Politics, Religion, and Hart

I confess: I’m not bent towards politics in the least.  I vote, obey the government best I can, and pray for those in authority over me.  I wore the Green willingly for six years, and I have read stuff by Thomas Paine, Dwight Eisenhower, and a just few more such American political figures.  But that’s as far my political mind goes.

From a theological side, though, the interaction between the gospel and Western culture fascinates me.  I’ve enjoyed Newbigin lately (which you know if you follow us here at all), who is as provocative as he is edifying.  Another helpful book I recently finished is Darryl Hart’s A Secular Faith (Chicago: Ivan R Dee, 2006).

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  One of the first big statements that caught my eye was this: “The basic teachings of Christianity (my note: think Apostle’s Creed) are virtually useless for resolving America’s political disputes, thus significantly reducing, if not eliminating, the dilemma of how to relate Christianity and American politics” (p. 11).

Another such statement that I pondered was this one: “The trick of successfully employing any faith for public ends is to have access to the socially useful parts of religion while leaving behind its dogmatic and sectarian baggage” (p. 13).  In other words, “…efforts to use Christianity for public or political ends fundamentally distort the Christian religion because it is essentially an otherworldly faith” (p. 16).

Again, though I’m no politician, I do wince when politicians use religious garb to either make themselves look religious or to bathe their talk with “spirituality.”  I wince when Christians equate a certain political position with the Creed.  I believe Hart is right: this kind of stuff sucks the creedal core out of Christianity and leaves one with a shell of moralism.

I’ll interact with this book more later, along with D.A. Carson’s Christ and Culture Revisited and a few other Newbigin books.  Stay tuned!

shane lems

sunnyside wa

2 Replies to “Politics, Religion, and Hart”

  1. I just couldn’t put Hart down! This was really an amazing read. I was just rereading some sections the other night and thought about doing a post or two. Nice to know we’re intuiting the same sorts of stuff!!! {grin}


  2. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while. Like you, it really annoys me when politicians use religious language to make themselves sound more spiritual. What’s crazy it seems to actually work for a lot of them, which is I guess why they do it. It also drives me nuts to hear people equate various theological views with different political views, as if you’re Episcopalian you must be a Democrat or if you’re Baptist you must be a Republican, when so many times this is not the case at all. It’s especially bad when churches themselves start insisting on promoting various political positions from the pulpit. My parents ended up leaving one Baptist church partly over the fact that the church was as obsessed about being Republican as it was about the gospel. It’s not that they necessarily disagreed with the politics, but it’s simply not the role of the church to be promoting particular political parties. I don’t know why this is so hard for people to get a grasp on though! I think the truth is, a lot of us hold to our political convictions even more dearly than we do our religious ones. Which, when you think about it, is really idolatry!


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