By Julie Roys
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. At least, that’s how the popular duck test inductively arrives at the true identity of an unknown subject.
I’ve thought a lot about this test as I’ve tried to classify Emergent Politics. For the uninitiated, Emergent refers to a developing Christian movement marked by its disillusionment with modernism and its distinctively post-modern orientation. Emergents emphasize that Christ’s kingdom is present now and as a result, have become a very politically active group. But they’re also diverse, so defining their politics is a difficult task.
Jim Wallis, probably the most well-known Emergent political activist, wrote a New York Times bestseller called, “God’s Politics – Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.” And this truly has become the Emergent mantra. Emergents, supposedly, are neither left nor right. As Tony Jones of the Emergent Village put it, Emergents look for “points of intersection and moments of potential cooperation with politicians on both sides of the aisle.” They claim to be forging a third way – a way that refuses to be co-opted by either Democrats or Republicans.
However, if one applies the Duck Test, Emergents are liberal Democrats. Although there’s no firm data on how Emergents voted in the last election, indications are they overwhelmingly supported Obama. Relevant Magazine found Obama the top choice when it polled twentysomething Christians – the group most influenced by Emergent thought. Wallis, himself, spoke at the Democratic convention. And, Wallis’ Sojourners political advocacy group reads like an apologetic for the Democratic platform: from promoting socialized medicine to fighting Global warming to advancing the United Nations as the vehicle for achieving world peace.
That Emergents would lean left is no surprise. Emergents are reacting to what Jones calls, “a match made in hell” – the combining of the Christian Right with the Republican Party. Emergents I believe rightly perceive that the Republican Party corrupted the Christian Right. But they don’t rectify this error; instead, they simply repeat it – except as puppets of the Democratic Left. One egregious example was deceiving many pro-life voters that President Obama – arguably the most pro-abortion president ever –would somehow reduce abortions.
But, another reason Emergents lean left is more subtle. In fact, I wonder if many Emergents are aware of it themselves. That is, they’ve bought into the liberal argument that government can reform society. God clearly enjoins Christians to care for the poor and fight social injustice. But, Scripture gives this responsibility to the Church and individual Christians, not to civil government. Growing government in an effort to respond to social needs, as many Emergents advocate, will only put more money and power in the hands of sinful men. Government can restrain evil; but only the church can do good. To expect a secular institution to act benevolently is like – well, expecting a duck to act like a fish.