Monday, September 19, 2011

Liberty for what purpose?

It is interesting how ‘compassionate conservatism’ has no traction these days. Perhaps though, evangelical America is so solidified behind the republican party that their votes are expected rather than desired?
Having recently finished Frank Schaeffer’s most recent book titled ‘Sex, God and Mom’, I find his thoughts on the the ‘right’ and evangelical America to have much value. Americans talk about ‘ObamaCare’ as a four letter word while entirely ignoring the millions of people who can’t afford to see a doctor when necessary for healthy living. We cover our disgust of the new health care laws under the guise of ‘liberty’, and yet we fail the biblical text to love our neighbor.
Somehow we’re still o.k. about ignoring our neighbors plight on the same day we heard a sermon of the ‘Good Samaritan.’ But of course, we never find ourselves in that story. We’re good church going republicans… or so we tell ourselves while we proclaim the kingdom to our coworkers who were not in church on Sunday…


mentorman said...


...checking in deeper on you, with your 9/19 post, we are paddling our canoes in the same direction. sincerely looking forward to conversation.

...thank you!


Joel Shaffer said...


You come across painting with broad strokes, assuming that those conservative evangelicals who oppose Government health care do so because they are ignoring poor people (like the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan) that can't afford it because of their selfishness (commitment to liberty)......

I for one am against government healthcare and many other government programs because they don't work! I have ministered in the 'hood of Grand Rapids for over 20 years living in an impoverished, crime-filled neighborhood serving the poor, especially high risk inner-city youth. I have seen government program after government program with all the good intentions in the world do more harm than good.

Yes we need to figure out how to insure the 40 million Americans without healthcare. There needs to be checks and balances between the government, HMO's and the physicians. In the past, HMO's have held all the cards which as led to corruption. So I am probably not your typical conservative on this issue. But I am more on the conservative side because I have seen the hundreds and hundreds of casualties that stem from government intervention (with other programs such as bridge card/food stamp abuse, and etc....)

By the way, it isn't just the government that mess up things for the poor. I have also seen casualties from do-gooder naive Christians that have good intentions but have made things much worse for the poor. Or even from charities such as Santa Clause Girls and Toys for Tots. One of my students that I discipled who is now a grown man remembers every Christmas getting presents from these organizations. They would get loads and loads of Christmas presents, they would even open the presents, but then Mom would sell all of these brand new toys to feed her crack addiction. This happened for 4 years of his childhood and is still a horrific childhood memory all because a couple charities didn't have a strong relationship with the family to know about was going on with the mom.

By the way, have you read the book, "When Helping Hurts? How to Alleviate poverty without hurting the poor or yourself" It is one of the best books on Poverty Alleviation from a Christian worldview......

I have observed your blog for a couple years now. And your tendency to make blanket statements about the state of the evangelical church and political conservatives without any nuances end up creating extreme negative charactitures. This should bother you because you hate it when you and others connected to the emergent movement are charactitured by conservative evangelicals. Anyway, I hope I am not coming across too harsh. Maybe you and I need to go out for coffee. I suspect we might have more things in common such as what it means to live out, "Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

randy buist said...


Thanks for the thoughts. You are correct that sometimes I paint an "extreme negative charactiture." I know it isn't entirely fair. Let me explain.

Often times I write to vent my own frustration. Perhaps then I should have a journal instead of a blog, but I also appreciate feedback from others.

In addition, I have perhaps become a bit jaded regarding the evangelical church in America. I find myself appreciating Stanley Hauerwas and also appreciating voices such as Jim Wallis and Frank Schaeffer.

It seems that many church-going evangelicals are really more fans of Jesus than apprentices. We covet our paychecks, our homes and our SUV's. While we love our liberty, we don't care much for justice for the poor to the degree that we transforms our lives. Nor do we really love the government. In fact, over the past two years of the tea party rise, the conservative right has painted the government to essentially be evil.

In the early 1990's I studied under several theologians who challenged us to think about postmodernism and the way it would impact the church. While I believe that much of society still holds to ethics of some sort, the large-business world has only two ethics. It loves profits, and it avoids lawsuits (because these cut into profits). Thus, business has moved toward opposing most government regulations because they impede profit margins.

At the same time, the evangelical right has swallowed most of the ideas of the republican right. Yet, the biblical values of the republican right have very little to do with the Christian faith. These same Christians, whether they know it or not, are choosing to frame their faith through the lens of their politics rather than allowing their politics to be seen through the lens of their faith. [continued below]

randy buist said...

[Continued from above]

I live in West Michigan, as do you, where the other side is never given a fair shake. Moderate republicans don't gain traction because certain voices will make every effort to have 'their person' be the final one standing. (i.e. Seriousy, Justin Amash? He's a 30 year old, inexperienced lawyer who was sent to D.C. with the support of...) Does knowledge, experience, and wisdom count for nothing anymore?

Furthermore, I've seen the republican right speak about family values and then most directly reject those values because it would cost them power. One case in point, and my most difficult to stomach, is the issue of immigration.

The republican party talks about 'job creators' and needing jobs, and yet there is no movement for immigration reform. At the economic level, positive reform for the latino workforce of our nation would stabilize the AG business. Yet, neither Rep. Bill Huizenga nor Rep. Justin Amash care. It will cost them votes.

Secondly, 'family values' really means they will provide lip service to the 'right-to-life' debate. At the same time they are willing to allow our government to continue to deport mothers and fathers and rip families apart.

I see the immigration thing as essentially laughing in the face of God while also holding a biblical text in the other hand that is supposedly held as God's authoritative words for our lives. There is no way that I can imagine the juxtaposition of those two things. Thus, I find myself often painting, as you say, an 'extreme negative charactiture.'

In life, I find so much hope for the current and coming reality of the kingdom. Yet, in the politics of many (and certainly not all) conservatives there is a disdain for migrants, those in poverty, and certainly alternative sexual identities. Yet, in the biblical text and the proclamation of the kingdom, we see Yahweh embracing all forms of brokenness.

I do believe there is hope for tomorrow, but it won't be in a tea party agenda that creates more self-centeredness than already exists in our culture. While it won't come with government support as the primary means of a better tomorrow, neither is it essentially evil.

Grace & Peace.