“The government that is closest to the people governs best.” That sentiment was expressed recently by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, and it’s long been a staple of conservative political philosophy and of candidates who want federal programs to be taken over by state and local governments. But liberals embrace it in their own way when they talk about “participatory democracy” and the need for people to be able to make decisions about the issues that directly affect them.
The question is: what does it mean for government to be “closer” to people?
In my tradition, we pride ourselves on the intellect and roll our eyes at emotional sermons. We think of them as (1) dumbing down content or (2) manipulating people. But ignoring the importance of emotion in our spiritual lives can make us... well... boring.
On a recent afternoon, I skimmed from page to page in the newspaper, glancing at headlines about environmental deregulation, an increase in the state murder rate, schools that aren’t educating their students, massacres in Syria and other grim realities. My reaction? I’m embarrassed to confess: “Not my problem, not my problem, not my problem, and not my problem.” Then I turned to the sports section.
Shane’s post is not particularly unique in its outlook; over a year ago, Marcus Thompson, a pastor in Oakland, CA, published a piece on Relevant called“The Immorality of Gluttony” that expresses very similar concerns. (I responded to it here.)
I have a new name for God, at least new to me. The old three-letter word "God" is worn out. Words only last so long before they need to be retired for a season. The word "God" has too much freight on it and too many associations.
In politics, competence sometimes serves as a rhetorical proxy for intent. Politicians like to talk about how terrific they/their ideas are. They aren’t always as gabby about what they/those ideas aim to accomplish.
Example: privatization. Some conservatives insist that private enterprise is simply more efficient--more competent--than the government. So why not let the private sector take over certain public functions?
But even if we concede that business is categorically more efficient than government, there remains the question of what it's doing so efficiently.
By now, we are all familiar with what liberation theology and Catholic social teaching have called the Bible’s “preferential option for the poor.” But what about a biblical preferential option for the rebel?
In a new book by biblical scholar Yoram Hazony called The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture—which I learned about from Jonathan Yudelman’s review—the story of Cain and Abel receives a reading different from any I have heard.