Sunday, November 23, 2008

Anabaptist Perspective (Ronald Sider) #3: The Logic of Anabaptist Political Engagement

The Logic of Anabaptist Political Engagement
This section is so titled because some say, since every state uses force, that Anabaptist social engagement is logically inconsistent. Sider admits it is unlikely that a pacifist would ever be elected to political office. Yet, their goal is to move people more toward Anabaptist values. This includes holding just war adherents to their own standards, voting for people who are the lesser of two evils, and offering alternatives to war like nonviolent intervention teams for the purpose of reconciliation. Sider agrees God uses governments and force for good at times, but he does not think it ideal and, while the cost may be great, a pacifistic way is to be preferred. Even though force can be used for good, that doesn’t mean it is preferred.

Separating Church and State and ‘Legislating Morality’
Anabaptists are strong supporters of separation of church and state, but they do not argue for a privatization and irrelevance of spiritual beliefs. Our spiritual beliefs shape us and should influence how we engage politically. In a democratic process, our spiritual beliefs should shape our philosophy of what we contend for, but the majority and the process (outside of discrimination) should determine what law is.

From here Sider argues in favor of Bush’ Faith Based Initiative and Clinton’s Charitable Choice legislation arguing that, where church and state values match, they should work together with the understanding that there are things the church does that the state should not – like conversion – and the church should not lose their prophetic voice in the process of cooperation. Still, partnership in common goals is a good thing. This is similar to the Catholic Social Teaching in the first chapter of this book, but the Catholic perspective seems a bit more exhaustive in the roles the church plays.

Some of the critiques pointed to inconsistency in the Anabaptist tradition – first and foremost be a witness as the church, but yet move people politically toward your goals/ends. This has been an interesting enterprise, but better minds than mine need to wade through some details of political theory. One more position – the Social Justice Perspective by J. Philip Wogaman coming soon.

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