Heroism, Hostility and Politics: Part 3, We're All Fundamentalists Now

So, as politics becomes our new hero system--the arena of moral action where we struggle to achieve a meaningful, impactful, and significant life--it will increasingly be plagued by worldview defense, aggression and hostility directed toward those espousing different values and politics than our own. Again, the more politics matters the more violent it will become. As politics replaces religion in a post-Christian world it will increasingly be characterized by holy wars.

And yet, if that's the case, couldn't the same be said of religion itself? Aren't we just trading in one holy war for a different one?

Not exactly. 

People of faith who are historically literate and morally reflective know that religion has and can be a powder keg, a source of social hostility. Consequently, many of us have worked long and hard to notice, confess, critique and resist those impulses within ourselves and our faith communities. We've been on a long journey, from dogmatism and fundamentalism toward a faith that is more tolerant, inclusive, peaceable and generous. 

Take a minute to think about and inventory this journey and work in your own life. All the time you've devoted to make your faith more wise, gentle, welcoming and loving. All the effort.

For many of us, this journey has taken decades, often many decades. And the work is still ongoing.

And now, think of our politics. How many converts to this new post-Christian faith, this ascendant hero system, have invested a similar amount of work in cultivating a more tolerant and generous politics? Have you?

Basically, in this post-Christian world where politics is the new religion, we're all fundamentalists now.

And given that situation, this is what I encouraged that the conclusion of my Fuller Magazine article:

Mature Christians have always recognized that we must be perpetually vigilant and exert enormous energy to excise all traces of bias, hostility, prejudice, intolerance, and hate from our faith. This is a hard, ongoing labor. And it raises the question: Can we claim we’ve done this same work with our politics?

Let me be the first to confess: I have not done this work. As a lifelong follower of Jesus, I have worked very hard to espouse a Christianity that is loving, tolerant, hospitable, and generous. I have not devoted the same amount of emotional and spiritual work to my politics. I have a beautiful faith, but an ugly politics, a politics characterized by tribalism, affective polarization, and worldview defense. And that contrast makes me wonder. What do my emotions, all that affective polarization, reveal about my deepest allegiances? Where is my hero system truly located?

Those questions haunt me during election years.

And so, brothers and sisters, let me call us to some spiritual reflection and labor this election season. Our political holy wars are a sign that something dark is at work in our hearts and nation. I fear that, in our post-Christian world, worldview defense, affective polarization, and tribalism will become our new normal and constant temptations demanding of us an energetic spiritual response. As followers of Jesus, we know what to do. This is a struggle we are familiar with. Our weapons in this battle are the ones we learned in Sunday School. Mercy, self-control, kindness, joy, hope, peace-making, forgiveness, humility, and love. We fight to leaven our faith with these virtues.

Let us leaven our politics as well. 

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