Religion and Politics

This is in response to an article in the NY Times about a pastor at an Evangelical church here in the Twin Cities going against the conservative grain.

“More and more people are saying this has gone too far – the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right,” Mr. McLaren said. “You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.”

This is very true. My friend and I were weeding through the fuzz on the radio while driving home from another friend’s cabin, trying to find something good, music or talk. We came to a talk station, but it ended up sounding like what’s now known as the Religious Right. “Ahh, its a bunch of crazy Jesus talk, turn it,” my friend said. Very true. And the associations the above article cites were brought on with those few warbling words of religious lingo. This had nothing to do with our religious beliefs, we realized, and everything to do with the outrageous political messages the so-called Religious Right now inherently stands for. It’s a political brand of Christianity, which is something that religions never should strive to consist of. Religion is about spirituality, personal morality, about faith. Not about stances on abortion, homosexuality or national and military pride. Those material concerns cheapen religion. The article goes on.

“When we joined years ago, Greg was a conservative speaker,” said William Berggren, a lawyer who joined the church with his wife six years ago. “But we totally disagreed with him on this. You can’t be a Christian and ignore actions that you feel are wrong. A case in point is the abortion issue. If the church were awake when abortion was passed in the 70’s, it wouldn’t have happened. But the church was asleep.”

Alright, I don’t know this William Berggren, and I probably shouldn’t analyze his opinion and try to attack his comments on the church. The thing is, isn’t the church asleep in that sense today? Where has it acted on its criticism of the war in Iraq? Some of us are Christians who don’t support the notion that America is a Christian nation that must spread its ideas of freedom and democracy to all other nations of the world. Yes, those ideas are good, but must they be subscribed to at the expense of human life and with intolerance of anything outside of their realm, which does not seem right to me.

I say this: If the church were awake when resolution 114 was passed in 2002, the war wouldn’t have happened. Yes, a bold claim. Actually a stupid claim because it’s not completely true. But it nails home the same point as Berggren tries to make, which is: Christianity must take action against issues it disagrees with. The only difference is, I’m making presumptive statements in jest. I do so in order to demonstrate that going to church in one of those mega-churches shouldn’t be about conservative politics. It should be about conservative political beliefs and liberal political beliefs, side by side, perhaps bored, during a long hot service. Personally, Christian beliefs have made me into a liberal-leaning individual, and I believe most people should see it the same way. But they don’t, because people are free and that’s ok. It’s good to see that Rev. Gregory A. Boyd is with me on that.

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