Category Archives: Politics

Niebuhr on Conflict Resolution

I recently read an old article in The Christian Century where John Kelley discusses the Niebuhr brother’s only published disagreement over how to respond to large-scale conflicts.  In light of the (then) conflict surrounding Japan, Reinhold advocated working for justice.  His brother Richard took a different and surprising tactic.  He argued that Christians should “do nothing.” 

Richard based this response on two premises:

  1. That God is real.  The reason doing nothing seems impractical, according to Niebuhr, is because such a belief is obsolete.  God was at work in his world, and perhaps we fancy our efforts too important.
  2. Christians should do nothing in the face of conflict because it can be an antidote to the powerful pull of self-interest.  Behind all our righteous indignation, Niebuhr argued, often lies a sinful thirst for control, to be God. 

Although this compact argument leaves much open to question and interpretation, I think Niebuhr’s points are worth taking seriously.  According to Kelley, Niebuhr desired that Christians would be a healing presence, a witness through acts of caring.  This “suffering presence,” as Kelley describes it, seems to be more in line with the teachings of our Lord.  The Triune God can handle the  world’s problems, and will.  We must resist seeing ourselves as the key to the resolution of the world’s problems, especially by violent ends, lest we end up becoming thirsty for power or oppressors who wish to “help.”

Kelley, John.  “Time for the Grace of Doing Nothing.”  The Christian Century 105 no. 31 (October 26 1988): 940-41.


A New Political Blog

Recently a friend of mine started a new blog dealing with the upcoming US election.  Since he’s one of my best friends, i thought a little shameless plug would be appropriate.  Here is the link.

Ecclesiology in a Globalized World, Part 1

As promised about a week ago, i want to recap a couple of my favorite presentations from our conference last week (If this is the first time you’ve heard about it, click here for more background).  Without a doubt, one of my favorite presentations was done by Rev. Andrew Grosso, who currently is a rector at an episcopal church.  His talk was titled “Ecclesiology in a Globalized World: Revisiting One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.”  I really enjoyed his presentation, and since there was much quality material (which i hope i can do justice to), i’m going to break up my reflections on his session into 2-3 posts.  WIthout further ado:

According to Grosso, there are two major ways experts view the process and factors behind globalization.  Rather than trying to tease out which one is more correct, Grosso assumes a level of validity to each and applies each model to the church.

Following the ideas of Philip Jenkins, Grosso labels one approach as the “bottom-up approach.”  Globalization is understood as to follow on the heels of the collapse of western colonialism, and with that, the emergence of indigenous churches.  In this view particularity and the unique embodiment of the faith are valued, thus many will seek to find the essentials of the faith in order to have the freedom to express their “individuality.”  

I believe that this approach is inadequate.  As Grosso points out, this model pushes toward increasingly narrow forms of the faith.  Further, these unique forms are highly enculturated, making true dialogue and interdependence on the church difficult, if not impossible.  In my view, if the “bottom-up model” were to become too dominant, churches in the world would find themselves to be increasingly isolated, turning into individual artifacts dispersed all over the more integrated and interconnected global world. 

Grosso articulates the other major model through the work of Fukuyama.  Grosso calls this the “top-down” approach to globalization.  In this model, globalization occurs primarily due to the dominance of the free market and the consequent imbalance of power that it engenders.  While the side effects of this are tragic, it is hard to deny that the free market is the primary means of cross-cultural communication.  This goes hand in hand with the spread of liberal democracy and the economic model of capatilism.  Add to these factors the instant access to information through technological means and you have the tools to become a global culture.     

This model, in contrast to the other one discussed, takes seriously universality.  It tends to view things as very interconnected.  However, as Grosso pointed out in the session, this alone isn’t a great thing.  This model if left unchecked tends to favor utility to the point where there becomes a genuine need for the explication of what Grosso calls “universal parameters of the faith.”  

While one can debate the merits of these two models (false dichotomy?), I believe that we can see evidence of both.  According to Grosso, we must neither wholly embrace or reject one approach.  In the next post, we will begin to unpack how Grosso believes we can meet this challenge of “the one and the many.”

At this point, i would love to hear feedback on his initial “two models” approach.  Do you agree or not, and why?  Is this a helpful way to start thinking about the issues for the church that surround globalization?

More on Evangelicals and Politics

I found this recent development interesting, given how my most recent post talked about the possible shift in evangelical’s view of faith and politics.  This would appear to be more evidence of at least serious discussion, if not an outright shift in thought.  Enjoy!