Friday, 26 December 2008

American Christianity and politics

I recently came across this speech that Obama gave a couple of years back to a Christian group and I think it points up a trend in the influence of Christianity on US politics. One of the guys Obama mentions, Jim Wallis, was a prime mover in a delegation of US churchmen who visited Tony Blair before the Iraq war and attempted to persuade him not to jump.

My reading (from 3000 miles away) of what has happened in the US in recent years is that the Democratic party has been dominated by a secular fundamentalism which attempts to ban any reference to God in public life (e.g. the language checker in our American HR software which objects to "Christmas" and suggests "holiday" instead). This has (unsurprisingly) driven many Christians into the arms of people like Falwell and through them, the Republicans. This support has in turn been used to shore up an increasingly theocratic regime which (probably mistakenly rather than cynically) confuses America and the Kingdom of God.

I think what is interesting is that we might be at a tipping point. Even the most honey-tongued televangelist must be running out of ways of persuading anyone who has actually read the Sermon on the Mount that the current Republican executive maps onto Jesus's blueprint for human relationships! I am fascinated that Obama sounds like he thinks along the same lines as Wallis.

To make it work, I think Christians have to persuade rather than pronounce; if for example they want to lower the rate of abortions for social reasons, to provide arguments that the secular humanist can subscribe to, rather than just expecting them to accede to a Christian viewpoint. The secular humanists meanwhile have to drop this absurd notion that religion and politics don't mix and give Christians and other religious believers the space to express themselves in theological terms on the public stage as King (and indeed Lincoln) did.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Christmas stamps

I was told that the UK Post Office were offering a mixture of secular and Christian stamp designs this Christmas. This seemed odd to me given the nature of Christmas as a Christian festival (it would seem pretty weird to print secular stamps for Ede, Hanukkah or Diwali).

However I didn't mind very much so long as I could get Christian designs. When I tried to purchase some stamps 6 days before Christmas though, I was told that my local Post office had long since run out of the Christian designs. Since when does a post office run out of stamps? And what are those small-minded enough to object to a Christian festival doing sending Christmas cards anyway? Christmas without the Christian bit seems to make as much sense as a rock concert without music.