Friday, October 13, 2006

The Nancy Conversation

The most interesting part about last weekend at Zoe was a conversation I had with recently published author Nancy French. I had run across her name because she is the sister of Zoe-er Amy Westerman. Amy had linked to Nancy's blog when she announced that Nancy's book was being published.

I had done a blogsearch for Zoe on Friday night and hit Nancy's blog which happened to be about Zoe and the Season 3 premiere of Battlestar Galactica. I commented and then mentioned to Amy that I'd really like to meet her sister, since I talk with very few people in real life about the masterpiece that is Battlestar Galatica.

Saturday, while eating lunch with TCS and his wife, Amy introduced us and we had some good talk about BSG. Knowing how conservative she is, I asked her what she thought about BSG is presenting an insurgency with suicide bombers, similar to what's going on in Iraq. From there the conversation veered sharply into politics. Nancy gave me her Evangelicals for Mitt card, and I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the term "Evangelical" and gave the Dallas Willard definition of post-evangelical, i.e. "post-evangelicalism is by no means ex-evangelicalism... post-evangelicals are evangelicals, perhaps tenaciously so. However, post-evangelicals have also been driven to the margins by some aspects of evangelical church culture with which they cannot honestly identify." Nancy mentioned something about how emerging people were soft.

Now I might have pushed her buttons a little bit by jokingly accusing Dick Cheney and Karl Rove of being evil and asking if she got talking points from them. What became interesting about the conversation was that it really showed me how I can honestly see both sides of the political argument. One of Nancy's big causes is the right of Christians to speak freely on college campuses. There's a big thing going on with colleges kicking off evangelical groups like Intervarsity off. In fact, here's a story about the University of Wisconsin that Nancy's husband is suing. I understand a desire for Christians to be able to speak freely, and I also think that that right should be preserved for Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. And I think that a private institution (like Georgetown University) has the right to determine what kind of speech is allowed and people have the right to protest that and petition for change.

Nancy and I also went through non-violence, the radical love of Jesus as our example, what politics is about. It was a conversation that made me realize that I'm not as conservative as I used to be. We got pretty strong with each other at times, and we were joined by several people. One woman who I think was named Angie, but I can't swear to that. Justin joined at my invitation and jettybetty sat down and offered her insights. It was frustrating at times, enlightening and entertaining at others, and overall a good dialogue.

btw, I would be very interested in input from the others of you that were a part of that conversation. What did you hear? What did you think? I know I glossed over a lot of the conversation, so I'd love for you to fill in some blanks.


That Girl said...


Actually, I just heard that there was a "conversation" that had very different points of view.

jettybetty said...

I heard Nancy say she mixes politics and religion more than I do. I believe my first allegiance is to the kingdom God--I would rather Him use me directly to further it--than to further the political agenda of any country.

I might be wrong she Nancy might be right. I do beieve she's a woman that's been influenced by different things than I have--and I don't think God allows those things to happen unless there is a purpose--so I believe God will use Nancy--and I pray He uses me.

I thought it was a good dialouge. If I only chatted with people that agreed with me--life would be so boring. I like to hear different points of view--if I need to change on some things--then I want to.

You are very articulate about your beliefs--and I very much enjoyed hearing where God is leading you right now!

Justin said...

Nancy is intelligent, there is no doubt about that.

I know the temptation of getting sucked into politics all too well. I mean, I thought pretty hard about being a poli sci major and for a long time, I'd had interest in being a politician.

That's all changed now. And I think my desire to be involved in politics has shaped my desire to abstain from them. I know how easily it can become idolotry, and so, for me, staying out of it is the best idea. I think, personally, it would be the best idea for all christians. I have just as many issues with Jim Wallis as I do with James Dobson. If Christ had wanted us to set up a Christian government... he would have done so himself. And he would have done a heckuva better job than any of us could.

Part of this as well may be my political leanings before I began abstaining. Democracy itself is a tyranny of the majority, and while this tyranny is preferred over a tyranny of on or a few, its still Tyranny. The true colors of our Democracy are being shown now with people voting to deny rights to homosexuals. Or the huge outcry against anyone who disagrees with either party. If you are talking to a die hard democrat, and you disagree with them, you are an idiot. If you tell a Republican you don't think that the patriot act is good, you must support the terrorists.

So I say, get out of politics. Do the best you can to bring the Kingdom regardless of what is going on in the government. The government can't change hearts like the self sacrifice of Christ can. If we stick with that, no matter what political system comes about, the Kingdom will be furthered.

Another Angie said...

I'm not the Angie you referred to, but I wish I could've been there! I am a friend of TCS, so he mentioned this conversation... I met Nancy at ZOE, but I missed out on meeting you, Phil. Bummer!

