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February 12, 2005

Christians and First Principles

I'm not a huge fan of what we traditionally call "Christian" music. I don't have much against it; I'm just picky. A lof of my favorite bands are full of believers; Over the Rhine, mewithoutYou, Pedro the Lion, the Innocence Mission, Damien Jurado. I was a pretty big fan of Caedmon's Call in high school and my freshman year of college, right before I developed a ridiculous jazz and blues fetish. (This is going somewhere - I promise.) So when I started hearing some mp3s of Derek Webb (former CC singer) and reading interviews, I liked what I heard and read. He's going to be in town in a few weeks for a free show, so I'll definitely be there.

This morning I was checking out his website. The links page was full of good stuff until I saw the link to Sojourners.

I'm not one who believes that a commitment to Biblical Christianity forces us to make a lifelong commitment to either the political Right or the Left as they exist right now in America. And I'm not calling Jim Wallis a heretic or anything of that sort. But I know where Wallis's ideas lead, and that's straight to the Democrats. And something about the way it's done really bothers me.

So here's my question for my colleagues and our readers:

Do Chritians in America today - Catholics and Protestants - believe in First Principles as a matter of politics? Not regarding theology or philosophy; a huge swath of us do. I'm talking about our views on economics, foreign affairs, public policy. Do we believe in First Principles that are transcendent to every society? My fear is that we don't. What do you think?

For more on the definition of First Principles, see here and here. Yes, I realize that those links are to conservative sites. if liberalism had any cogent body of philosophy outside of Foucault and Rousseau, I might have something work with. Jim Wallis might also have something to defend.

Posted by Matt at February 12, 2005 11:02 AM

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Tracked on February 12, 2005 10:26 PM


I don't disagree with all of the "first principles". Neither do I completely agree.

Not all of them are transcendent to every society. If you really believe this, you need to travel a little more.

Although there is some truth there, in their entirety, they have nothing to do with what defines Biblical Christianity.

Posted by: Ray Grieselhuber at February 12, 2005 01:34 PM

This is getting to be a difficult issue for me. I am trying to train myself to accept that there are people who share my faith, and share my worldview, who come out different places than I do.

Wallis has done a lot more than talk. I give him credit for staying with his commitment to community and prophetic speaking to social issues. And I probably need to remember that a lot of these folks look at the GOP and they don't see compassion, they see the Powerful. They see money. They see corporations. And they feel they can't identify with it. They believe the liberal agenda identifies with Jesus in ways the conservative one doesn't, particularly as regards the poor.

If I were Derek Webb, and I listened to a lot of talk radio, I would probably say, "I many agree with these people of abortion and gay marriage, but beyond that...they're mean."

I heard Falwell say yesterday that no Christian could vote for Kerry. He of course means abortion and gay marriage. Donald Miller says the conservative Christian adherence to the GOP over those two issues alone- and you and I know that is the case with a lot of people- isn't going to last with the next generation. I think he's right.

My head hurts.

Posted by: iMonk at February 12, 2005 07:26 PM

Ray, re: your comment on travel. Very apt. I haven't traveled a lot, but I have had foreign Christians stay with me. These people love the Lord and are Spirit lead - the one's I've run into from England, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan could be described as practically socialist.

Monk, I would probably leave the Republican party if the Democratic party would moderate their tone on abortion, family, national defense, the role of Church and State, social security, etc (in order of importance).

Lot's of things have to change within that party though, so I don't expect to be leaving any time soon. Why center-left conservatives like myself (environment, race relations, tax policy, housing, etc) do not advocate more strongly for changes within the Republican Party on these issues beats me. I suppose its because most Republicans really do fit the stereotype - they are mean, greedy, and love power. Who knows though, I think the left elite are those things too.

Posted by: Rick Brady at February 12, 2005 08:17 PM

Rick - the term "center-left conservative" is a misnomer. After the issues you mentioned, what's left?

Posted by: Matt at February 12, 2005 09:14 PM

The Ten Conservative Principles are principles that I think I have believed and adhered to without having them laid out in so many words. I believe that the State should not be in the business of welfare. The business of the Government is first and foremost to protect its citizens from other nations who would do us harm. I believe that the Evangelical Church as a whole actually bears the burden of taking care of the needy and poor. God calls us to tithe 10% of our income which can be a tremendous amount given the number of people attending church today. I don't know what the numbers are on tithing but I would venture to guess that less than half of the churchgoing population tithes and probably less than 10% volunteer their time. We are all called to service in some way and there are more opportunities available at every church than anyone knows. It's a sad but more than likely true statement that at any church 90% of the work gets done by 10% of the people. If we in the church took up our responsibility instead of getting caught up in our material society that keeps even Christians running after the wind, there would be no need for government welfare.

Posted by: Ryan Scott at February 13, 2005 10:03 AM


Too many churches spend the majority of their money making the pews soft and comfy. Tithing doesn't solve the problem either. People are selfish - including/especially Christians. Find a church with 1000s of people in a rich neighborhood that meet in a gym and sit on stained and broken chairs and you will find a church that spends its money helping people.

Posted by: Rick Brady at February 13, 2005 12:37 PM

Too many churches spend the majority of their money making the pews soft and comfy. Tithing doesn't solve the problem either. People are selfish - including/especially Christians. Find a church with 1000s of people in a rich neighborhood that meet in a gym and sit on stained and broken chairs and you will find a church that spends its money helping people.


Posted by: Ray Grieselhuber at February 13, 2005 06:18 PM

I know at our church when we have to have new construction the money doesn't come from tithes. It comes from gifts above and beyond. They specifically ask that people give above their normal tithe. A church doesn't have to be run down and trashed to be a church that helps those in need. Our church is very nice, but I know that they are active in many many programs helping people. And it still isn't the governments responsibility to care for everyone if the church doesn't, it is still on the heads of the church if they don't follow God's mandate...

Posted by: Ryan Scott at February 14, 2005 02:51 AM