. As members of God’ s household, we are subject to God’ s economy or stewardship, that is, God’ s plan to reconcile the whole world and bring creation to its proper end.” (Grateful and Generous Hearts, Atlanta: St. Luke’s Press, 1997, p. 20.)
I know that I’ve blogged about Westerhoff’s words before.
But today’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act makes Westerhoff’s words come to mind in a new and different way.
I am of the mind that one’s vote is an act of prayer.
It is a reflection of how we see God’s agenda coming into play, and how we can actively be ambassadors of it.
A few weeks back, some well-meaning religious people stopped by our home to engage in a conversation geared toward convincing us that faith has nothing to do with politics.
That the conversation itself had a theo-political agenda was lost on these two young men.
So we started with Moses.
“Moses heard God tell him to announce to Pharaoh that he should ‘Let My People Go!’ He didn’t mean, “Go to the Movies, or Go Hiking, or Go Nap.’ He spoke to a political power about politics: ‘Release the Slaves, King, even though you and your kingdom are benefitting economically from their exploitation.'”
Well, that wasn’t all a direct quote from either Moses, but it was the gist.
The Bible is a book filled with stories of politics, political upheaval, social upheaval, and social action.
It’s exhilaratingly shocking to me how many of today’s political conversations have people of faith at the very least all chatty and, if you’ll pardon the pun, even hot under the collar.
Contraception, environmental degradation, the budget, gay marriage, and, of course, health care (each topic is linked to a different source to show how widely religion and faith are connected) all have proponents and opponents who come to their advocacy by way of religious principles.
So, to go back to Westerhoff, “Stewardship is what we do after we say we believe.'”
Believe in what?
Or rather, in whom?
Or rather, in what sort of whom?
If we say that we have a God, then we are saying that that God governs (yes, I used that word intentionally) our beliefs which then, obviously, shape our choices.
Including our votes.
Stewards represent the agenda of the One in Charge. That’s what they do. They act not on their own behalf, but on behalf of, in the stead of, instead of their master.
So if stewardship is what we do after we say we believe, then our vote is a reflection of what we believe the One in whom we believe would want, even given imperfect choices in an imperfect world.
In my writing and teaching, I try and make manifest my own beliefs, because I do have opinions which shape the way I think about things.
My opinion, as far as politics go, echoes that powerful phrase taken from some elements in Roman Catholic theology. We are to act giving preferential treatment to the poor and vulnerable.
Now, of course, I recognize that who is poor and who is vulnerable is open to conversation.
By and large, however, we who are Christian call ourselves such because we identify the Christ in Christian to be Jesus of Nazareth. And when you poke around at him, we see that he was awfully concerned about the poor and the sick and the lonely and the sinners, and he sculpted his ministry around them.
The issue of health care is deeply personal to me. I’ve posted about my convictions about the push to repeal the Affordable Care Act here.
But the overarching spirit of my belief comes from the perspective of stewardship. I think I’m called to be about stewarding, as best I can given imperfect choices in an imperfect world, life: health, healing, and wholeness, just like the Greek word we translate “salvation” means.
So, two points to this particular blog.
First, I’m acknowledging my thanksgiving about the SCOTUS decision today: not to gloat, but to reflect and own up to my belief that my theology tells me that it’s a step in the right direction, a way to offer practical help and hope to those who suffer.
Second, I’m interested in raising the question, in this election season, about faith and politics. How is it that, out of faith, Christians can have such different political conclusions based on their faith? How do we make sense of that?
And to that end, I’m eager for your thoughts.
This is basically the theme of what I am trying to put together for my sermon at the Lennox community service in the park this Sunday. It isn’t the safest or easiest topic, and I won’t deal specifically with the health care decision, but with stewarding our citizenship…
Yes, stewarding our citizenship. Interesting phrase. It raises a prickly question, though: citizenship of what? If I ever get brave, I’m going to ponder by way of blogging what it means to “Pledge Allegiance.” In light of the term “God,” I am not sure what to do with that tradition, taking both “Pledge” and “Allegiance” seriously. I probably won’t consider it next week, any way. Though one could make the case that it’s exactly the week to wonder about it!
In the only place in scripture where GOD is on his throne separating the NATIONS of the world into sheep and goats, on what basis does he separate them? Does he ask who they slept with, if they tithed, if they believed in GOD, or if they ever prayed? Nope. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty–in short provide daily bread to those who need it. Now we can disagree about how to best go about doing that, but all conversations about politics should begin and end with this notion in mind.
