Monday, October 23, 2006

Me, a Liberal?

Today, Slate magazine mentioned my post on my belief--shared with Huffington Post blogger Steve Clemons--that Senator Barack Obama's consideration of a White House run is really a run at the 2008 Democratic vice presidential nomination. In doing this, Slate writer Sonia Smith referred to me as "liberal Mark Daniels."

Where Smith got the idea that I'm a liberal, I don't know. Any more than I know where one blogger a few years ago--I can't find the link right now--described me as "very right wing."

Theologically, I would describe myself as being a confessional Lutheran with a reverential attitude toward Scripture that some might say is conservative. (I would agree with them.) But I loathe the Pharisaic politics of people like Jerry Fallwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson. They don't represent my views theologically...or politically.

I'm generally opposed to the politicization of the Gospel which leads, almost inevitably, to an idolatry of ideology that subordinates Jesus Christ to a particular political agenda. This is as much a problem on the Christian Left as it is on the Right which is why, while acknowledging that Jim Wallis is a bright guy, I don't like his political ministry either.

With rare exceptions, I don't beleive it's possible to draw straight lines from Biblical faith to specific political ideas. That's why, unless I feel that the Bible leads to a clear perspective, I almost never comment on political issues. As a pastor, I don't want to risk conveying a "Thus saith the Lord" message about my personal politics. (Which is why I regret having run for political office two years ago.)

I do write about politics and about political history, two topics of absorbing interest to me since I was a little kid. (Yeah, I was a dork. Probably still am.)

So, am I a conservative, am I a liberal, am I a moderate, or am I a libertarian? My politics are of the more moderately conservative ilk, but I've never voted a straight ticket in my life.

I really don't get into that sort of thing here, though. I don't believe that God is a Republican or a Democrat. Or an American, for that matter.

One of the unfortunate characteristics of contemporary politics is its lack of nuance. Political operatives like stuffing those they deem as opponents into well-defined cubbyholes. Doing so is a lazy-eyed approach to debate that frees the labeler from actually thinking about things. In contemporary politics, there are black hats and white hats. Once you've identified a person as being one or the other from your perspective, they become forever after saints or thugs.

Politicians, radio hosts, and mainstream pundits are guilty of this political amblyopia, to be sure. Unfortunately, it appears even more prevalent among those of us in new media, often not as a way of tarring and feathering others, but as a way of foregoing thought. We have become so addicted to the speed of discourse which the Internet allows that we speak in label codes that convey stereotypes without information.

I don't accuse the Slate writer of anything sinister in calling me a liberal. She isn't sullying my reputation. I don't consider liberal to be a bad word, any more than I consider conservative, moderate, or mainstream to be bad ones. (In the interest of honest self-disclosure though, I must confess that I'm not keen on libertarianism, though some of what I've said about "gay marriage" may be interpreted as libertarian, I suppose.)

I just wonder on what slender thread of evidence a person who may not have read anything I've written ever before decided to append the adjective liberal to me?

And it makes me wonder on what slender threads of evidence I myself have inaccurately labeled people?

[This was cross-posted at]

[THANKS TO: Brad Hightower for linking to this post.]

[There are interesting--and funny--comments on this piece over at The link.]


John said...

I don't believe that God is a Republican or a Democrat. Or an American, for that matter.

Great post Mark, I am just so thankful that He is God! Praise His wonderful name.

Be encouraged.

Mark Daniels said...

Coming from you, those words mean a lot to me. God bless you!


NormaC said...

Mark: I admit to being a liberal. With that starting point, I can only imagine that Sonia Smith reacted in the same fashion as I might: If you say something positive about a Democrat, you must lean Left.

Simple-minded? Yes. Convenient and careless? Yes. There's no argument that we use labels and tags with impunity. But laziness is only a small part of it. Quite a bit of it is emotional reflex, thanks to the Right.

The sytematic assault on the Left is well-documented in David Brock's The Republican Noise Machine. If you haven't read it, you must. Coupled with David Kuo's Tempting Faith, you will see where we are and why.

(I linked to you from Martian.Anthropologist after your excellent comment.)


Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave your comments.

Blessings in Christ,

chr_426 said...

Why do you loathe James Dobson? He has been very influential in the passage of legislation that reflects Christian values. I see nothing hypocritical concerning his actions. I agree that Pat Robertson might be considered an extremist and some of his comments are hideous. However, some of his commentary might need to be considered prophetic. Also, why the loathing for Falwell? These people are involved in politics, but do not always endorse the Republicans. It just so happens that currently the Republicans are generally more in line with our positions than the Democrats. I think some of these three people's comments can sometimes be political, but for the most part, their involvement in politics is only to spread God's Word and instill Christian values in our country.

Mark Daniels said...

I don't loathe the persons you cite. I said that I loathe their politics, as I do that of liberal Christians like Jim Wallis.

We are all entitled to be involved with politics.

We are not entitled to say that our politics has the imprimatur of God.

Nor are we entitled to subordinate Christ to our own preferred political philosophies.

I am far more interested in helping people know Christ than I am in instilling my own version of Christian values in government policies. For one thing, I may very well be wrong about what constitutes the values God prefers seeing pursued in government policy. For another, if more people are Christians and God is guiding them, policy is more likely to be sound and God-pleasing. Such policies may not always meet with the approval of Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis, but that's not important.

One last point: In the early years of his ministry, Dobson was wonderful. He combined the insights of Scripture with those of psychology. He exercised great positive influence on my wife and me as we raised our children. I think that his positive influence on families has dissipated as his political involvement has increased.