Moral Contradictions

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Who's your general?

After reading Max Blumenthal's article Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers, I am more convinced that politics and Christians don't mix. For some of those who disagree, as I'm not entirely persuaded of this (ie 'more convinced') I'll hedge and say 'they don't mix well'.

Do I believe Christians need to be in government? Yes, of course. Do I believe that Christianity needs to be a force in our society? Yes, of course. Where I differ is not over what needs to happen, but how it needs to happen. Look at the SBC's fundamentalist takeover: I would respect the goals of the so-called conservative resurgence more if the process had occured in good faith and had not been so focused on the end result. However, many wounds still exist on both sides because inevitably politics got involved. What started as a noble call turned into a power struggle, causing many to lose sight of what we're here on this earth to accomplish. You can't just ask "how many left the convention?" but rather "how many left the church altogether?" How is that Christ-like?

So if what this article says is true (many sources have verified Ralph Reed's involvement), how are the "solider's" actions justified in Christ? The Jesus I've read about in the Bible lived under both a powerful and imperial Roman government and a local religious government focused on enforcing very strict and stifling rules. Jesus didn't petition the Pharisees or rustle up support to speak out against these rules or other issues in a town hall-like meeting. He didn't travel to the Roman Senate as a lobbyist for God. Nor did Jesus form a political action committee or appear on television to speak out against the moral sins of the day (okay, maybe sponsoring wine jugs or a 10 shekel a plate dinner could be imagined as an appropriate contempory example). All (bad) jokes aside...

He served. He washed others' feet. He healed. He listened. He cared. He taught. He explained how to pray, how to love, how to forgive, and how to extend grace and mercy. These teachings came directly from God, as He is God. The Holy Spirit can be trickier to hear, but he was very clear in his use of repetition of the above actions and concepts. Overall He set an example of how to live life in the fullest for God.

Just as the Jews were misguided in thinking that their Messiah would come in the form of a triumphant King ready to smite the evil Romans, why is so much faith placed in our government? The politicians nestled in the District of Columbia are not going to save this country, no matter how many moral laws they pass. We were called to follow Jesus and his example - that's not the government's responsibility. Moral reform must start in the church and be carried out through the church. By passing the buck and punting the Church's responsibilities to the government, we are setting aside the model started by Christ and explained by Paul of the Church's duties and calling. Call me strange, but that doesn't sit well with me.

Look at the raging success of Prohibition in the early part of last century - they didn't just pass a law, the passed an amendment. Just to show how hard it is to pass an amendment, the last one was ratified in 1992 (originally proposed in 1789) and the one before that was last ratified in 1971. Prohibition was pushed by that era's religious conservatives out of concern for the family life of our country. Their intentions were excellent; the execution, however, was lacking.

Or, for instance, think about the number of divorces occuring in our country. Where was the Christian Right, heck any Christians, when Britney Spears had her little 80-odd hour marriage? What example did that set for today's youth culture? Likewise, a debate about gay marriage should include an honest look at the Church's role in the overall state of marriage. There's bigger fish to fry, yet we've got our boat in the wrong pond, and until we make some changes we'll continue to be perceived as mere hypocrites.

Some folks linked off this blog are concerned about certain churches who overtly stretch the First Amendment and campaign for politicians outright, or hold voting drives, etc. My biggest concern is not that of separation of church and state, but rather our call and mission are overshadowed by the time, energy, and resources invested in pursuing moral beliefs through political means.

We must ensure that we are not making the same mistakes made over eighty years ago. On the same token, we cannot ignore the effect Jesus had on this planet by simply serving people for a mere three years.

When we as Christians allow ourselves to be agents of evil in the name of good, unwittingly or not, we are just as guilty as the instigators. If we want to consider ourselves soldiers for Christ (my jury is still out on that term) then we need to remember who we take orders from.

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