I don't have a political background, so I'm new to these discussions... but all I know is how uncomfortable I am associating with the extremely conservative side. I have a heart for people who deal with same-sex attractions (whether they identify as gay or not), and there have been many damaging words on both sides of the issue...

So, politics have been a disappointment to me.

JD said...

Man...I wish I could have been at that table just to smile and listen. Maybe next time.

"Snapshot" said...

I was there at the "conversation".

How did I know that the word "homosexual" would quickly get into this blog discussion? It's become the new hip topic of converstation in the liberated CoC groups.

I believe there is a difference in trying to "set up a Christian government" and serving the Lord by assisting in the freedom of every citizen to keep expressing their faith. It's not A power thing, it's about THE power. The power of Christ which strengthens us.

Yes, things happen for a reason. Which is why I'm on this journey that I am on today.

And Justin, where you had the temptation to get "sucked into politics" and feel like you overcame the temptation by refraining from doing so, I believe it's where God has lead me and I finally overcame to temptation to keep out of politics. I finally submitted to God's urgings for me to get involved.

Politics and religion mix whether we are involved or not.Politics will affect you and your ability to lawfully express your beliefs whether you affect politics or not.

And while some of you are uncomfortable being around political "conservative" Christians, I am just as uncomfortable being around politically "liberal" Christians. I always leave with a very heavy sense of someone trying to arrogantly show how much more humble they are. And that their definitions of being a Christian are far superior to mine, since I and others are only "struggling to get power by being politically active" as some of you stated in the converstation at Zoe.
Being politically active does not equal being power hungry. It, for me at least, means sticking up for the belief system that my children should have the freedom in this great country to express their religious beliefs.

I thought that we as a brotherhood, had finally come to a place where differences can be used to glorify the Kingdom of God and we can learn from each other. But I found out that in many cases, including the Zoe experience, that is not true. The new liberated CoC can be just as judgmental and arrogant as the old school CoC. That fact has made me so sad, hurt and disappointed.

I can worship with people who believe many different things than I do. I can live with people who believe very differently from me politically. But it seems that folks who differ from me spiritually and politically can't seem to tolerate my beliefs. I feel no longer welcome. Few people have the truly humble belief of jetty that we can think differently and still be on the path to an eternity with Christ.

Justin said...

I feel like I've kinda come full circle, in some ways.

I'm kinda moving away from relativism whereas there was a point where I was content to say "oh we disagree, we can't all understand it, so whatever".

I don't see it that way anymore.

I wouldn't say I'm judgemental in the sense of I don't think you, or anyone else is going to hell. I just think that its very clear how we should follow Jesus and it doesn't involve legislating against gay people or abortion. It doesn't involve electing republicans to take out bin laden or saddam. Its not about cleaning up television or hollywood.

Its about serving the poor, fellowshipping the marginalized, and loving scandalously.

If you aren't doing that, you aren't being the inbreaking of the Kingdom. I believe you'll be with God when you die, but you aren't being part of his plan to renew the world.

Thomas+ said...

I keep having this sort of conversation.

Person A: I have political opinion X.
Me: Interesting, why is that?
Person A: Explain position.
Me: Interesting. I disagree. I believe Y, and here is why.
Person A: You are too political/judgmental.

Why is it that we can't have conversations about political ideas without someone "getting their feelings hurt" or feeling rejected or judged?

I'll answer my own question and say that the red/blue media polarity has made many of us soft-headed. We have too identified with one side or the other, to the extent that if someone disagrees with a person's political idea then that person must be judgmental and mean-spirited.

I'll give an example. I'm hanging out with some very conservative (red) people the other day. We are talking about being honest. I bring up the idea that the Republican House wouldn't be in such trouble if they had been honest from the beginning about the Foley thing.


I said the same thing about Clinton and Monica L. That was fine. But saying anything possibly negative about some Republicans makes me into some sort of bad guy. That is a problem.

"Snapshot" said...

Geez Louise Justin, so glad you aren't being judgmental. if you can live with that attitude then God bless you on your journey.

Gonna drop it at that and keep serving the Lord.

Justin said...


How do I know that what I think God is leading me to do, is actually God? I see the political system as evil. Jesus had a chance to take over it and he didn't, and he didn't because its a power over system that can't change hearts. The principalities and powers are in essence self serving and can never exemplify the kind of life that Jesus led so our taking over them will only corrupt us.

So, am I judgemental because I think you are wrong or what? Cause you obviously think I'm wrong too. Can I not disagree with what you are doing without being judgemental?

DB Carden said...

Snapshot said...."It, for me at least, means sticking up for the belief system that my children should have the freedom in this great country to express their religious beliefs."

