Now available online is byFaith magazine’s article on politics and Christianity, The Political Gap That Divides Generations.
Don’t miss the podcast interview at the end of the article in which Richard Doster and Greg Thompson (pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Va.) discuss politics and the generational and cultural factors that divide Christians.
The article seemed a bit condescending toward people in the church who value moral issues over government social policies that have only done harm to the lower class.
It’s especially troubling that a PCA pastor is quoted in the article that “Obama embodies the ethic of tolerance.” His voting record on abortion does not embody the ethic of tolerance.
I think it’s important to note that the statement from Greg Thompson was part of a very specific context. The writer had posed the question:
-If Kim’s vote for Obama is part of a trend, what might account for the move of young evangelicals like her to the Democratic Party?-
In seeking to offer some insight as to why this might be true, Greg answered:
-This generation has experienced pluralization like no other, agrees Greg Thompson, senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Charlottesville, Va. “Tolerance has become the dominant social ethic.” Therefore, the younger generation has a different view toward other nations and those with other belief systems. He explains, “Whereas fighting the ‘bad guy’ made total sense to those growing up during the Cold War, this generation values diplomacy. They say, ‘We have to live at peace with others.’” For Thompson, who is also pursuing a Ph.D. in religion and politics at the University of Virginia, this cultural shift explains the appeal of Obama among younger Christians. “It’s about ethos, not policy,” he says. “Obama embodies the ethic of tolerance.”-
Thompson was not espousing a political view, but was offering a diagnostic as to why a portion of young evangelicals might have made a political shift.
I must disagree. First of all, I never stated that Thompson was espousing a political view. I only said it was troubling that he is quoted as saying “Obama embodies the ethic of tolerance.”
Furthermore, from what is written, it is a jump to say that he was only offering a diagnostic of why young evangelicals have made a political shift. If he is doing so, the writer does not make that clear at all. It appears that he thinks “Obama embodies the ethic of tolerance” and that is why Obama appeals to young evangelicals. So it remains troubling.
May I ask for a definition of “tolerance”? Once upon a time it meant “How you treat someone you disagree with.” In popular usage it often means “What you think or say about what someone else believes.”
Which do you think Greg Thompson had in mind in his statement? Or was he espousing yet another view of tolerance?
This dialogue made me think of Phyllis McGinley’s poem, “The Angry Man”:
The other day I chanced to meet
An angry man upon the street —
A man of wrath, a man of war,
A man who truculently bore
Over his shoulder, like a lance,
A banner labeled “Tolerance.”
And when I asked him why he strode
Thus scowling down the human road,
Scowling, he answered, “I am he
Who champions total liberty —
Intolerance being, ma’am, a state
No tolerant man can tolerate.
“When I meet rogues,” he cried, “who choose
To cherish oppositional views,
Lady, like this, and in this manner,
I lay about me with my banner
Till they cry mercy, ma’am.” His blows
Rained proudly on prospective foes.
Fearful, I turned and left him there
Still muttering, as he thrashed the air,
“Let the Intolerant beware!”
The poet seems to capture accurately that those who most purport to champion tolerance in public discourse are often in fact not very tolerant of those whom they deem intolerant.
To address Greg’s (Grooms, not Thompson) question, it seems to me that Mr. Thompson’s use of the term “tolerance” most nearly means the uncritical acceptance of views that diverge from traditional norms, particularly where those norms take the form of “good vs. bad” judgments. It is unclear to me whether this sort of “tolerance” is a two-way street, as it certainly does not appear to mandate the uncritical acceptance by the “tolerant” of the views of the supposedly intolerant.
For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with Craig about the article’s somewhat condescending tone (e.g. broadly accusing anti-Obama evangelicals of giving “trite answers to multi-dimensional problems” and “oversimplifying the issues”). I do, however, agree with Mr. Thompson that the phenomenon the article discusses is “about ethos, not policy.” Of course, it’s the tricky business of translating ethos into policy that will be interesting to watch in the coming months and years.
I agree Peter,
It seems the actual generation gap is the distance between ethos and logos.
…but ethos has always made better TV…
I pray that the Church can avoid this chasm.
Would it be safer to say that Obama is less unappealing than many of his political rivals?
Also, social issues are moral issues are social issues, etc.
Regarding tolerance, I remember Keller saying that the world’s version of tolerance involves respect for another’s ideas, even if you don’t actually respect that person. The Christian version is respect for the person, even if you don’t respect their ideas. You’re actually allowed to disrespect another’s ideas and see what happens. I think those are pretty profound differences.
I read Thompson’s statement that Obama “embodies the ethic of tolerance” to mean that Obama has claimed the rhetorical high ground in contemporary issues. Like the Iraq war. Abortion, unfortunately, is not a major issue for most people anymore and serious opposition is a radioactive position – which is why Republicans are turning down the volume on that issue or ignoring it altogether.
What really needs to happen is for the church to be the church again, because issues like abortion are far too important to be left to largely irrelevant political types, whether they’re wearing red or blue ties.