Sunday, May 5, 2013

Faith, Politics, Revolutionary Rhetoric: A Minor Musing

On Friday, Ed Kilgore made some important points the "right of revolution" and "taking a prophetic stance."

First, Kilgore correctly points out that revolutionary rhetoric should not considered normal political discourse: 
". . . what bugs me is that revolutionary sentiments that should be reserved for extraordinarily rare and dire situations are being made part of routine, day-to-day politics by large elements of the Right.
Second, taking up the role of prophet should also be done sparingly.
[I]n the Judeo-Christian tradition one who takes a prophetic stance believes the moral and spiritual conditions of a society have become so depraved that the faithful are obliged to step outside the normal bounds of civility and respect for authority and call down the righteous wrath of God. Taking a prophetic stance is by definition exceptional; occasionally essential, but always spiritually as well as politically dangerous. And that is why true prophets are so greatly honored, and false prophets are so feared and despised.
Kilgore concludes,
So yes, there is a moral “right to revolution” just as there is a moral obligation to take a “prophetic stance” on extremely rare occasions (particularly in a country like the United States, with its many avenues for free speech and activism). When either becomes just another lever of political or cultural conflict, it quite naturally elevates the stakes to the level of virtual warfare, dehumanizing the “enemy,” and debasing all discourse.
I grew up in a Protestant tradition that emphasized the 5 solas although I don't recall ever hearing that term from the pulpit. The congregation was composed of good country stock and would have been a bit suspicious of someone mentioning any Latin term. I suspect some of the deacons would have sternly cleared their throats and angrily raised their eyebrows if someone had indicated that proper Latin plural is "solae."

The pastors of my youth frequently reminded us that we were imperfect human beings who saw "through a glass darkly." They ironically thundered the need to hear a "still small voice" and the need to be certain that one discerned that voice correctly. Occasionally, the pastors or the Sunday School teacher referenced another Christian denomination that engaged in a few too many rituals for their taste, put statues on the church walls, caused public school students eat fish sticks for school lunch every Friday, and had a leader who claimed to be infallible in matters of faith. That claim caused much consternation whenever it was mentioned. (I think most of the church leaders enjoyed fish sticks.)

Now, however, I hear and read many who must have sat in similar pews and heard similar sermons or Sunday School lessons assert a prophetic infallibility. According to these believers, true believers must see one political party as a threat to freedom at best and a collective that shields and enables the Anti-Christ at worst.

Kilgore rightly points out that the United States maintains many mundane avenues to influence those in power. There will be many elections between now and the need for revolution. Perhaps, the political prophets should drop the pretense of infallibility and  remember Isaiah 55..

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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