What is the source of that freedom for your children to express their religious beliefs, from government or God?

If your answer is God, then what does it matter if the government agrees with that freedom or not?

If the answer is government, I have to wonder whether that belief system is worth having if it is only expressible in the context of government acquiescence.

Phil said...

Justin, I was right with you on the first comment, up until this: "If you aren't doing that, you aren't being the inbreaking of the Kingdom. I believe you'll be with God when you die, but you aren't being part of his plan to renew the world." I think there are better ways to put it than that.

Snapshot... Oh boy, where to begin. I can definitely understand where you're coming from. If I was coming from a conservative and/or Republican standpoint and I'd heard what Ms. Winner said, I'd have concerns too. But she is entitled to her opinion and has the freedom to share it. Personally, I think she was brave to state the things she did, amongst an audience would likely not agree with her. And I think she is brave whether I agree with her or not.

I can also agree with you on how some Christians can seem very arrogant (you pointed out "liberal," and I would agree while also asserting that those on the "conservative" side can be as well). I can definitely see where you're coming from there as well. In fact, I wrote a blogpost concerning the Spiritual Superiority Complex about 18 months ago. I have experienced it myself, from both sides, and it's not pleasant to receive nor is it pleasant to realize that I've been on the giving end of it too.

This phrase in your comment interested me: "I thought that we as a brotherhood, had finally come to a place where differences can be used to glorify the Kingdom of God and we can learn from each other. But I found out that in many cases, including the Zoe experience, that is not true. The new liberated CoC can be just as judgmental and arrogant as the old school CoC. That fact has made me so sad, hurt and disappointed." I hope and pray that in my responses that I haven't displayed this attitude to you personally and if I have, I ask your forgiveness. And I think we can. I would be curious as to what other experiences you had at Zoe that would lead you to think that you couldn't or that people at Zoe wouldn't be encouraging of worshiping together, despite political or even theological differences.

The Churches of Christ are changing. There is a heightened sense of dealing with the poor and marginalized (including, but not limited to, homosexuals). I consider this a good one and following Jesus' radical call to love. I hope that people on all sides: liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, to follow this call and to love the unlovable, but in doing so, not make it harder to be loved by our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Justin said...

Phil's right, I could have worded that differently Snapshot. I apologize.

I will still stick with my point though, that if our main focus isn't doing the things Jesus did, then our focus is in the wrong place. Can having a conservative government help bring about the situation where Kingdom work can be furthered? Maybe. Can having a Democractic government do the same? Maybe.

I would say the best way to further the kingdom is to have the least government possible (which in my opinion would be a Libertarian govermnent) because when any group gets in there and says "this is what God wants us to do, whether its ban gay marriages or force redistribution of wealth, a segment of society is going to look at those in power and say "well, if God is telling these people to either a. deny me rights that I think I deserve as a human or b. force me to give my money to a huge bureaucracy that I don't think is fixing the problem, then its going to hurt our witness.

Regardless of what political party, or system for that matter, is in power, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God which is breaking into the current Kingdoms of Man all over the world. We follow the laws the best we can, as long as they don't go against the laws of our creator. But thats WE not THEM. We shouldn't force anyone to adhere to Christ's laws. That is a Crusades type mentality. You don't wanna be baptized and be a good person, well then we're going to kill you. I know no one here is advising that we kill homosexuals or people who don't give enough to the poor... but its the same idea.

My Liberty comes from Christ alone, not soldiers in Iraq, not the right president or tyrant, not whichever idealogues are in power. Christ. Alone. So I serve Christ and let the principalities and powers do whatever they will do, because according to Romans 13, God has ordained them. I will not rebel against that by voting. I will follow Romans 12 which says as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. And Do not repay evil for evil. Neither party lives by that line, so I will support neither.

Malia said...

We all expend a lot of time and energy trying to defend and convince ourselves and others of "who I am". I am an American. I am a Christain. I am conservative, I am liberal. I am a Republican, I am a Democrat. I am modern, I am postmodern. I am Southern, I am a Yankee. I vote, I don't vote.

The inherent problem with all that defining is that it's looking in the wrong place. The question we defend should not be "who I am" but "whose I am". We are all God's children. Some of God's children are heavily involved in politics. Some of God's children stay as as far away from politics as possible. Some of God's children are Republicans, some of God's children are Democrats. There's no right or wrong in those choices, in those definitions, as long as we, as God's children, allow him to work through us in whatever way he has ordained.

Justin said...


We all may be trying to do God's will... but there are some things, no matter how you dress them up, that aren't God's will. When you do things or promote things that are inconsistant with the teaching of Jesus, there is a point at which people need ot disagree.

