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The Bloody Trap of Faith and Politics

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[todaysdate]

By Eric Blauer

“It’s a trap!” -Admiral Ackbar, Return of the Jedi

Jesus coined that iconic meme when the pharisees tried to trap him in a ‘faith and politics’ question.

Matthew 22:15-22:
“Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply amazed them, and they went away.”

Unfortunately a lot of dialogue that is centered around faith and politics is more concerned about catching or condemning than constructive contemplation. Our cultural conversations are more like well planned snares meant to catch opponents and publicly skin them than opportunities to listen, reason, debate and learn from different people and perspectives.

I’ve grown up in conservative evangelical circles and have been caught up in various strong issue undertows that have always been present in these communities. I’ve watched people’s faith drown, or witnessed others get dragged way out to sea by matters of personal conscience that have been reframed as cultural icebergs that threatened to sink the moral majority.

I’m also old enough to have witnessed ‘sneaker waves’ sweep in and do a lot of personal and cultural damage in a short amount of time.

There is important and critical work to be done by people of faith in the matters related to shaping our personal lives, families, places of worship and communities. I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘if’ we should do it, I think it’s an issue of ‘how’ we engage it.

Triumphalism and syncretism are preferred methods today. Political profiteers, doomsday prophets, hit hungry bloggers and the long privileged  pious force the public to fight in the arenas. The onlookers want battles and once again the ancient symbol of blood lust is present in our cultural colosseums: thumbs up or thumbs down. With a few clicks of a mouse we praise or pronounce death on those we like or loathe.

We really don’t need more gladiators, what we desperately need is more gracious debaters who can see people as well as positions. We must get free from the idea that freedom is only gained by killing our opponents.

Our goal is to expand our communities not shrink them down to a living room table of people who only think, talk, worship, eat and vote like us. If you look around and only see homogeneous homies than you’re caught in a trap and it’s time to break free.

Join SpokaneFAVS for its next Coffee Talk on “Religion and Politics” at 10 a.m. Nov. 1 at Indaba Coffee/The Book Parlor, 1425 W. Broadway Ave. Blauer is a panelist.

Eric Blauer

About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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3 comments

  1. Really love this post. Thanks Eric!

  2. Love this: “Our goal is to expand our communities not shrink them down to a living room table of people who only think, talk, worship, eat and vote like us. If you look around and only see homogeneous homies than you’re caught in a trap and it’s time to break free.”

  3. I whole heartedly agree with the last paragraph. We need to pay close attention to how we comment on politics, and engage in controversial dialogue, for we are all equal and no one has a “divine edge” over another. But Eric, I really take offense to many of the terms you use in the middle paragraph that starts out with the fair, but undefined terms “triumphalism and syncretism” and then dips into cesspool of terms that are slung at people who are not defined. I suspect you are referring to people who have ideas opposing yours. True, some times, but often not. Often, in these posts, I have offered counter examples and legitimate criticisms, only to have similar terms thrown my way, with no intellectual or academic engagement. I have done the same, but try not to. A little of that is inevitable. We must guard against that base emotional response, which in no way furthers understanding, by responding in a more academic manner. Or professional, one that offers evidence and data. More of that is needed, more discussion. A good argument, and I mean good, negates much emotionalism. Then, maybe we can return to discussing the issues and not worry so much about how.
    And Eric, I don’t find you guilty of doing what I’ll next say. I find that many who say religion must be separated from politics are the ones privileged to live in an environment that supports them at the expense of others who are wanting change. Silence supports the status quo. so, I don’t object to loud complaints. Religion and politics have large common erias. I do draw the line at using to church environment to endorse specific candidates or laws, unless it is clear that these candidates or laws prevent discussion.

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