It is a Big Deal that, as you point out, nations, and not individuals, are separated, and it is a Big Deal that they are separated not by way of faith in Jesus, or sexual morality, but by way of social justice: feeding, clothing, visiting. Of course, I think that all Christian conversations about God should begin and end with the Good Friday/Easter event, but I get your point. I’m just a stickler for the “get to” instead of the “have to” approach. Crazy Lutheran.
I am a forty-something (OK, closer to fifty, sigh!) seminary student in the Twin Cities; I commute from my South Dakota home. It is a very progressive, liberal, social-justice-oriented seminary and I feel very at home there. My classmates and I (most of them my age or older) continue to be shocked at the number of those who claim to be Christian who are individualistic and selfish and who think of God as an angry authoritarian steeped in hellfire and brimstone judgment, or those who think he is their personal ATM and that their own self-interest is all they should care about.
But He is a God of boundless justice, mercy, grace, love and compassion. Jesus came to be a voice for the voiceless, a power for the powerless, in favor of the weak over the strong, a smiter of those who think only of amassing wealth in this life and using that wealth to exploit, oppress and enslave others. He didn’t ask for money or an insurance card or co-pay before healing the sick and disabled. God doesn’t use the size of our wallets as an indicator of our moral worth. When it comes to health care, I am in disbelief at the number of Christians who have an “I’ve got mine, the hell with the rest of them” attitude, and who put the profits of insurance companies and the medical and pharmaceutical industries ahead of the lives of real, suffering human beings. Just today, I was arguing on Facebook with a friend of my son who claims to be a devout Christian who actually came out and said that health care is a product and a privilege, not a right, that if you can’t pay for it, you shouldn’t receive care no matter what your illness/injury is or how badly you’re suffering. He actually believed that Jesus would be more concerned with the profits of medical business than with whether or not someone who needed care would receive it, and without being financially ruined.
This is a person who likes to yammer on about morality and society’s “declining moral fiber”, but what could be more immoral than a human being not receiving needed care due to lack of resources, or being financially ruined due to an illness or injury? The fact that tens of thousands of people die every year in this country as a direct result of not having insurance or money for care, and that hundreds of thousands more suffer needlessly, that millions have no insurance or cannot get insurance due to a pre-existing condition meant nothing to this person who claims to believe in God and be a follower of Christ.
I try to be tolerant, but I frankly don’t understand such people. Jesus is very clear on what we are supposed to do and on what is really important. As Bishop Desmond Tutu has said, “I don’t preach the social gospel. I preach THE Gospel, which IS the social gospel.”
Yep. I get your indignant befuddlement.
I’ve found it to be helpful to ask basic “Why?” questions. Everyone’s views stem from some underlying premise, or premises, or hermeneutic, if you will.
Sometimes it is the case that a person’s notion of a Christian God is more informed by Civil Religion than the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Still, it is possible to get to this fellow’s notion of God. There is a canon within the canon, of course. And so he’s gravitating toward certain texts. I’m curious about what those texts are, what those traditions are.
Liberation theology’s commitment to a preferential option for the poor and oppressed is quite valuable here.
So is the book of Acts.
Thanks for your comment, and all the best to you in your studies!
Thanks; I’m hoping financial issues won’t get in the way so that I may continue with seminary!
You make a very good point about trying to find out from where the person is coming from, what they’re using as a basis for their understanding. I did study Liberation Theology a bit last year, and two of my professors were liberation theologists; that is, indeed, helpful. Although another professor, a New Testament specialist, thought that an issue with LT is that some interpretations of it may increase antisemitism. I’m finding all of these different interpretations and contexts quite fascinating!
Yes. You don’t go into God for the money.
I have hundreds of books in my OMG study. Sometimes people say to me that it is clear what the Bible says and means, to which I reply that if that were the case, rather than having hundreds of books on my shelf, I’d have two: The Bible, and the book entitled What the Bible Says and Means.
Liberation theology is but one way to think theologically.
It’s worth spending some time considering Liberation Theology as a source of anti-Semitism. It’s not an attack I’ve heard before, and perhaps I should apologize for that apparent cluelessness. Their commitment, however, to those who are politically and economically dispossessed remains strong and true, though depending on whether they have an organic bent toward anti-Semitism may need to be held in tension with that.
I wish you peace and perseverance in your studies and in your theological wrestlings, as well as finding a way of funding your passion for thinking about God.