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Resisting labels

"Resisting labels" Continued...

Issue: "Senate wars over judges," May 14, 2005

SIDER: In my chapter in Toward an Evangelical Public Policy I make it very clear that in a fallen world, centralized, unbalanced power is always dangerous. So I favor limited government. But that does not mean libertarianism. I develop a biblical argument that the king (government) is called by God to do justice for the poor. The key Hebrew words (mishphat and zedeqah) refer to both fair legal systems and fair economic systems where everybody has access to the productive resources so that if they act responsibly they can earn their own way and be dignified members of society.

What I want is a limited government that uses effective structural measures that discourage dangerous concentration of wealth in a few hands. I would have thought that conservatives would be worried about the current situation in the U.S. where the richest 1 percent have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. I also favor wise structural measures (for example, Pell grants) that strengthen everybody's access to productive resources.

WORLD: Your Sojourners colleague Jim Wallis also has a bestselling book, God's Politics. Both of you call for a combination of conservative theology and liberal politics. Given, as you say, that liberals drove out Christians with their aggressive secularism, how would such an alliance be possible?

SIDER: I do not call for "conservative theology and liberal politics."

As an evangelical, I do subscribe wholeheartedly to historic orthodox theology. But when it comes to politics, labels do not fit me very well. On issues of abortion, euthanasia, family and marriage, the label "conservative" is accurate for me. When it comes to health care, overcoming racism, and overcoming poverty, the label "progressive or liberal" often fits. But I have absolutely no commitment to ideologies of left or right. I am unconditionally committed to Jesus Christ and biblical authority. And I try to get the best, most objective socioeconomic data I can find.

WORLD: What is the religious left's strategy to gain electoral victory?

SIDER: I am not a part of some "religious left" and have no interest in seeing it gain electoral victory.

WORLD: Democratic Party leaders seem eager to gain votes by adopting some of the rhetoric of the evangelical left. Christian conservatives are frequently asked if they feel the Republican Party is "using" them; how are pro-abortion Democrats using your work?

SIDER: Political parties use us when we uncritically identify with one party and fail to critique its failures on the basis of a biblically balanced agenda. I wish evangelicals who endorse the Republican Party would be far more vocal in promoting a biblically balanced concern for economic justice, creation care, and racial justice in the Republican Party.

If all the Democrats do in their current soul-searching about the 2004 election is adopt a bit of religious and moral rhetoric, I will be among the first to denounce this as superficial hypocrisy. What I hope the Democratic Party does is genuinely move to the center on issues of family, marriage, the sanctity of human life, and the importance of faith-based organizations in overcoming social problems. I wish Democrats would support substantive measures to restrict abortion and strengthen wholesome two-parent families and the historic understanding of marriage.

My norm will always be: How does a biblically balanced agenda call me to critique and challenge every political party and ideology? Jesus alone is my Lord.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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