Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Recovering a Gospel-Centered Approach to Politics
April 15, 2011
by Jack Porter
“Hello, my name is Jack and I am a recovering former member of the vast right wing conspiracy.” During my tenure in the Bush Administration, I was actually on some web site’s list of what then First Lady Hillary Clinton dubbed the “vast right wing conspiracy.” I wasn’t involved in any conspiracy, but the truth is, I did drink very deeply from the cup of an extreme conservative agenda. Now that I have returned to Pittsburgh, I have begun to reexamine my political views, especially in light of Catholic Social Teaching and my thirty-year involvement with the Center for Public Justice. Some of my former views will survive this new scrutiny; some may not. But in the end, my politics will be more soberly grounded in my faith.
Thanks be to God, I am not alone on the path of recovery. Recently about 80 people gathered in Pittsburgh to talk and pray about how to be faithful citizens in our community. A pastor wondered aloud if Christians—who typically avoid discussing politics in churches and other polite company—could begin to talk about politics with civility in the same way that Americans had to learn to drink responsibly after prohibition. Another participant noted the American Christian’s “addiction” to political ideologies—both liberal and conservative—and the shallow, often bitter debate that ensues amongst Christian combatants. He recommended that we follow the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step is to admit that you have a problem and then begin to take baby steps towards recovery.
I like these analogies. So in Pittsburgh we are launching an initiative to recover an informed Christian voice for justice in our community. We know that Jesus Christ can restore us to a politics shaped by the Gospel that speaks the truth in love and with humility. We have participants from the Catholic, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Anglican, Christian and Missionary Alliance and non-denominational traditions.
As we begin, I am grateful, encouraged, confused and hopeful.
The approaching Holy Week reminds me that I am grateful that Jesus Christ stretched out His arms on the hard wood of the cross to bring all creation within His saving embrace. As He lives in us, we can be transformed into suffering servants for public justice.
I am encouraged that 30 years ago it would have been difficult to persuade five people to come out for such a meeting. There were 80 in attendance.
I am confused in that I do not yet know exactly what this new politics of the Gospel looks like in actual application to the difficult issues of Pittsburgh.
I am encouraged by the words of Pope Benedict XVI at the conclusion of his recent encyclical about the international economic crisis and social justice:
[Political, social, cultural, religious, technological, economic] Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God's love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life…All this is essential if “hearts of stone” are to be transformed into “hearts of flesh” (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth “divine” and thus more worthy of humanity. All this is of man, because man is the subject of his own existence; and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that is good, all that leads to salvation: “the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's” (1 Cor 3:22-23).
Jesus said, “I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5, NIV). Therefore, let us raise our hands in prayer and say even so, “come Lord Jesus” to our politics in Pittsburgh and to all the ends of the earth and make it new.
—Jack Porter was the Director of the White House Faith-Based and Community Initiative at the U.S. Department of Education from 2001 to 2005. He is currently an administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration. These views are entirely his own and do not reflect the views of the Social Security Administration or any other agency of the U.S. Government.
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”