The Common Good

A Call to Transform Politics

Date: September 6, 2012

Someone asked me recently what I thought of something "as a member of the Christian Left." My insides tightened and screeched into a ball. It was as if Freddy Krueger had run his sharpened fingernails across the black board in history class. Christian Left? Left of what? When did I sign that membership card?

Maybe it's the title of my last book, "Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics," which was co-written with a Tea-Partier who is also an evangelical Christian. The book does frame me as the one on the left, but if you read my chapters you'll see that is not my mind or my heart.

In times like these, when politicians are sweating to sway voters to their side, or frame their opponents as the polar opposite -- the enemy -- it is tempting to begin to define ourselves and each other through the frame of politics. We place each other in convenient little political boxes -- boxes not made by scripture or the church, but by politicians and the media.

The political "left" and "right," Dems and GOPers, Progressives and Conservatives claim to stand on fixed points of impervious truth on a linear spectrum that stretches across a horizontal plane from pole to pole. The spectrum's fixed middle marks the permanent philosophical and political "center." And politicians conveniently cry that political party is synonymous with political philosophy. It does not work this way and has never worked this way. Rather politics' center point is mercurial and its far left and right philosophical boundaries move with the ages. Parties and platforms flip philosophies and shape-shift to match the ethos of the age.