Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tempting Faith

This is the title of a book by David Kuo, that I've just finished. This book is an important one for Christians struggling to understand their engagement in the political process. Over the last few days, I've been reading everything I can get my hands on to answer some of my own nagging questions like: In terms of politics, what hopes should we have for changing the world? How have important Christian leaders historically used their political power for good? (William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King are the first examples that came to mind.) And what are the dangers of politics to which we as Christians should be alerted? (Here, I sought out Chuck Colson and Billy Graham). David Kuo himself speaks to many of of these questions.

He was an insider when the Republicans stormed Congress in 1994 and made the Contract with America. He later became an adviser to George W. Bush in the office for Faith-Based Initiatives. He's critical of the administration, but I don't think unfairly so. Kuo admires the deep personal faith of Bush. He believes that his passion for helping the poor was always genuine. However, Bush never put his political weight behind real policy for helping the poor. And what he saw from the inside of the White House was a string of empty promises (politically motivated as an means to court the evangelical vote) and double-speak to cover up the fact that he never delivered the goods on faith-based initiatives. 

This book is especially important for its discussion of power. Unfortunately, he talks about how Christians themselves are bought by this power. (He wasn't specifically referring to Bush so much as the pastors and Christian leaders who sought to influence the White House). Here's a look at some of his reflections on power: "The White House was also one of the most seductive places imaginable. Not just because of the perks, which are nice, but because of the raw power of the place hidden in a true desire to save the world. It is the ring of power from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The longer anyone holds the ring the more he loves it, the more he hates it, and the more desperate he is to hold on to it. It becomes the most precious thing in his life. Priorities, loves, interest, life are lost in it. The ring owns, it is not owned."

I think reading this book helped me to wrangle less over the question, Who am I going to vote for?, and start the process of thinking more constructively about the power of the Church as an agent of change. I've got a lot more to say about this, but the kids are waking up, and it's breakfast time.

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