The Gospel Coalition

When Christians today lament politics, they usually have in mind partisanship that equates faithfulness with voting for one party over the other. They don't necessarily believe we should abstain from politics altogether and abandon our advocacy for the environment, victims of sex trafficking, and the unborn, to offer just three issues arbitrated in the political sphere. So what if you support traditional marriage but oppose most military interventions overseas? Or oppose abortion and support higher taxes on the rich?

I recently sat down in Washington, D.C., with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and talked about the apocalyptic and messianic strains in American politics that direct religious energy into partisan identification. It's not enough in our day to disagree. Politicians must become the Great Enemy or Great Deliverer, Messiah or Antichrist. No wonder so many Christians want to swear off politics altogether. But Douthat explains why withdrawal, while tempting, isn't much of an option for conscience-bound Christians who want to love their neighbors.

Drawing on themes of his new book, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Douthat cites two examples of politicians worth emulating and offers one practical way Christians can be faithfully political without being fatefully partisan.

[audio:http://tgc-audio.s3.amazonaws.com/T4G/Douthat%202.mp3]

Download the eight-minute audio clip.


Comments:

Neil Anderson

May 22, 2012 at 07:34 AM

I appreciate the insight and clear headed thinking of Ross Douthat, yet I am troubled that evangelicals have appeared to embrace him wholeheartedly as they would a regenerated brother in Christ. In a 4/16/2012 interview of Douthat by Sarah Pulliam Baily, posted on the Christianity Today's Website, I found this quote concerning Mr. Douthat.

"Douthat has taken his own personal tour of American Christianity: he was baptized Episcopalian, attended evangelical and Pentecostal churches as a child, and converted to Catholicism at age 17."

So we have an intelligent, engaging, conservative, and culturally aware columnist for the New York Times who openly admits that he has left evangelical Christianity in all its forms and embraced Roman Catholicism. It has been asked before but it bears repeating. Is the Reformation over? Are we to turn our backs on Geneva and once again embrace Rome and Trent?

The subtle underlying suggestion in most of the articles I have read from evangelicals,though for the most part unspoken, is that Ross Douthat is 'one of us'. If that is true based solely upon his shared conservative and cultural views, then the Reformation was a needless blip on the theological landscape.

If returning to Rome is no longer a fulfillment of 1 John 2:19 then it should not required to distinguish a person's cultural critique from his doctrinal beliefs but if 1 John 2:19 is still valid, then caution would demand that such a distinction be made to protect the uncritical readers from assuming too much about Mr. Douthat.

A plea for such caution is the purpose of this post.


Neil Anderson

Neil Anderson

May 22, 2012 at 07:32 AM

I appreciate the insight and clear headed thinking of Ross Douthat, yet I am troubled that evangelicals have appeared to embrace him wholeheartedly as they would a regenerated brother in Christ. In a 4/16/2012 interview of Douthat by Sarah Pulliam Baily, posted on the Christianity Website, I found this quote concerning Mr. Douthat.

"Douthat has taken his own personal tour of American Christianity: he was baptized Episcopalian, attended evangelical and Pentecostal churches as a child, and converted to Catholicism at age 17."

So we have an intelligent, engaging, conservative, and culturally aware columnist for the New York Times who openly admits that he has left evangelical Chrisianity in all its forms and embraced Roman Catholicism. It has been asked before but it bears repeating. Is the Reformation over? Are we to turn our backs on Geneva and once again embrace Rome & Trent?

The subtle underlying suggestion in most of the articles from evangelicals,though for the most part unspoken, is that Ross Douthat is 'one of us'. If that is true based solely upon his shared conservative and cultural views, then the Reformation was a needless blip on the theological landscape.

If returning to Rome is no longer a fulfillment of 1 John 2:19 then it should not required to distinguish a person's cultural critique from his doctrinal beliefs but if 1 John 2:19 is still valid, then caution would demand that such a distiction be made to protect the readers from assuming too much about Mr. Douthat.

A plea for such caution is the purpose of this post.


Neil Anderson

Stephen

May 22, 2012 at 02:31 PM

Part of Douthat's thesis is that Protestants AND Catholics would be well served to return to our confessional traditions. I think he would agree that the subjective religion of personal fulfillment that has turned us into a "nation of heretics" is just as evident in American Catholicism as it is in American evangelicalism. As a confessional Presbyterian I find much to agree with in Douthat's diagnosis of contemporary Christianity in the West.

Robert

May 21, 2012 at 09:36 AM

Collin,

Thanks for sharing these comments from Mr. Douthat. Do you have plans to release more from the interview?

Links and Thinks | Gospel Grace

May 21, 2012 at 09:19 AM

[...] When I was in law school I was also heavily involved in conservative politics. After leaving to become a stay-at-home-mom, I did something which at the time I thought was good for my physical and mental health, I withdrew completely. I’ve come to see lately that this was probably not the best course of action, nor was it a good example to my children. So with that background I recommend this interview that Collin Hansen had with New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on how committed conscientious Christians can care about real issues (e.g. abortion, sex trafficking, environment) without falling prey to partisan politics, How to Be Political But Not Partisan [...]

MF

May 21, 2012 at 08:08 PM

Yes, good stuff! Let's hear the whole thing!