Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Church & State... again

Yesterday I was lurking on a conservative Christian forum and read something that took shocked me... one of the participants said that he and his wife had "agreed to pray against Barack Obama... to pray for his utter failure." I wondered about the implications. If a presidency "utterly fails," what does that mean for the people? What about those who would lose their jobs or their lives if that prayer were answered? What does such a prayer tell us about an individual's understanding both of God and of their role in society? And how does it jive with Biblical injunctions to ray for those in power or even to love our enemies? How does praying for something that would invariably cause the suffering of so many people remotely resemble anything that Jesus would do?

Then today, I saw a link to a report on Ethics Daily, a centrist to left leaning Baptist publication, that tells about a meeting of about 40 conservative Christian leaders who met in Dallas to strategize about what they could do to defeat Obama in 2012.

I have posted before that I believe freedom of religion ensures that people of faith, any faith no matter how repugnant, can bring their religious belief to their political decisions. So at a technical level, I have no issue with what the poster said on the forum or what the "Christian leaders" did. On a faith level, I think they have all missed the boat and are reflecting anything but a Christian understanding of the issues before us. Whenever I read these kinds of things I am always taken back to my seminary days at Eastern Baptist Seminary where one of my professors declared, "It is not possible to be a Christian and a conservative." I think there may have been a bit of hyperbole going on, but as a general statement, I think the prof was accurate.

On a political level and a pastoral level, I mourn such closed minds. How can they speak to a culture which has embraced at least openness to discussion if not pluralism? What happens to church members who are not quite so sure about specific political stances? What happens to anyone who is able to see merit even in some opposing opinions? And what about those who need healthcare, unemployment insurance, Social Security, etc.? What does it say from a pastoral standpoint when you're unemployed and your pastor stands in the pulpit and argues that we should suspend unemployment benefits while at the same time extending tax cuts for the richest in our society? And not only should we do these things, they are the things that God requires of us? (guess they haven't read any of the prophets).

And finally, I read a quote from St. Augustine the other day that seems appropriate here... when St. Augustine was asked for the three great principles of Christianity, he replied: "First, humility. Second, humility. Third, humility." If I try to think of any characteristics, good or bad, that might define those people... humility ain't it.

1 comment:

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