Tuesday, February 26, 2008

false dichotomy for a christian

I have been blogging recently about my frustration with Jim Wallis, who is a prominent evangelical leader on the political "left." He was interviewed by CNN recently and was discussing the shift that is happening among young evangelicals.

He made the claim that more and more young Christians are moving to the political left because of a change in priorities. He said that this new, young breed of evangelical will likely vote for a Democrat. He said that the reason for the change is that they believe Jesus cares more about the millions that will die due to poverty than He does about gay marriage.

But this is a false dichotomy that is typical of Wallis these days. His assumption is that Jesus cares more about poverty than he does about morality. And that claim is ridiculous. It is as far-fetched as some on the political "right" who claim that Jesus cares more about homosexuality than he does poverty. These sort of false dichotomies miss the point altogether.

Jesus addressed these sort of "either/or" ways of living and called on the Pharisees to adopt a "both/and" mentality instead. He makes his point clear in Matthew 23:23-24:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

The Pharisees were tithing regularly but ignoring God's commands to love justice and mercy. Jesus didn't say, "Forget tithing; you should really just focus on justice and mercy." No, what Jesus did say was, "You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former."

This means that Jesus doesn't live in the world of "false dichotomies." He doesn't play the "either/or" game. He demands "both/and." Jim Wallis is wrong when he claims that Jesus cares more for poverty than he does issues of morality. Jesus demands that we care for the poor and address moral issues like homosexuality. We don't get the luxury of choosing one or the other.

But Jim Wallis's comment, sadly enough, doesn't surprise me anymore. He has once again chosen to marry his faith to the politics of his party, the very thing he has been so critical of Republicans for doing.


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