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Chuck Gutenson Headshot

The Good News...or Not?

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I write from the perspective of a Christian theologian on matters relating to religion and politics. I do not come to make absolutist claims for my perspective, but folks like me have a contribution to make to the discussion if for no other reason than that the current administration has so consistently wrapped itself in the mantle of Christian faith. In fact on matters theological, I am rather on the conservative side of the spectrum.

However, as one of my colleagues says, a conservative theological agenda aligns best with a progressive political agenda (in contradiction to this administration and its apologists!), and many of us are sick at the perversion of the Christian faith being foisted upon our country and this world by this group. British theologian and Bishop of Durham, NT Wright, characterized the religious expression of the Bush administration and its religious apologists as "a very strange distortion of Christianity."

I realize that not all of Arianna’s readers are interested in the inter-relation of religion and politics. Many of you, no doubt, know the checkered history of attempts of religious folks to influence and guide political institutions, and believe it or not, I share your concerns. In fact, this is why I write. All too often religious movements begin with good intentions but become corrupted as they gain political power, and Christian movements are by no means exempted. The current administration embodies this very sort of corruption, and I am particularly concerned that the exemplary teachings of Christ are no longer being heard for the Good News they constitute.

We live in a post-modern world (yes, I know the difficulty in defining the term) which openly expresses distrust of absolutist narratives that claim to explain and rightly organize the world. Why? Because these narratives have too often promised hope to the hearers but have really aimed to garner power for the narrative’s tellers.

Our post-modern fellows are rightly suspicious of such duplicity and betrayal. But, at the core of the Christian narrative is what Tony Thistleton has called a “for the other orientation” -- an orientation that makes concern for another even more important than concern for ourselves.

This is why Jesus could refer to his message as “Good News” -- good news for the poor, for the oppressed, for the weak and the ill, etc. Yet, this “Good News” also contains a word of warning for the powerful, the wealthy, the well-connected, and those holding the reigns -- a word that warns of the obligation to care for the least and weakest in our societies. At the end of the day, no other standard can be a better indicator of the genuine religious expression of this administration or any other. Stay tuned as we engage this evaluation on a number of fronts, and feel free to visit here at your leisure.