obama waffles and binary minds

I watched the comments on the last post, Obama Waffles, with interest.  Yesterday Lynn wrote, “I am neither liberal or conservative, I am neither black nor white on the issues, I am neither Red nor Blue…”  After such a long season of electoral politics and with 46 days until the presidential election, something about how Lynn defines herself is very appealing.

I suppose it’s normal to separate ourselves into different camps.  We are often more comfortable describing what we are against rather than what we are for.  And by “we” I am thinking of those us within the evangelical tradition; specifically white folks within that tradition.  In a thoughtful post yesterday, professor John Stackhouse writes that,

evangelicals tend toward a binary mind (as historians Mark Noll, George Marsden, and others have delineated in detail). Some things are appropriately thought of in binary terms, to be sure: “Jesus is Lord,” “Ye must be born again,” and so on. But the world of politics is the world of assessing a situation and making the best of it with what, and whom, you have to work with. Binary thinking rarely helps get anything done, because politics rarely presents an actual choice between Good and Evil.

I agree with Stackhouse and yet the language of good and evil is exactly what drives so much of the political rhetoric found in speeches, advertisements and cable news.  Is it a stretch to say that Obama Waffles are the result of Christians who believe this election really does present a choice between good and evil?  How many of us are tired to the point of frustration with binary thinking that pushes us towards one extreme or the other?

I’m two-thirds of the way through A Purple State of Mind by Craig Detweiler.  Craig is a friend and I’ll recap his book more completely in the next week or two.  For now, here’s one of the ways he defines the book’s title.

A purple state of mind follows and worships Jesus.  It doesn’t place faith in politics, power, or in people.  It adopts the long view.  It is hopeful that despite the ugliness of today’s situation, the reign of Christ will prevail.

Like Lynn’s comment, something about Craig’s definition rings true.  But in a binary and polarized culture is such a way of living possible?

2 thoughts on “obama waffles and binary minds

  1. I think you’re right on about the binary thinking – I know several evangelicals who truly believe that one political party MUST be the essense of good, while one MUST be the essense of evil – because that is how they have been taught to see everything.

    I think I mentioned this before, but Andrew Sullivan’s book “The Conservative Soul” nails this topic from a faith-and-politics perspective, if you’re interested.

  2. yes. and even those of us who are trying to reform from that ‘black or white’, ‘yes or no’, ‘true or false’, ‘good or evil’ view of things still get caught up categorizing those who differ from us in such a viewpoint.

    which is why i want to punch that sean hannity in the mouf everytime i see him…

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