Friday, October 10, 2008

Why Americans Hate Politics - 1

On my last day at TEDS as a student, I spent my last hour on campus in the bookstore browsing for a deal or two. I found several gems - and one of them was the book by E.J. Dionne Jr. - Why Americans Hate Politics.

It's a good book. If you care about politics, about understanding what forces have shaped the current realities of liberalism and conservatism - this is a must read book. There are so many sentences in this book that I've underlined. I must share it with you in the hopes that you will get the book yourself and read and learn. There will likely be many posts on this book. It's that good.

Here's the new emerging questions for me: What is the proper role of government? And how ought a Christian participate in that government? Does the Scriptures envision a Christian government? Could a government be "good" without being created by Christians? Should Christians keep trying to make our government more "Christian?" Should Christians keep trying to influence our government as it is so that the government reflects more Christian values?

Or, should Christians soberly assess the current status of our government, brutally assess how it got here, and think strategically about how our nonChristian government can operate more effectively in our nonChristian country to further its nonChristian goals? (nonChristian doesn't mean antiChristian; nonChristian doesn't mean nonreligious; nonChristian doesn't mean athiest)

It doesn't seem to me that Christians have been that effective in improving the effectiveness of government in our country. Could it be Christians of our generation need to rethink the whole thing? To learn from the past couple of generations and then think through a new course of action for the new century? Somethings need to change...

The central argument of this book is that liberalism and conservatism are framing political issues as a series of false choices. Wracked by contradiction and responsive mainly to the needs of their various constituencies, liberalism and conservatism prevent the nation from settling the questions that most trouble it. - pg 11

Many of the things conservatives bemoan about modern society - a preference for short-term gratification over long-term commitment, the love of things instead of values, a flight from responsibility toward selfishness - result at least in part form the workings of the very economic system that conservatives feel so bound to defend. For conservatives, it is much easier to ignore this dilemma and blame "permissiveness" on "big government" or "the liberals." - pg 13

The liberals often make that easy. Liberals tout themselves as the real defenders of community. They speak constantly about having us share each others' burdens. Yet when the talk moves from economic issues to culture or personal morality, liberals fall strangely mute. Liberals are uncomfortable with the idea that a virtuous community depends on virtuous individuals. - pg 13/14

Over time, when people stop saying things publicly, they stop believing them privately. And when they stop believing them, they will, over time, stop acting on them. - pg 20

The new center I have in mind would prefer problem-solving to symbolism. It would rather govern than polarize the country around contrived themes and empty slogans. it would take the economic challenges the United States seriously as the country took the challenge of totalitarianism.... - pg 27

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