Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Parties happen to be how things get done"

David French's "Open Letter to Young, 'Post-Partisan' Evangelicals" is getting quite a bit of attention in the evangelical blogosphere. He begins by describing his evolution from despising the "culture warriors" to being "the guy you’re trying not to be — the guy you think is destroying our Christian witness. Heck, I’m the guy that even I used to hate." He concludes:
...I no longer believe the lie that there is a path for Christians through this culture that everyone will love — or even most people will love. I no longer believe the lie that American Christians are “too political” and if we only spoke less about abortion we’d be more respected (the mainline denominations have taken that path for two generations, and they continue to lose members and cultural influence).

So, “post-partisan” Christians, please ponder this: First, as the price for your new path, are you willing to forgo any effective voice at all for unborn children? Are you willing to keep silent when the secular world demands your silence? After all, that is the true price of non-partisanship — silence. Second, if you believe that a more perfect imitation of Christ (more perfect than the elders you scorn) will lead to more love and regard for the Church, consider this: No one was more like Christ than Christ, and he wound up on a cross with only the tiniest handful of followers by his side.

Follow Jesus, yes, but don’t think for a moment that will improve your image, and don’t be surprised if He takes you down much the same path He took the generation before you. [more]
Responding to some of the discussion of French's letter, Matthew Lee Anderson argues for a partisanship that isn't captive to the "partisan mind":
.... Ross Douthat recently wrote a book that critiques the culture wars. But his solution isn’t political independence: it’s repudiating what he has called “the partisan mind” while holding on to party affiliation because, well, parties happen to be how things get done in government. ....

The new path forward for evangelical engagement in politics will often share the political conclusions that the religious right came to. And it won’t be timid about saying things that the culture not only disagrees with but is downright hostile to. .... I am not convinced that Republicans are quite as committed to, say, overturning Roe as French is. In fact, I’m more of the opinion that social conservatives are viewed as the idiosyncratic, slightly embarrassing uncles in the Republican world.

Which is why the better path of partisanship is not a wholesale defense of partisanship but rather the understanding that we have a strategic alliance that will break the moment the Republican party ceases to be friendly to our concerns. We can take that approach, I think, while recognizing that there are substantive differences between the party platforms and their environments (blessings on you few pro-life Democrats, but the failure of Stupak effectively killed their prospects for the season), differences that justify partisanship without captivity to the “partisan mind.” [more]
An Open Letter to Young, “Post-Partisan” Evangelicals, Post-Partisan Evangelicals and the Culture Wars: An Attempt at Clarification | Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture