A lot of posts today, partly because I’m catching up from a few weeks away and partly because I’ve got a bit of my blogging mojo back.
I flagged a column in the 2 August Globe and Mail that was worth sharing. The author is Lorna Dueck, a journalist and Christian, writing about the ongoing media controversy about Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s religious beliefs. Harper is a member of the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA), a protestant evangelical denomination, and some have openly speculated that Harper’s personal religious beliefs will drive his majority government’s actions and legislation.
Dueck’s response is to admit that there will always be some overlap between the Christian’s personal beliefs and the world that Christian inhabits. She uses the theological (as opposed to it’s, well, economic, meaning) word “economy”, which means applying the bible’s teachings to all areas of life, with Christ as the bible’s cornerstone, subject to the Christian’s interpretation of the Bible.
As Dueck notes, interpretation is a difficult and ongoing matter, and for most Christians is not as rigid as critics of fundamentalism might suppose. By way of example, Dueck gives the recent decision of the CMA to allow the ordination of women, despite isolated scriptural texts (eg, 1 Timothy 2:11-15) which appear to forbid the practice. The decision to not be guided by this text alone, as the CMA and many other churches have done, is set by a more complex process of interpretation that includes the wider picture of women’s important role in the nascent church as seen in the New Testament, Jesus’ refusal to discriminate against women in his teaching and conduct towards them, the role of the church in contemporary society, etc.
So a fear of Harper’s evangelical hidden agenda may not recognize the difficulty that Christians, even conservative Christians like the CMA, can have in determing an “agenda”. Christians will disagree amongst themselves on the application of scripture in the economy of their lives. So should people worry about the relgious beliefs of their leaders? Dueck says yes, but only so much (and the rest of this post is all from Dueck’s piece).
“The worry comes when power is introduced and issues can be forced, rather than debated. Rightly so – when it comes to government, we fear being manipulated by any suggestion of such power applying a spiritual economy to issues that concern our private or public lives.”
“It is true that Mr. Harper is quiet on the issue of his faith – even his denominational insiders will tell you that – and from my experience of travelling in the media, I think it’s a wise decision. Canadian literacy on faith application is low.”
“It’s quite a different story in the United States. Last month, Michelle Obama was quoted in The New York Times on her interpretation of Christianity. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday,” she said. “It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well … Jesus didn’t limit his ministry to the four walls of the church. He was out there fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.”
“If Jesus is the cornerstone that Mrs. Obama, Mr. Harper or any other person of political influence have in their economy of how the system of life functions, it will affect the way they approach their job. History is full of good and bad examples of how Christian faith was applied by people of political power, but in the case of our current concerns, I would predict this means an endless array of applications, both in personal disciplines and public worldview.”
“The story of Jesus Christ is essentially about the fact that God loves people deeply and for all of eternity. God has not ignored the need for our renewal and regeneration, and the fact that the divine name shows up in political life from time to time is simply evidence we are not dealing with a wisp of imaginative hope, but a persistent fact of human existence.”