The wife and I have been visiting churches looking for a place that is progressive enough for our tastes, hoping to surround ourselves with spiritually-minded people. In this conservative area seething with Republicans, I have little hope of finding a progressive message, so instead have sought a place that will just leave politics alone. I thought we had found such a place, but this Sunday they blew that hope out of the water by letting a politician running for Lieutenant Governor speak briefly (after being introduced as a person who “went up against the President” while stating that “we don’t need less religion in politics, we need more, Amen?”) What’s more, it was announced that next week’s message will be delivered by no less than the Republican governor of the state, who will deliver his personal testimony. During the message itself the pastor railed on to great applause that we need more God in our schools, more God in the media coverage of the funerals of service personnel, and more God in government.
I have a couple of problems with this.
- Separation of Church and State is a principal that the United States was founded upon, by a group of individuals seeking to liberate themselves from the government-sponsored Catholicism of Europe. The founders expressly built into the vision for the country a freedom to pursue whatever religion (or none at all) for which an individual was inclined. As such, it is entirely improper for the United States government, or any extension thereof, to endorse one religion over another. The reference to God in the founding documents makes it easy for some Christians to ignore the principal of Separation of Church and State. However, the reference is used in the sense of calling a generic higher power, a universal ‘God,’ to inspire the populace that the nation is guided by something greater than itself. Public schools and the military are “ours” only in the sense that they are extensions of the Federal government. And as extensions of the Federal government they cannot favor one religion over another–especially given the diversity of beliefs contained within.
- That politicians pander to the public for support is a truism to the point that it’s practically part of the job description. If a politician says anything to a group of more than three people, regardless of the message it should be understood that it is being said with the thought of reelection in mind. This is why I immediately become suspicious when a politican makes reference to faith on a public platform. I don’t know why the Republican party settled on the Christian faith as a support base, but it frustrates me to no end that they have, as a good friend once put it, achieved wholesale ownership of evangelical Christianity. I vehemently reject this. Religion is a personal matter. The church would be better suited attending to the personal needs of adherents than maneuvering for political relevance and endorsement. It’s almost as if the church feels indebted to the GOP to the point of endorsement for the attention they’ve given it, depending on the political party to spread awareness of where the church itself may not succeed. To invite such a person into a church to speak is a terrible mistake. Most churches can’t manage their own internal politics, I don’t understand why they would want to involve governmental politics. At best faith should be a secondary motivating factor in a politician’s decision making process, steadfastly behind the Will of the People. And it should most certainly never be a part of a political platform.
- Christians cannot pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist, no matter how hard we try. There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world amongst a population of 6.7 billion. That means that there are 4.6 billion in other faiths inhabiting this small mote of dust traveling through space with us. In the Internet age, it’s simply not enough to take the pompous view that nations (religion-endorsing or otherwise) are islands unto themselves. We are all citizens of the world, in our own right. And we will never be able to change the minds of people whose cultures and faiths are as ingrained into them as ours is in us. Even if the laughable goal of every Christian adherent converting one non-Christian to the faith, we’d still be left with literally twice the population of China being non-Christian. We owe it to the survival and betterment of the species to be tolerant and understanding of those with faiths other than our own.
- For Christians to actively seek that the United States government endorse Christianity devolves us as a society several hundred years to the days of government-sponsored Catholicism. It negates the very reason that the founding fathers had for creating this country. And, perhaps most importantly, makes the United States as destabalizing of a force on the world stage as do the Islamic-based governments, that we so vehemently reject.
Please, for the love of God, keep politics out of faith. Express the tolerant inclusiveness that you claim to aspire by, not the exclusivity of the religious right.