Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The NCC: My Favourite Politicians Part 3

An Opinion By An Old Favourite: Posted By Roland Ray Fulmer III
Although I tend to be pro-moderate on these issues and I enjoyed the presentation in and of itself, I kept having this nagging question - why the NCC?

I guess that I'm doing little more than adding my spin on what Theo, Corban, and Guirguis have already said, but I couldn't see what it had to do with ecumenism. I'm not against the NCC as such, but why not just say it's a "Christians United" organization so that a greater number of Christians can combine for a greater sway on political issues?

As I brought up at the dinner table after class, I'm very skeptical of the idea of religious institutions trying to use as large and cunning an animal as the US government to forward 'Christian agendas'. For one thing I'm not sure that the various institutions involved agree holistically on a single vision enough to promote that vision. As Dr. Stanley Hauerwas says "you have to name the Good in order to seek the Good."

I believe very firmly that when you decide to dance in the political arena, which is indeed necessary on occasion, and especially when you decide to enter the fray as a coalition of semi-partners, it's much more likely that you will end up getting used as an unwitting dupe in some politicians power play than if you remain a sectarian vote that it's understood must be met in order for you to endorse a proposition.

Lastly, let me actually add something to this discussion: I have noticed that there is a trend within leaders at higher-levels in these ecumenical organizations, to try and play 'ecumenical' more than the common people feel ecumenical. For example, notice that the NCCC felt the need to establish a curriculum in order to validate its role to the laity. Should this be necessary if indeed its issues and benefits are such obvious extensions of the faith.

I know that when socially concious Protestants want to do something Christian but not worry too much about theology, social justice issues are always a convenient fallback plan. Just do what we all agree on rather than bringing up differences! But in this case I don't see why we don't limit our social involvement to a smaller but more cohesive group, such as pan-orthodoxy, which represents plenty votes unto itself to be a substantial political lobby, even if only partially mobilized. I feel that organizations such as the NCC often operate outside the radar screen of the general laity, who I believe would question the validity and productiveness of their mission if they knew about them.

The entire Ecumenical endeavor it seems to me presupposes a degree of sameness that I'm not sure we can affirm. In many ways we're choosing to chat and tag-team with groups who I (and many others) consider valid mission territory. I would be more than happy to assist a Presbyterian in converting to Orthodoxy, same with an American Baptist or Episcopalian. I would, in fact, actively encourage it. Such an attitude might strike many as sectarian, but I certainly wouldn't have taken the steps I've had to take for Orthodoxy if I didn't see something in one place that I didn't see somewhere else. But we're supposed to meet and work together? I guess....

It seems to me that most of our devout people are plenty comforatable being a church with a unique identity and vision that supports and removes support for political and sociological causes based on our own understanding of Christ and the Gospel. I can't help but ask this question: Is it that our enlightened leaders are boldly leading the faith without so much as a 'thank you' from the uncomprehending majority, or is it that we're engaged in the entire social justice endeavor so that we're not the "mean" church who gets ridiculed from the outside for not keeping up with the Nelson's in terms of giving and charity.

I ask that not to be sarcastic or rhetorical, but rather because I honestly wonder. Sometimes the church must lead rather than follow the people in the pews, but sometimes it can be guilty of imposing rather than listening to popular values. I think this is an especially dangerous line in politics. reference the CAtholic church where there is almost a dead even split over whether or not to trust the Church's overarching social policy. Our Church, if anyone, shouldn't have to be told the dangers of prioritizing the social, political, and cultural aspects of the faith over preaching the gospel and individual moral responsibility to live it.

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