If someone on this board owned slaves (which now we all agree is wrong, but 150 years ago there wasn't a consensus) would you say we are all brothers, so we shouldn't point out that they are wrong?

Brandon Scott said...

politics is a tricky thing. So is theology and the Christian life. There aren't many things worse than being made to feel less than---no matter what your views. I'm pretty sure that no one in least in the leadership... has that kind of heart. We want to be a place of open discussion. I hope you'll reconsider before you make assumptions about where we stand. us no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys... coming late to the party... have been driving for 800 miles!

I think the only part of the conversation you left out was that I MAY have called you a Cylon.


Phil said...

Nancy, calling me a Cylon would me there are multiple copies of me running around.

Some Sunday mornings at OC, I wish there were...

Amy W said...

Yes-- Nancy would be my sister! My claim to fame! But, whatever you do-- just don't mention the words "social justice" in front of her!!! :) She could hold her own conference on that topic alone!

Anonymous said...

That also means that if I defeat you, you'll keep coming back and back and back...

I just watched the second episode of the season tonight. Yowsa!

Phil said...

Defeat?!? Surely you jest.

Phil said...

Oh yeah... social justice. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Every October and November, I get into a funk. Literally, I become depressed. I am African-American. I grew up during the Reagan years. Many boast of the greatness of the nation during his presidency. I'm not denying that those may have been great years. But all I remember was living in "DA Hood" I remember both my Parents working hard and not having a lot of money. I remember my father being laid off and having a stroke a couple months later. I remember being the recipient of racial injustice and prejudice. I remember my parents telling me to always vote democratic because that was the right thing to do. The republicans were for the white people and the democrats were for the Black people! Again, I'm not arguing the validity of that last statement. This was just my reality.

I just thought that was the right thing to do. Even in my church, we were encouraged to vote democrat. When I went to college in white conservative Suburban America, I was shocked to see that religious people voted for Republicans. I didn't know what to do with that. I was then attacked by a conservative for ever thinking about voting for a Democrat.

Several years have passed since those formative and confusing years. I was preparing for ministry in churches of Christ and I was completely unprepared to discuss politics in the context of the church community. Consequently, I keep my political views very private. I am probably a radical liberal working in a very conservative and fundamental church. Most of the members I preach to would probably shake their head at me if they heard my view on politics. I am anti-war, pro high taxes, pro universal healthcare, I think abortion and homosexuality is a sin, but I am wholeheartedly opposed to the government legislating lifestyles. I don't like Bush and think our country is arrogant. I don't care if government buildings display the Ten Commandments and I don't care about the words in the pledge because I don't say the pledge. There, I laid it out, there are my views! What a relief I got it off my chest. The whole world including my congregation knows my views! By the way, my name is anonymous!

Having said all that, here is my issue, and I struggle greatly. Am I deceiving the flock I minister to by keeping my views private? Am I a bad person because there are some conservative Christian leaders that say things that just upset me to no end? Should I even have political views?

I am ranting for sure but I rant because to be honest with you, the political landscape in our churches has really taken a hit on my faith. I often ponder if finding rest in this battle of politics in the religious square could be avoided by simply waling away from the faith. I may be exhibiting childish behavior, but the emotion is real. I am so ashamed at the way I attack those with more conservative leanings than me while preaching Romans 15 - "Accept One Another" I spend a lot of time trying to get Conservatives to accept Liberals and I have not spent equal time trying to encourage Liberals to accept Conservatives.

Quite frankly, the whole political arena just makes me sick to my spiritual stomach. I will say this, I attended the Zoe Conference and felt like that was a place for some honest dialogue that was not meant to change people's vote. I long for arenas where dialogue is encouraged and craved. I praise God for the opportunity to hear Winner's "progressive" thoughts. But I must also open myself up to the opportunity to hear the opposite views or more "conservative" thoughts from a future speaker or facilitator. But in any event, I have to find a healthy state of being in the political discussion or it will take its toll on my spirit!

As I conclude, here is my question. Can the church be a place where we can have honest, open, vigorous and spirited dialogue about politics? Or should we JUST SAY NO? Will we honestly and wholeheartedly accept each other where our ideologies and political leanings differ? Seriously, are we fighting for unity and harmony where it is simply not possible?

… Pray for me!

Anonymous said...


Now it wasn't a lot of "Bruthas" at Zoe, so don't try to figure out which one of us wrote that last post!

Smile folks!

Phil said...

My anonymous "Brutha,"

You ask a great question. I would hope that the church could be a place where people of different political views could gather under one roof to worship God.

However, religion and politics are very, very close to being inextricable in many people's minds. It will take people on both sides having the willingness to listen and dialogue without casting unsubstantiated aspersions at each other.

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