Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Politics and Presuppositions: What We Need to Know

The Presidential campaign is entering in its most intense phase and it has never been closer or more passionately fought.

As I look into social media- there is a sharp divide from mutual friends about the nature of the debate and solutions to issues.

I wanted to step back from the fray and make a larger observation about what we can learn about the nature of presuppositions and how this points us to real solutions to societal ills.

The first point is an admission- I have these same presuppositions. So when I write, "I'm backing up from the fray to comment"- it appears I am taking a neutral, objective look at the issue. But this is a false claim. I am not neutral-no one is neutral- there is no such thing as a completely neutral view. I am a human being infected by my own apperception.

SO let me deal with this vital issue first. From the time we are born, we are beginning a program where we are 'conditioned' in how to see, and how to think. It is the old argument of nature vs. nurture. The reality is, we are shaped powerfully by both.

As a Christian, I accept the base nature of man as inherently evil. Our default mode is rebellion to authority and results in both passive and active violations of the Creator's moral law.

But there are others, who begin with different views regarding God, man, good, truth, etc.

The main point is that we filter facts according to presuppositions rather than absolute truth. In fact, our presuppositions are so powerful that some reject the existence of absolute truth.

The older we get, the more ingrained these deep beliefs take root. We latch onto people and facts that seem to support our vantage point and we critique and reject people and facts that challenge our positions.

That is why this election will come down to a slim margin. Most have already made up their mind, will likely not be swayed by any campaign technique, and the electoral balance hangs in who turns out their base and who wins the 'independent and open' votes in a few key states.

Both candidates represent powerful presuppositional views in their own make-up. President Obama cut his teeth in the educational system and experience from a more progressive mindset. He was multi-cultural and pluralist from the very beginning and he worked in inner-city Chicago among those who seem to have been left behind in the land of opportunity. He saw the failures of the Chicago housing authority and educational institutions, but he also saw little alternative but to reform and re-engage a governmental application to a hopeless situation.

Mitt Romney was shaped by a conservative view of life. His experience in the marketplace and the narrative of how his family rose from immigrants to great success in business, amassing great wealth in the process.

Both men are in a political party of peers and a base who continually rally around base principles which represent the presuppositions of their party.

So what do we do with this? We have to learn from it or face dire consequences in the future.

The hardest thing to do is win a political base playing to your base and then govern the nation as a representative of all. It takes great wisdom and leadership to recognize the difference in a mandate election and a divided electorate. Winning has consequences, no will deny that. And there must be acceptance and followership when the rule of law is followed and procedure certified.

However, to govern according to strict ideology regardless of the consent of the governed is not a wise practice.

I did not vote for President Clinton and I grieve at his sinful behavior in the Oval office. But he did govern wisely by understanding the need to be more center and across the aisle for the purpose of progress. Even with differences, both parties worked together on bi-partisan solutions to real life problems.

This has been my biggest issue with President Obama. I wish he had understood that the majority of Americans liked the idea of across state line competition for health care providers, they liked the protection afforded by those with pre-existing conditions, and they liked the extension of the coverage to older children. But the 'ram (or Rahm) it through regardless' approach did not help my desire to support his policy. The passage of the sweeping bill without really knowing what was in it was appalling.

President Bush in a sense did the same thing in his prosecution of the war on terror. There seemed to me to be a rush to Baghdad regardless of finding some semblance of consensus. The unity the nation had found in the wake of 9/11 quickly faded and there was a lot of bully pulpit and less dialogue on both sides.

But there is a much larger, much deeper message on the power of presuppositions. We have to understand the strategy for dealing with these issues personally and practically.

For the Christian believer: We have to challenge one another to let God's Word shape our presuppositions. We have to have a healthy skepticism of how we see things. We have to reject our natural inclination to make decisions based on what 'feels' right and challenge each other to dig into, "What does Scripture say?". We have to let Scripture push our doctrine and bend our doctrine to align with the teaching of the Bible and not vice-versa.

For the non-Christian believer: You have to hope that God will open your eyes to the reality of your situation. The Bible says that you are without excuse. The Bible says that you know God is calling, but you suppress that truth in unrighteousness. You have to believe that the simple offer of the good news of Christ's death is something that you cannot ignore.

For all of us: We have to be willing to see other people with alternate viewpoints as human beings made in God's image. We can challenge them, but they are not the enemy.

One word of warning: The media does not help us here. They have learned to increase ratings by feeding our presuppositions rather than challenge them. The media is NOT and honest broker of the truth and they are as slanted right AND left as they have ever been.

Our educational institutions have let us down as well. We have lifted up test scores as a litmus test of success while our students do poorly on reading comprehension, they do not know how to argue with logic and support, they do not know how to prove truth through sound epistemology.

And finally, we will never find a political solution to life's ills. But if we all sought after a universal consensus based on the Creator's Laws, we would find a better chance of harmony. Republicans and Democrats, Black and White, Rich and Poor could all find harmony and equality in Christ. If the true and living church of Jesus Christ would live out its mission we would find we need less government agencies and have more Statesmen signing up to re-shape our republic.

Then, it would not matter who was President.

And, according to how our Constitution is written- it means a lot less than we could ever imagine.

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