Sunday, July 11, 2004

Political Activism

Years ago I read the book Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. They talked about in one chapter that liberals are those who have new ideas and conservatives are those who stand for the old ideas and test the new ones. In a sense, both are necessary. So an innovator is a liberal, for instance Newt Gingrich is an innovator, though he be right wing in his political persuasion. Also, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell are actually innovators, not conservatives. In the 1980's when the conservative Christian community started getting involved in politics, they were innovators. (Politically conservative that is.) Especially in the fundamentalists circles, Jerry Falwell was a real liberal. He was actually trying to be a part of the process in America. With his Fundamentalist style, he thought he would become a part of the solution. America said no by and large. His innovation was by and large a failure.

Another segment of the conservative Christian political movement in the 80's, the pro-life movement, decided that it should adopt the same techniques as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil disobedience. This adaptation of Ghandi and Dr. Kings techniques also failed by and large. The civil disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr. was not blessed because he was such a skilled leader, because he used the right techniques. He may have been a great leader, but the righteousness of his cause was really what made his role in history so important in the civil rights movement. God did NOT bless his efforts because he protested the right way, but because the African-American community was (is) oppressed. Civil leaders in our US government were not totally impressed with his techniques, but his cause. They knew several power issues were at stake. They could have attempted to continue to surprise the cause. Instead they choose to quit opposing the civil rights movement. When the Christian-Fundamentalist community looked for roles after which to model their own community involvement, they could not look to anyone who was a part of the system. The pro-lifers were by and large Fundametalists and Pentecostals were outsiders to the political process. Martin Luther King could be pointed to as a successful outsider. So they adopted his model as their model for enacting social change. But the civil leaders in the 80's were not duped by the use of civil disobedience. Pointing to Dr. King and being willing to suffer just did not cut it. The debate about abortion was still on going. (I'm fully pro-life, however, I see the issue is indeed complex.) The pro-life movement lost their innovation of using political activism. Losing the period of Christian activism in the 80's also showed the sovereignty of God. His hand of providence did not falling short.

What can we say we learned by the failure of Christian activism in the 80's?

1. We need the grace of God, not activisim techniques which show the strength of man.
2. God limits our power.
3. God does not work on our schedule.
4. Most political leaders expect people to make the system work.
5. Most people expect people to make the system work.
6. Strident tones in discussion gives people indigestion.
7. The opponents of righteousness will attempt to dress up their cause as righteous too.

Comments welcome.
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