Friday, October 13, 2006

The Art of Compromise

I've long included Slacktivist on my list of daily blog readings. Although he's a little too far to the left for me to embrace everything he says enthusiastically, he's almost always articulate, intelligent, and thought-provoking.

Today, he weighs in on a statement made by right-wing Christian Dave Daubenmire, suggesting that Christians abandon the Republican party (because they're apparently not right-wing enough) to form a "Christian" party. Specifically, this guy seems to want to get former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore elected as President.

The idea itself has no legs. Even granting that many Christians are dissatisfied with the current choices available in American politics (and, without even getting into right- or left-wing arguments, who can blame them?), not many are politically naïve enough to believe that a new political party has any chance at success at the national level.

But at least one comment Slacktivist makes got my attention: "Not voting at all would be the logical conclusion of Daubenmire's reasoning. 'They say politics is the art of compromise,' he writes. 'Is that what Christ died for -- compromise?'"

I have often observed the tendency of some Christians to consider the word "compromise" as though it were spelled using only four letters. To "compromise," they would say, is to fail to follow God fully. Therefore, they seem to argue, there is no room for "compromise" in the Christian life.

Slacktivist has his own wry comment in a footnote to Daubenmire's argument: "Daubenmire is correct here, sort of. Christ's death was not a 'compromise.' It was an unconditional surrender."

While acknowledging the truth of Slacktivist's argument here, and affirming how it turns Daubenmire's idea on its head, I'm not at all convinced that compromise is always such a bad thing.
  • When the apostle Paul spoke to the people of Athens, he did not immediately condemn them for their idolatry. Instead, he began his speech by complimenting them! "I see that in every way you are very religious." (Acts 17:23) He used this "compromise" to make sure that his audience was open to hearing his message!
  • Or what about Paul's willingness to have Timothy circumcised (Acts 16) despite his passionate protestations against its necessity in his epistles (for example, read 1 Corinthians 7:18)?
  • Or, in what may be argued to be one of the largest compromises made by Christians on behalf of bringing in new converts, the letter Paul and the elders at the Council of Jerusalem had written to the new Christians in Antioch (Acts 15, especially verses 24-29)? The Council chose to make the "compromise" of not requiring new Christians to have to follow all of the Jewish laws (including circumcision), suggesting only that they follow a few key teachings. Is this not the very heart of compromise?
I'm certainly not trying to suggest that Christians shouldn't pursue God with everything that they are, but it seems to me that "compromise" is in no way contrary to following God's will. If Paul, one of the central figures of our faith, and one who was extremely zealous about following God, can be seen as compromising in appropriate situations, why do so many Christians of today consider it such a foul term?

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