Connecting the Dots

I very much enjoyed this interview with Fox News contributor and Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Powers detailing her unlikely conversion to Christianity. I highly commend it to you, as well as her longer explanation in Christianity Today.

There are a lot of real insights here, particularly the revealing moment when she admits that in her prior life politics (specifically, left-wing politics) was her religion. I think that has it exactly right. Those who deny any transcendence are simply left with nothing but politics: this-worldly machinations to perfect humanity and society. There is no real alternative.

But there's plenty of messiness involved in such a conversion from which I think evangelicals should draw some lessons. Ms. Powers says that she sees no contradiction between her new-found faith in Christ and left-of-center politics. But, I must point out, this simply isn't true. There have been few journalists more dogged over the past couple of years opposing the regime of abortion-on-demand in this country than Kirsten Powers. Does Kirsten really believe that something like abortion is just an ancillary "tack on" to a pretty-good-so-far-as-it-goes political worldview? Surely she cannot deny that that abortion-on-demand is a non-negotiable plank of the Democratic Party. There is, in fact, conflict, and she knows it. In my view, it is nothing but a platitude (a very popular one) that one can be a faithful Christian and hold just about any 'ol view of politics.  After all, that infallible bumper sticker reminds us: "God is Not a Republican!"

Once you dig beneath this sentiment, you'll find all sorts of problems, and I believe Kirsten Powers already has. She certainly doesn't share her political party's view of human life. Surely that must produce some discomfort, if for no other reason than it will require a serious reflection on political priorities. How important is human life to me? Is electing a Democrat mayoral candidate like Bill DeBlasio (a card carrying liberal if there ever was one) so important that we can ignore his promise to attempt the shutdown of every crisis pregnancy center in New York City and replace them with abortion clinics?

I know that people bristle at this kind of critique because it seems like I'm saying that somehow Republicans are somehow immune from these kinds of problems. Well, it is no secret that I believe it demonstrably true that the ideals represented (on paper, at least) of the Republican Party more closely align with biblical ideals than that of their opponents, and that means there are certainly less of these kinds of problems.  I wrote a book about it if you'd like to know more.

So I think that Kirsten Powers can only hold these nettlesome questions at bay for a limited period of time. Sooner or later, there are going to be dots that simply must be connected.

Anyway, there are few lessons from this I think Christians on the opposite side of the aisle from Ms. Powers should draw: 

1. People are messy. We are rarely internally self-consistent. We should give thanks that a self-professed left-of-center pundit is, at the same time, a fairly vocal critic of America's abortion-on-demand regime.

2. Conversions are messy. If they're not, they're probably not real conversions. Kirsten Powers came from a world in which, she says, she had never even heard anyone talk about "believing in Jesus Christ as your savior." The child of intellectual college professors, incubated in a thoroughly-secularized world, it should not be a surprise that she might be some time in resolving some of these thorny questions.

3. Evangelical Christians can be ridiculously impatient with people. We preach sanctification as a process of internal renewal (including our minds), but in practice we often demand instant glorification of new converts, particularly (or, I should say, especially) when they are high profile (See: The Anne Rice saga). 

I don't expect new converts to think just like me, because both God and I know that I am not the standard of Christian sanctification. Jesus is. But one of the reasons he created this community called the church is that we can all be mutually built up in Christ, sharpening each other. That takes time, maturity, and relationships.

We need to do a better job with all three.

Brian Mattson