Monday, November 28, 2005Let me offer something of a follow up to my post on Derek Webb. I think I was somewhat unfair in my discussion, so met me say a few things.
Let me first say that I feel, in retrospect, that my post was made in haste. It should have been fleshed out further with more links and quotes than I provided.
I have noticed in Derek's interviews a theme of social justice. I certainly share his heart on this matter, but I simply can’t go along with some the organizations he supports; namely, the ONE campaign and Sojourners, both of which linked on his website under the heading Social Justice. I take that sort of linking as open support of both the organizations and their underlying premises. I certainly think that Bono and the others behind ONE have good intentions, but debt relief and fair trade agreements have never proven to be an adequate means of relief, particularly in Africa where corrupt regimes, tribal practices and the threat of radical Islam loom large over any small gains that might be made.
I agree with Jim Wallis’ belief that the Kingdom of God is not limited to the GOP, but Wallis undermines his own point when he advocates, on practically every issue save abortion, a political program that is, at the very least, as leftwing as the Democratic Party, if not more liberal. This is not a new development, either. The Weekly Standard ran a piece recently noting that for all his talk, Wallis has always been a leftist. That’s fine and good, but I don’t think Wallis should be afraid to say as much, and he should certainly be willing to defend his position biblically.
It was my failure to address these points in my post, and I will offer a mea culpa shortly. My own reference to Derek’s political beliefs was based upon the links on his site and particularly with this interview in Relevant Magazine wherein he said:
“As a Christian if you are not pro-rich, pro-war then you re just not a Christian. And I think that we’ve got to blow all that apart, we’ve got to break all that, we’ve got to open that up and find out what the hell is going on. None of that makes any sense. It’s not even a consistent Christian worldview. There’s a lot of work to do in the way Christians think about politics and issues of social justice in this country and internationally. I think we’ve got to be people who know what’s happening in the world, who can apply Scripture to all of it.”
Please understand that I share his concerns, but I’ve read enough political literature to have an alarm go off when I hear “pro-rich, pro-war” used in a negative light. Combine that with his support of Sojourners, and yes, I think the logical assumption is that he believes the Wallis model for social welfare to be both competent and Biblical. I find it to be neither.
I do not feel that I was overly harsh in my language or my tone. I do feel that I jumped too far on this point: It is quite likely that Derek is turned off by the Dobsons and Falwells of the world. As I have said countless times on SCO, I am, too. It is also fair to assume that Derek is exploring the need for concern for the fatherless and the widow. Same here. It is possible that he is exploring the Wallis position because he is turned off by the other side and, frankly, who can blame him. Yet I believe, as many Christians have believed, that free markets, when combined with compassionate church and private sector, are the best solutions for ending poverty. I do question whether Derek has considered this or been presented with an articulate model. It is possible he has not been presented with such a model, and it is my failure to consider this for which I apologize. I fear that I was reading into his words something deeper than necessary, but I do find his support of Sojourners troubling.
I do worry about the growth of progressivism among Christians, particularly when I see people like Don Miller and Brian McLaren. Surely God is bigger than the GOP, but when Miller says that the MoveOn.Org and the ACLU are doing “God’s work” (I kid you not), I get more than uncomfortable. One, because I don’t find the statement to be true. Two, the results of that thinking are very unhealthy. Don has redone his website, so those links are no longer present, but I am telling the truth. I realize that there is a new conversation among young believers; I hope to become a part of it. Yet I am troubled that the politics of this conversation seem to be consistently drifting leftward, as though no one has noticed that damage that liberal economics has wrought upon Canada and Europe.
I hope this position makes sense. Though I often disagree with many of these writers (Miller, Lauren Winner, etc.) on theological, political and social matters, I like what they are doing in terms of addressing the new generation. I hope to somehow become a part of this conversation, because I remain worried about much of its implicit political direction.