Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Ben Witherington Renewed My Faith in Disagreeing with Ben Witherington

By way of disclaimer, let me just say that I consider Ben Witherington to be a highly intelligent man who just happens to be afflicted with the unfortunate human shortcoming of being constantly and belligerently wrong. (It is, of course, an affliction with which I could never have an sympathy.) Being directed recently (and reluctantly) to something he had written in commemoration of the World Trade Center attacks, I stumbled upon this rather unnerving paragraph:

Were it not for the U.S. government and the EPA the beautiful state of Kentucky would be one huge pollution cloud of coal dust and other pollutants. Shame on the current Kentucky candidate whose ad, I kid you not, runs ‘man of faith, he will fight the EPA to save our coal jobs and fight Obamacare’. What a platform! What do the latter two have to do with being a Christian??? Nothing! Indeed, creation care and care for the health of the elderly and the poor are part of the Gospel sir! Get with the program or stop posturing as a man of Christian faith.

This was by no means the only objectionable content in the article but it did strike me as a stand out and one that bolstered my strong opposition to Christian politics. While I absolutely agree with the general outrage of "man of faith" being part of a political slogan, I think it is even more appalling that Witherington objects not to the very fact of Christian political activism but merely of the route which is being taken here. In one fell swoop, Witherington calls into question the very quality of this current candidate's faith merely because he has had the audacity not to endorse the current administration's policy's regarding "creation care" and charity.

Witherington seems to have made the fatal, incomprehensible error of collapsing Christ's call to care for the sick into Obama's attempt to actualize that call (if you want to naively impute such pure motives to the president). Witherington has merged the Christian responsibility to creation with the particular policies of the EPA. Suddenly to care for the sick is to support the president's health care plan and to preserve creation is to endorse the EPA. Any dissent from this new Christian political maxim calls into question not merely right judgment but the very character of the dissenter as a Christian. Heaven forbid (literally perhaps, if Witherington is followed) that anyone might suggest that charity and environmentalism are personal and ecclesiastical imperatives rather than political ones. (After all, the government has always been better about doing good in the world than the church.)

Once again, we have a clear picture of the confusion and schism which political involvement injects into the Christian community. Perhaps it is time to realize that someone can oppose a "charitable" political policy and yet be themselves charitable. (Would Witherington like to compare his personal charitable giving to that of the candidate from Kentucky? Perhaps the former would still be vindicated, but it would certainly be a better gauge.) What more, someone might even have an appropriately Christian view of the morality of homosexuality and yet not oppose the legalization of gay marriage. A Christian may support a restrained view of humanity's privileges in creation and still not support the policies of the EPA. Still another might believe that prayer is inappropriate in public schools and still raise righteous, prayerful children. What disturbs me more than two Christians who differ politically is the Christian who thinks that disagreements over means in politics reveals spiritual flaws.

In other words, Dr. Witherington, mutual forbearance is part of the Gospel, sir! Get with the program.

No comments:

Post a Comment